Happy Monday, everyone!

We made it to Issue #128! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️

Today’s Spotlighted Indie Devs

📆 Today I’m featuring Tim Isenman.

Tim is the creator of Fair Weather Friends and Pocket Rocket. Fair Weather Friends helps you know the weather where your friends are. With weather becoming more chaotic and dangerous, you can have peace of mind knowing your friends are okay wherever they are, or know when to reach out if they appear to be in harm’s way. This is such a fun app! I was an early beta tester of Fair Weather Friends so I was super excited when Tim recently released this to the public. I’m not a huge fan of putting my local weather widgets on my screens because I can just look outside but putting multiple friends’ locations is so much more fun! Its really nice to know what the weather is like about the people I care about and if they are safe.

Pocket Rocket keeps track of all upcoming SpaceX rocket launches, and reminds you of when they’re happening. Launch dates change constantly, so we act as your launch concierge to make sure you never miss out on witnessing history. This is really the best way to experience SpaceX! It’s a beautiful app with all of the information that you need and more. Pocket Rocket is great for the diehard SpaceX fans but also the casual “space is pretty cool” people like me ☺️ 

Weather and space are for everyone. Go download both of Tim’s apps today!

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

Indie Dev

Tim Isenman

Los Angeles, CA

Creator of Pocket Rocket and Fair Weather Friends

Tim Isenman


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

Tim Isenman, Los Angeles

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

I’m a self-taught engineer (and designer, I guess?) with prior careers in filmmaking and video game development. I dropped out of college when I was 19 while studying English/Creative Writing and Space Exploration to join the world of filmmaking. I did that at the invitation of Kevin Smith, the creator of Clerks, to help him make his movie Red State. After that, I helped the pre-production work of the reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos TV series, now helmed by Neil de Grasse Tyson, and then found temp work cleaning the kitchens at Riot Games, the creators of League of Legends and Valorant. I cleaned their kitchens, stocked coffee, delivered mail, for about 8 months, after which they invited me to join them in the production of the League, since they knew that I came from a film production background. That was back in 2012 when I was 21. I joined their product management team initially helping run their in-game cosmetics store, then working on the cosmetics themselves, then making a big departure from that and managing the uptime of the game worldwide, with a specific focus on China. It was around that time that AR/VR and ML were getting a stronger foothold in consumer tech, and I knew that if I stayed in games I’d only ever work on games. Meanwhile, self-driving cars were becoming a serious discussion just north of me! So I decided that I’d move to the Bay Area to try my hand at some of these emergency technologies. I hated it there. Truly hated it. And I didn’t even get to touch that tech. I was ignored because of my gaming background. So I was miserable all the time and I never found a community. The big problem for me was that all the fun was being had by the engineers and scientists of the area, and not the strategists/managers like I me, so I dedicated myself to learning software engineering and being able to explore anything myself. No more begging to let me into their work. Because I abhorred the culture of the Bay, I jumped ship from the US entirely and moved to Japan to study there, because life in a place like Tokyo is really inexpensive compared to LA/SF/NYC. I figured the low cost of living would give me more time to learn before going broke, and I was right. So I learned enough out there to be qualified for a junior dev role, but nobody wanted to hire me because I was in Japan and had nothing really to show for myself. I figured that if I pursued this rocket app idea I had, as sort of a demonstration of my abilities, I could get a job. So over the course of a few months, I (along with my collaborators) developed, marketed, and launched Pocket Rocket. It became so much more than a demo app, and really opened a lot of doors for me. I’m still so proud of that app. It continues to reward me with small but important life treasures. It was a truly painful experience to build, but it continues to be worthwhile.

So these days I still do a version of that— make my own stuff to make a living, demonstrate what I can do, and see what comes of it. But it’s always an attempt to solve a problem for people and give them something they will (I hope) really love.

Many many interests outside of tech. Painting, pottery, photography, gardening, music, cooking, reading, animation. I love anything that requires deep attention to craft and intentional decision-making. I want to be great at making many things. I don’t want to be limited to what I can create, ever. I love the arts and want to be a great artist. But I also love technology and want to be a great engineer. I do really well where the two meet, but I always feel more innately like an artist than I do an engineer— like an artist whose medium is engineering.

