Issue #101 - Dave Verwer
Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to Issue #101! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
Deep Dish Swift is a brand new conference being held in Chicago April 30th to May 2nd in 2023. The conference aims to bring togethe Swift and iOS developers of all experience levels and backgrounds in an inclusive environment to share knowledge and experience from a diverse set of speakers. The first day is focused on indie development and and the next two are focused on Swift and iOS!
Today’s Spotlighted Indie Devs
📆 Today I’m featuring Dave Verwer.
Dave is an absolute icon in the iOS community. The first issue of iOS Dev Weekly was released August 5th, 2011. He has been currating, writing, and sharing about important iOS topics and releases for almost 11 years. A Friday wouldn’t be a Friday without reading the latest issue of iOS Dev Weekly 😊 I have learned so much from the links and people that Dave mentions in his newsletters. Getting linked to from iOS Dev Weekly was actually an item on my “developer bucket list” (a list of things I want to achieve) and I’m can’t tell how how excited I was the first time that happened! And I believe I’m now up to like three or four mentions and I still get excited about it 🥰
Dave is also one of the kindest and most helpful people you’ll ever meet! I had the pleasure of talking to Dave about Indie Dev Monday a little over a year ago. I created this newsletter and I was very unsure what direction to take it. I didn’t know how to grow a newsletter and I was unsure about monetizing it. Dave was willing to give me a bunch of advice from his experiences with iOS Dev Weekly. It was an invaluable converstation and I’m so grateful for Dave being able to sit down and talk with me about this.
I’m so excited to have feature Dave on this week’s issue! It’s the least I could do for the help he’s given me and all he’s done for this community ❤️
👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.
Creator of iOS Dev Weekly,
1) What is your name? Where do you live?
Hello! I’m Dave Verwer, and I’m from near Chester in the UK.
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
I always had an interest in tech, and it was something my Dad gently encouraged in me, too. I don’t exactly remember what age I was when he gave me the K&R C book, but I remember pointers being a step too far for me. 🤷♂️ So he set me up with a Pascal book and Borland Turbo Pascal instead, and I did much better with that! From there, I did some computing and electronics courses at school, then Software Engineering at University and straight into a programming job. I took the “standard” route into this industry, and I often wonder if I’d be a better (or at least a more interesting) person if I had chosen a slightly less straight-line path to where I am now.
My main job these days is iOS Dev Weekly and the Swift Package Index, which we’ll discuss in more detail later. One of the things I love about “being indie” is that the job lets me indulge my tech interests in side projects and answer questions like, “I wonder what X would look like if I spent a few weeks working on it?”
In terms of interests outside of tech, I love playing bad tennis. I hope one day to enjoy playing mediocre tennis, too, but right now, I happily enjoy playing bad tennis.😂
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
I guess I’ve been “Indie” in some form since about 2006, when I started my first business. From that point, no one was paying me a salary, which is one definition, right?
But there have been periods during those years when I have not been indie. For example, I sold Curated, a newsletter publishing platform initially developed to publish iOS Dev Weekly and went to work for the company that purchased it from 2016 to 2018. Once I left there, though, I returned to being indie again.
I have also worked on several long-term consultancy contracts over the last few years. Was I still indie during those? Who knows! Indie is more of a state of mind, isn’t it? 😂
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
It’s funny. I almost skipped this question because it’s been such a long time since I had a “normal” job that I didn’t think the answer would still be relevant.
However, since starting a company where I could technically do whatever I wanted every day, many things still start as side projects or need time outside of whatever I’m doing to earn money.
iOS Dev Weekly started that way and stayed as something I’d do in “spare” time for quite a long time before allowing myself time to write it during my working week.
Some experiments were successful, like iOS Dev Weekly, and some were not so much, like the community survey that I organised a couple of years ago. Some continue for 11 years, some for one year.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
Very badly! I also got much worse at managing this balance during the 2020/21 lockdowns. I have been trying to be much more strict with myself over the last year and now have a rule that weekends are sacred. The laptop stays shut from Friday night until Monday morning.
How’s it going? I thought you might ask that. 😬 I’m writing this on a Sunday. No one should take advice from me on this subject! 😂
6) It is truly, truly, truly an honor to be interviewing you for Indie Dev Monday! You have been a huge source of inspiration and motivation for me as an iOS dev, indie dev, and writer of a newsletter 🙌 This isn’t much of a question but just a thank you for being a big part of the iOS and Apple platform community. I want you to have this super special trophy 🏆for all you’ve done!
