Happy Monday, everyone!

We made it to the 12th issue! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️

📆 Today I’m featuring Ben Noland and Anders Borum.

Ben is the creator of Burpee Hero. Burpee Hero is body weight fitness logger that motivates you to stay consistent with rewards, tasks and competition. So… I’ve always been pretty active with working out at the gym or indoor rock climbing but it’s been a struggle this year doing either of those with COVID-19 shutting everything down. I’ve tried working out at home but I could’t find that internal motivation to keep me going. Burpee Hero has changed that for me 😊 I’m a huge fan of this app. Burpee Hero uses a little gamification along with leaderboard competition to keep you coming back. The best part is that the exercises are ones that you can easily do at home. You can choose to log any amount of squats, push-ups, sit-ups, or burpees. The app does try to influence you to make some choices in the gamification mechanics which I really appreciate. It keeps things interesting! I highly recommend checking out Burpee Hero if you want to get moving and exercising more around the house. I just hope one of these days I can get on the weekly leaderboard 😉

Anders is the creator of Working Copy and Secure ShellFish. Working Copy is a powerful Git client for iOS that clones, edits, commits, pushes, and more. Secure ShellFish is a powerful SSH terminal with next level iOS integration for managing and transferring files. Anders knows exactly how to build developer tools that not only work great but also look great. Earlier this year I decided that I wanted to experiment with being a full-time iPad user. I can’t do all my work locally on my iPad so I still had to use my Mac mini for development. Working Copy and Secure ShellFish easily became some of my most used iPad apps 😀 I used Secure ShellFish to SSH into my Mac mini while I worked on fastlane. I also used Secure ShellFish to transfer files between my Mac mini and my iPad. I’m still blown away by how easy Secure ShellFish makes it 🤯 Being able to see my Mac mini’s files in my iPad’s Files app is so perfect. Being able to drag files from the SSH terminal into other apps is stupidly magical and I love it. Working Copy is also a staple in my iPadOS workflow. In fact, I’ve been using it to write my Indie Dev Monday issues and I’m using it right now 🙃 It’s easy to use, the editor is amazing, and it’s beautiful. I’m a heavy iPad user but both Working Copy and Secure ShellFish are both great companions if you mainly use a laptop or desktop. Make sure to download both of these apps! You won’t be disappointed 💪

👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.

Indie Devs

Ben Noland

Meridian, Idaho, USA

Full time on Coding Hire and also creator Burpee Hero

Anders Borum

Copenhagen, Denmark

Freelance developer and also creator of Working Copy and Secure ShellFish

Ben Noland


1) What is your name? Where do you live?

My name is Ben Noland 👋 and I live in Meridian, Idaho (USA).

2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?

I earned my Computer Science degree from Boise State and then worked for a local company doing full-stack development for 10 years. While working there I build a few websites on the side. Most notably a website called collabedit and then a paid version Coding Hire. These websites are used to conduct technical job interviews over the phone. I was able to leave my job in 2015 to work on Coding Hire full time.

About 2 years ago I realized I was no longer enjoying my work on Coding Hire, so I started learning to develop for iOS. This is something that has always intrigued me. My ultimate goal is to earn a living from my apps.

My other interests include baking, fitness, and feeding the squirrels that run around in my backyard.

With fitness, I’ve always been more interested in the performance side of things. I love tracking my stats and then training to improve them. Over the years I’ve applied that mentality to lifting weights, mountain biking, running, CrossFit, and now burpees.

3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?

Yes, since 2015 when I went full time on Coding Hire.

4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?

Initially, it was my love of learning and building. At the beginning of my career, most of my work was boring backend stuff in Java. I wanted to know more about the web and Python. I always learn best when I build stuff so that’s what I did. My first side project was a super ugly web app for logging weight training workouts. I never shipped it, but I had fun and learned a few things.

