six months ago i became a dad.
six months ago i started coding.
today i’m announcing air bear!
you can read all about air bear on our medium post 'babies are hard' about how we’re helping new parents with feedings and providing a little sanity along the way. or just go straight away to download the app :)
this is a story of how air bear came to be.
going back to last summer, apple had just announced swift, my friend dorian was starting a #codeaday challenge, and my wife was about to give birth to our baby girl. together, these were the beginnings of what has become air bear.
anyone will tell you that i’m a sucker for anything new (i.e. chewing new cinnamon-roll gum as i type this), so apple’s new programming language was already enticing. swift is the heir to objective c, which had been around since the early 1980s. pretty much every app on your phone today is built on objective c, but just comparing some of the syntax and features of swift vs objective c and it’s really quite beautiful. and from my perspective (a total noob), more intuitive.
coding has never been my day job, but always something that i’ve tinkered with. i’ve taken a few ruby classes and enjoy fiddling around with different technologies, but doing the actual building was a first for me. it’s a skill i wanted to start developing for a number of reasons, as it helps me think about and understand products at a much deeper level, but it’s also a necessary skill if you actually want to be able to implement ideas on your own schedule. as @fakegrimlock says, ‘if you not code, you not understand code’.
so between swift and dorian, my brain was in the right space. harper -- our daughter -- was the inspiration.
one of my favorite posts by paul graham is ‘how to get startup ideas', where he says to work on a problem you have, and my problem at the time was the freshly minted baby that would wake up every few hours to eat.
we had taken baby classes, read books, etc, etc, but as this was our first kid, we didn’t know what to expect and i quickly noticed some repeating themes. there was the question we’d ask 10x a day -- “is it time to feed the baby?” and that was topped by the number of times we’d wonder -- “is this normal???”.
naturally i looked to the app store for help.
while there is invariably an app for everything... there is rarely a good app for anything.
i pretty much refuse to use an app that doesn’t look good, especially the icon. with existing baby apps, i had to throw that rule out the door right away. while a lot of tracking and logging apps are functional, they are not easy to use, and certainly not fun to use.
so wishing i had a better way to know if our baby was eating well and when the next feeding was coming next, i set out to build air bear.
the first few months were all about learning. learning what is a good feeding schedule. learning what parents need and want. and learning how i might actually build this thing.
after talking to a lot of parents, observing what hacks and systems my wife came up with, and armed with some base development skills -- it was finally time to start building.
making something simple is not easy, and the air bear concept had already ballooned into too much. so the first step was narrowing down what air bear would be. initial thinking was to track feedings, bottles, diapers, health stuff, and maybe even memories. we may get there over time, but we needed a place to start and feedings are the most important. it’s the thing mom’s track the longest and care about. frankly something they’ll care about forever.
but even after deciding to *just* start with feedings, i still ended up writing and later deleting more code than i needed. i thought about collecting the birthday or birth stats like weight and height, which are useful but not totally necessary. after distilling further and further to the root problem i wanted to solve, i got down to a what i think is a beautiful and simple minimum viable product.
i love this tweet by @manicho about a good mvp and hopefully air bear is closer to the second row than the first --
so this version of air bear in the app store today is the skateboard you see at stage one. and what stage two will be is still to be decided. i have a lot of ideas of stuff i want to build and new features i want to incorporate, but i’ll largely be looking for feedback from early air bear users. what they love, what they hate, and what they want to see next.
please go download air bear on the app store today .
and if you know of any new parents or those that are expecting, please do introduce them to air bear. i’d love to hear their thoughts and feedback. leave a comment below, or shoot me an email <firstname.lastname@example.org> any time if you have any ideas for the app, for parents, for anything.
lastly, so many people to thank. my wife has been amazing and supportive as i asked her *lots* of questions about breastfeeding, and super patient while i spent early mornings and late nights working on air bear for the last few months, especially when i was grumpy because there was some damned bug that i couldn’t yet figure out. aaron who as been great to work with, kept me in check, and who designed the amazing air bear logo! throughout the process, lots of friends have been awesome with feedback, support, and making really cool introductions to fellow new parents who might want to use the app, or to baby and lactation experts that have shared their wisdom into what nursing moms need to hear. thank you <3
and there's also been so many amazing technical resources (besides stackoverflow) and experienced people that have helped along the way. just a few of my favorite new people -- whether they know it or not -- are
@jonkawa, who provided some unique wisdom along the way.
@mengto, who is a design and animation magician.
@jamztang, who writes killer stuff on ios.
& @awolnation, which has become my favorite early morning coding music.