A trophy? For me? You shouldn’t have! 🙏 What very kind words. Thank you.
Seriously, though. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the rest of the community writing blog posts, reading what I write, and creating open-source Swift packages.
7) iOS Dev Weekly - Huge congrats on making it over 500 issues of iOS Dev Weekly! That is such an amazing accomplishment. I think I started my iOS journey around the time you started iOS Dev Weekly but I was not aware of it at the time. What inspired you to start a newsletter? What were your initial goals with iOS Dev Weekly? What are some of the things that have changed with iOS Dev Weekly over the years?
Before starting iOS Dev Weekly, I had been enjoying Ruby Weekly from Peter Cooper. I looked around for one focused on Objective-C or iOS development, and there wasn’t one. I wondered if I could write one, and here we are, almost 11 years later. 😅
In terms of goals, they were not very clearly defined when I started it. I thought it could raise my profile and promote the iOS and Objective-C training courses I ran back then. However, I quickly realised it was more valuable as its own thing, without it being a promotional tool for training courses. It certainly raised my profile, though.
In terms of what has changed since I started writing it. Everything! Well, everything except one thing. How amazing email is.
Email gets a bad reputation because companies often misuse it. Still, if you treat your email list respectfully, there is no better way to build an audience of people who genuinely care about what you do. Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and whatever replaces them will all come and go before email loses its power.
The most valuable advice I can give people if they’re trying to build an indie business is to start an email list and write to people regularly. Twitter is like shouting your message on a street corner as you try and catch the attention of passers-by, whereas email can be like being the book people pick up when they have a quiet moment to themselves. Which state of mind would you rather catch people in?
Your email doesn’t need to be like iOS Dev Weekly—you’ll find more success with something unique to you. Write genuinely about what interests you and what’s on your mind, and you’ll find people who care about the same things. You won’t even need to think about what you’re doing as marketing because you’re just writing about what you’re interested in. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but if you stick with it, your chances of success are much higher.
8) iOS Dev Weekly - I started Indie Dev Monday for fun but after some time I realized I wanted to monetize it a little bit. It was a little tricky to figure out because you really need to build a big enough audience first to sell those ad spots. When did you start monetizing iOS Dev Weekly? Were there multiple different strategies you’ve considered? Do you have any lessons learned that you can share with other newsletter content creators?
I had no plans whatsoever to monetise iOS Dev Weekly when I started it and, in fact, actively resisted it for about 18 months. I began getting enquiries from companies asking if I took sponsorship relatively quickly after starting it, but I turned them all down (while keeping a note of their details, of course). After 70 published issues (which felt like a lot then!) I did start taking sponsorship, and something unexpected happened. I got lots of lovely feedback that they were happy I had done it because it meant the newsletter they enjoyed was more likely to continue for a long time.
Also, and quite inadvertently, building up that demand from companies wanting to sponsor meant that I filled out the first few weeks with sponsorships as soon as I started accepting them., There have only been one or two weeks since then when I’ve not had a sponsor for an issue.
If I had started sponsored from day one or had even thought about it like it would one day become a source of revenue, it would have changed how I felt about it. My focus up to that point had been entirely on making a quality newsletter that people loved, and that time without sponsorship was enough to set the way that I thought about the newsletter in stone.
Even today, I try and get the copy for the sponsored link done and approved a week before publishing so that my mind is on what I want to write rather than thinking about the commercial side of things.
9) iOS Dev Jobs - This is such an amazing resource! There are so many different iOS jobs listed that it looks like there is a job posted for everyone’s tastes 😅 It also seems some of these jobs are shared into iOS Dev Weekly. What is the relationship between iOS Dev Weekly and iOS Dev Jobs? How did you realize you could monetize an iOS dev job board?
This is probably the perfect story of how I like to work. iOS Dev Jobs is a perfect example of how a new business can emerge slowly and how I think about growing things.
It started when I noticed that more and more companies were using the full-price sponsored link in iOS Dev Weekly to advertise a single position. That showed me that hiring iOS developers was starting to become really hard and that I had an opportunity. So, I started adding a few job adverts to each issue. I used the same mechanism for booking those adverts as with the sponsored link, which allowed me to prove the market without writing a single line of code.