I used to spend a lot of time on Hacker News and that’s where I learned that it was possible to build your own business on the side. The prospect of being my own boss and having the freedom to work from home was very appealing to me.

5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?

My wife has always been extremely supportive, so that helps a lot! Because I’m full time, it’s really not too hard now. I do most of my work while my wife is at her job. The biggest struggle for me is trying not to talk her ear off about whatever I’m working on 😂.

I take Sundays off so that I can rest my brain. Before creating this rule for myself, I would tend to burn out more frequently. I’m usually pretty excited about what I’m working on and now I look forward to Mondays so I can get back into it.

6) Burpee Hero - OMG. Burpee Hero is the app I always needed to keep my motivation to workout. I didn’t know I needed something like this 😊 How was the idea for Burpee Hero born? Was it any different than what is released on the App Store today?

I’m glad you like it! I was working on another app and was trying to motivate myself to do 100 bodyweight squats 3 times per week. I added “bodyweight exercise rep counter with gamification” to my app ideas list. I actually ended up hurting my hamstring from doing too many squats, so I thought it would be good to have other moves for variety.

At first, I wasn’t sure how far to take the gamification part. I’ve played a lot of phone games over the years and thought it would be cool to apply some of those concepts to exercise.

Before I wrote any code, I actually made a demo video to explain the idea and gauge interest: https://burpeehero.com/2020/06/17/original-idea-video

The app today is pretty close to the original idea, but I’ve made a few changes based on beta tester feedback and personal experience with the app.

I haven’t finished implementing all of the features from the original idea, so stay tuned!

7) Burpee Hero - I love love love the energy meter. It actually does mimic how my body recovers. I bought too many apple’s today to get more energy and I’m feeling a bit exhausted 🤣 How did you calculate the perfect energy amount and the recovery period?

Yeah, the energy meter is a concept I’ve seen in a lot of other games. It always draws me back in because I don’t want to waste energy when I could be using it to make progress.

I started with a lower limit, but got feedback from beta testers that it was too slow at the beginning. Originally the energy meter capacity/recovery was based entirely on your XP Level in the game. It could take weeks or months to level up your hero to match your physical capabilities.

The reality is, people have different fitness levels. I don’t want the gaming mechanics to get in the way of the reps you’re actually capable of.

Now the energy meter adapts to your activity. Every hour it analyzes your recent history and makes small adjustments. As you consistently log more reps, the energy meter will grow to match your output.

8) Burpee Hero - Have you made any games previously to making Burpee Hero? 😇 The game mechanics behind Burpee Hero seem so spot on. It definitely makes me want to keep working out and coming back into the app. What is the process like for coming up with all of the fun gaming bits of Burpee Hero?

This is the first game I’ve developed, but I’ve played many.

Most of the gaming elements have been taken from other games or CrossFit. I’ve also taken some time to study gamification. It’s important that I introduce the new concepts and features to users gradually so they don’t get overwhelmed. I use a set of introductory tasks, and the leveling up mechanic to help with this.

For the process, I try to think about what habits I want to encourage and work backward from there.

For example, I want to encourage people to balance their reps between all the exercises (you can’t avoid the burpees forever). I designed the weekly leaderboard scoring to take this into account. Also, I want people to do at least 1 benchmark workout every week, so there’s a weekly task with rewards if you do.

9) Burpee Hero - Being able to personalize your character’s wardrobe is so fun. How can I submit designs for new wardrobe items? 😈

I’ve seriously considered having a wardrobe design shop that you can unlock and upload your own designs. I’d love to allow users to express themselves creatively. However this falls a little outside the mission of fitness, so it’s a little lower on the priority list for now.

10) Burpee Hero - I haven’t been able to make the leaderboard yet but there is a special prize for topping the leaderboard? It would be great to get a special wardrobe or something for the winner 😏 But let me tell you… I’m going to make that leaderboard one of these days!

Not yet. I’ve considered building a trophy room on your profile so you could collect trophies to show off.

The weekly leaderboard is very competitive. I’ve only been on top once since launch (August 4) and I do a lot of reps!

Yeah, it’s a great cause. The idea is to accumulate 22 million burpees collectively to raise awareness of PTS in veterans. They started in 2018 and we’re currently finished over 21.5 million burpees (should be done this year)!

I found it when I was googling burpees. I thought it sounded pretty cool, so I emailed them and asked if I could contribute my personal burpees to their count. They have a shared google sheet that I log into and add my daily reps.

I mentioned that I was building an app for logging burpees and they took an interest. We had a chat over the phone to brainstorm some ways that I could help them. So yeah, now when a user does their first burpee I show a little popup about the charity and give users the option of also contributing their burpees. If they say no I don’t count them, otherwise I add them to the spreadsheet as a group.

12) Burpee Hero - What’s next for Burpee Hero?! Do you have any plan for next exercises or game mechanics? I’m so hooked on this app that I’m excited to see what’s next.

I have so many ideas in the pipeline.

I’m currently working on a couple of things that I can put behind a premium subscription. I’ll be launching metrics around the benchmark workouts next week. After that, I’ll add some “training style” workouts with timers.

After that, I really want to add teams or clans. You will be able to battle against other clans and fight against bosses together.

Being in a clan will add an extra level of motivation for people to log their reps and stay consistent. Also, this will encourage people to share the app with their friends and family.

13) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What the most fun part of being an indie dev?

Hardest part - Doubt.

There are times when I’m on top of the world and feel like my app ideas are amazing! But then, there are other times when I feel like I’m never going to be successful and want to give up.

My favorite part is the independence. I really enjoyed working on the apps that I wish existed in the world, and being able to use them myself.

14) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?

I hate burpees! I’ve never really liked them, they are hard. I wasn’t doing them consistently before I started on this app, but now I’ve done over 6,000.

I’m trying to get better at connecting with other indies, mostly on twitter @bennoland. If anyone wants to reach out my DMs are open.

Anders Borum


1) What is your name? Where do you live?

My name is Anders Borum and I live in Copenhagen.

2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?

I have been programming since my teenage years and studied computer science and mathematics at the University of Copenhagen. I live with my girlfriend and our children of 9 and 13 years. I practice acrobatics to stay in shape and do a little bit of gaming.

3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?

I have been doing freelance development and my own projects for two decades.

Some years back I interviewed at a digital agency employing highly skilled people I could learn a lot from. It seemed like a great place to work and at the final interview I was handed a contract and copy of their employee handbook. It was pretty standard terms about the stuff they would provide and how I should request permission to work on outside projects.

It made me uncomfortable, almost claustrophobic and I declined their offer.

I suspect dependent employment is no longer possible for me. It would feel like moving in with my parents and abiding by their rules after having had my own apartment.

4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?

I fell in love with the iPhone at first touch and knew this combination of hardware and software would be a magical platform. A few months later the iPhone SDK and App Store launched and I started experimenting.

My 1 year old daughter had no trouble using my iPhone but the drawing apps of 2009 were too complicated. I made a drawing app suited for the motor skills of a toddler and it was a moderate hit getting 800 thousand downloads over 10 years.

5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?

I’m bad at balancing my time. I have a consulting gig but I also want my apps to progress and I have been working crazy hours the last months.

My hope is to stop consulting in November and then my work hours will be healthier.

6) Working Copy - There is so much to Working Copy that I don’t even know where to start 😱 I guess… What was your inspiration for creating Working Copy? Did you know that people like me where going to need Working Copy when attempting to go 100% iPad? 😇

The WWDC 2014 keynote sparked the idea for Working Copy.

iOS 8 changed how apps could work together and my first idea was to make an app for accessing files on my server. I shelved that idea expecting Transmit for iOS to cover this.

Having access to Git projects was my second idea and within a few months I had something ready to ship.