I ran like that for a few years until I was sure there was enough demand to make it successful. Even though it was tempting to start writing code at that point, I didn’t. Instead, I paid someone to build a customised WordPress site with a job manager plugin. I put a lot of thought into the process of posting jobs and how companies want to attract talent, but the tech behind it was not the most important part.
Eventually, after several years of the WordPress site running successfully, I decided it was the right time to write some code! By this point, I better understood what was needed, what would make it unique against other similar job boards that had cropped up over the years, and hopefully, how to make it successful.
The system now sends custom emails to everyone who signs up, showing only jobs in the locations or remote jobs in the time zones where people are looking for work. Now that it’s custom software, it also powers an iOS and macOS app. What I ended up designing would not have been the piece of software if I had jumped to writing code when I wanted to post that first job advert.
Could I have done it more quickly and earned more money? Almost certainly. Would the risk of failure have been higher? Certainly.
10) Swift Package Index - THIS. I love this 😍 I was so excited when Swift Package Manager was announced. It filled the dependency manager hole we had but it also created another. Not having a registry made it really difficult to find. But then you created Swift Package Index which solved that problem 🙌 What made you want to tackle this huge problem? Have you built anything like this in the past?
Confession time. I originally had the idea as a way for me to keep up with packages released by the community so I could write about them in iOS Dev Weekly. 😅 It was more than that, of course, or it would never have been more than an idle thought of “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was an RSS feed of every package released this week” but that idea was part of it.
Choosing the correct dependency for your project is also a problem I care deeply about. I’ve imported enough libraries into apps and heard plenty of horror stories about libraries that ended up being more trouble than they were worth to know that adding another dependency to a project is a big decision.
It’s also a significant problem and not an easy one to solve. If I look back at my career and can honestly say I helped people make better apps, that feels like something worth working on.
11) Swift Package Index - What have been some of the biggest hurdles you’ve come across when building? Are there any cool new things you learned while building Swift Package Index?
The biggest challenge by far is making it sustainable as an open-source project. We’re incredibly grateful to our community and corporate sponsors that have put their faith in us, and it’d certainly be classed as a “well funded” open-source project. The reality of it is that it doesn’t even begin to cover the time and effort that Sven and I put into developing and maintaining it.
I’m confident we’ll find a way to make it work, but it’s certainly a challenge and one that I wouldn’t have been able to do without my other sources of income (iOS Dev Weekly and iOS Dev Jobs) to keep me going.
So why make it open-source? I knew it would be the only way to become the package index and not just a package index.
The cool thing I’ve learned? It’s great to work closely with other people again. Working with Sven Schmidt, the co-creator of the Swift Package Index, has been a great reminder that we all have different strengths and that finding someone you work well with is a massive boost to what you can achieve. When Sven first emailed me, the project (which was named “SwiftPM Library” at the time) was publicly launched but was little more than a prototype. Together we have created something that neither of us could individually have done. It’s been lovely to be a part of something bigger than I could create on my own.
12) iOS Dev Weekly, Swift Package Index - What’s next?! I know you just released the awesome DocC building and hosting for Swift Package Index but do you have any other awesome future things planned that you can share with us?
In the short term, we’re finishing up some work to make versioned documentation a reality, so you can be confident you’re reading the documentation for the version of a dependency that you’re using. Then Swift 5.7 support and various other features.
However, one thing we’re starting to experiment with at the moment is highlighting package content that we see on the index. We started running a Twitter Space every other Thursday at 5pm UK/12pm Eastern where we highlight new or updated packages and interview someone about their open-source work. You can catch the next one next Thursday if you’re interested!
13) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What is the most fun part of being an indie dev?
Over the years, working alone has become the most challenging part, returning to the work/life balance struggles I mentioned earlier. There’s always something else to do when you’re indie, which means it’s hard for me to step away from my desk at the end of the day.
The best bit? No question about it. Making a living from creating things you made yourself is a really special feeling.
14) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
I don’t think so! I’d just like to reiterate my thanks to everyone who has helped me over the years of trying to keep going as an independent developer. If you’ve ever read anything I wrote or shared something I was excited to launch, thank you.
15) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
I’d love to recommend you talk to Martin Pilkington about his app Coppice and how his attitude to indie development has changed over the years. There’s an interesting story there.
Newly Released and Updated Indie Apps
Here are some newly released and newly updated apps from this past week! If you would like to possibly see your app in this list, please submit your app to the look at me form 👀
Thank you to everybody who made it to this footer! You either spent the time to read or took the effort to scroll 😊
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