My goal has never been to go 100% iOS but to have access to everything no matter what platform I’m using at the moment. When someone sends me a work related email I can read it on my phone and when they ask how something is implemented I want to check it with the computer in my hand not delaying because I’m AFK.

This goes both ways. One of my most used Mac apps is Messages. Having to pull out my phone to write text messages feels all wrong when sitting with my MacBook.

Everyone is talking about widgets these days but my first Mac app from 2007 was a Dashboard widget to send text messages from OS X Tiger.

7) Working Copy - The App Store rating is an incredible 4.9 with 1,600 reviews 🤯 I can’t imagine rating Working Copy anything less than 5 stars but is there anything that you do in particular to work with users who somehow manage to tap less stars?

When reading negative reviews I try to extract something actionable. Bad reviews are written in frustration and rarely constructive but they point to troubled parts of the app.

8) Working Copy - What is the most difficult part of making Working Copy? What is the most fun part? I’m going to guess the text editor is the hardest 😉

The editor is indeed difficult but the most difficult part is keeping track of the filesystem. Git on the command line checks status when asked to. Working Copy needs to update automatically without draining your battery which has required a lot of work.

I particularly enjoy the parts of Working Copy that touch other apps. When developing shortcuts actions, drag and drop or Files app support, the work I do is magnified by other apps.

9) Working Copy - I believe there are a bunch of apps that pair well with Working Copy! (Let me know if I’m wrong 😛). Do you have a list of all these apps? I think one might be Ulysses. Is there anything that you need to do in particular to make sure that Working Copy works well with other apps?

The apps that work well with Working Copy mostly do because they are good iOS citizens. I keep in touch with a number of other developers and we test how well our apps work together, but the reason we start talking is often because a shared user needed support.

10) Secure ShellFish - In order for me to go “100% iPad” I do actually need a Mac mini at home to perform my work. ShellFish is such an amazing too for that! I really love the ability to share files between the machine I’m SSHed into and my iPad. So what was the inspiration for ShellFish? Was it the SSH terminal or was it the awesome file sharing? 😈

Secure ShellFish was my original idea when iOS 8 was announced and it was all about files. Panic discontinued Transmit for iOS and I dusted off my idea, trying to make the files on my servers available in all apps, not just the app itself.

Unfortunately it became clear why Panic pulled Transmit from iOS. Even as a single developer, the audience for Secure ShellFish was too small to support development.

I added terminal features after a disappointing first year, hoping to make the app sustainable. It hasn’t improved drastically but the numbers are moving in the right direction.

11) Secure ShellFish - What is your favorite use case for ShellFish? Do you have something that you personally love to use ShellFish for or have you seen anything amazing that other users have done with ShellFish?

It sounds trite but being able to jump from the Files app into the terminal or to invoke the system sharesheet from the command line is useful and wonderful. The device and server feel closer together like a fusion of two computing paradigms.

12) Working Copy & Secure ShellFish - I can’t imagine making either of these apps! Your technical knowledge of Git and SSH combined with your clean user interfaces is just mind blowing. I want these tools to be around forever. Is there anything us current users can do to help you out to make sure you can keep working on what you love? 🙃

Tell your friends about these apps if you like them. When I meet web developers and we talk about our work they are always surprised that these kinds of apps even exist. Drop them a hint. 😏

These apps are going to be around for a long time. The uncertainty is how much of my time I can dedicate to them and this depends on the amount of users.

13) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What the most fun part of being an indie dev?

This is probably more a personal thing than an indie thing, but I’m not great at making money. The apps I want to work on appeal to a small audience but are very time consuming.

The greatest thing about being an indie developer of dev-tools is the direct communication with users. Someone might email me a pain point or feature request and the next week they see it working. It makes them happy, it makes me happy and it makes the product better.

14) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?

I have a plea for the US readers about the coming election. If you do anything but vote for Joe Biden you are hurting decency, democracy and the rule of law.

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