3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?

Actually no. I don’t specifically have ambitions to be an indie developer, and I didn’t even know the term existed until I started learning programming. I just have ambitions to build things, so I just like to think of and refer to myself as an engineer. And I love building things with other people, so I really wouldn’t want to be independent very long. Pocket Rocket itself was very much an equal collaboration between Aaron Abentheuer, Kimi Talvitie, and me. We each had very different skills that combined to create a really great product. That thing wouldn’t exist if either of us weren’t contributing our unique talents. Fair Weather Friends is the first truly independent thing I’ve ever done in software. I did very literally all of it myself. All the design, all the engineering, and even the app icon. I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do any one of those things well, and not feel reliant on anyone else. But even then, I only want to feel comfortable with my own skills in any category so that I can better collaborate with different types people in the future on something larger. I want to have at least attempted each person’s craft so that I can have the appropriate level of respect for anything anyone does. Live in their shoes, so to speak. I think that’s important for leading a team and earning the respect of the people you lead.

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

Merely that whole bit about proving to people that I could do the work. It was a function of necessity to even get a normal job. But then I realized how much self-expression can exist in software, and now it’s my core mode of self-expression. I haven’t had a “normal” job since then, and I refuse to ever have one again. I just want what I do to increase in size and scope.

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

I don’t know, honestly. I don’t really think about it. I just do whatever makes me happy in that moment, and I generally try with great intention to make my friends and my mom happy as regularly as I can. I’m haunted by the possibility of losing anyone I love at any moment, so any time I spend with people is always accompanied by deep gratitude for that time, and an attempt to maximize the quality of that time however I can. Doing that always gives me the feeling of “time well spent” and I think that’s all balance is aimed at anyway. I just don’t have a method to it.

6) Fair Weather Friends - Congrats on the recent launch of Fair Weather Friends 🥳 I’ve been watching your development on this and just couldn’t wait for you to release it! It’s such a neat concept. What sparked your idea for Fair Weather Friends?

Thank you! I’m really excited about it too. It’s been really fun to have and use privately, so I’m hoping people get a similar joy out of seeing their friends on their Lock Screen that I do. While I was living in Japan, my mom and my grandma would always call me whenever there was a storm in the country to make sure I was okay, and it was always the case that the storm was several hundred miles away. I figured it would probably give them a lot of peace of mind if they could just see my weather at a glance, so when Apple announced WeatherKit and Lock Screen widgets for iOS 16, the full idea came to me immediately.

7) Fair Weather Friends - I’m a big fan of your onboarding screen. Each step moving a little further around the world is so fun and inviting ☺️ Onboarding screens always feel like a hassle but I wanted to keep traveling the world. How did you come up with this style of onboarding? Where there any major challenges you faced when building this?

This was such a pain in the ass. First of all, YOU are the reason why I wanted some sort of onboarding. I remember sending you an early version of the app, and I had designed the Lock Screen widget to hold three people on it, but you only put ME on there lol. And then I saw that same behavior with other people, but I really wanted to encourage people to think beyond just the first person that came to mind, so I forced the 3 person system in that onboarding flow. The interactions design of it came later. For the longest time, I had a regular 2D flat map holding all your friends, but it was so… boring. And the performance sucked. As the app panned across the map to show someone in a different country or city, all the map tiles it flew over wouldn’t be pre-rendered, so you’d just see the underlying grid until it reached the final destination and rendered its tiles then. It looked like shit. And I had this dream of showing the 3D globe as a secondary option with a more minimal design, and just sort of let it spin as a screensaver of sorts and passively show you everyone’s weather, in case anyone wanted to use it like that (like I do). I got really bored one day and decided to try the 3D interface in a UIKit/SwiftUI hybrid, and the moment I got it working, I was just in love with it, and it was so clear that this had to be the entire app. It performed so well, it was stunning to look at, and it solved this problem of my app looking far too “flat” as one of my friends described it. The animation from one person to the next just seemed like the only choice I had. Like, I have the entire world pre-rendered that I can spin around. Am I just going to NOT spin it around for you??? Hell no! Spin it to win it!

8) Pocket Rocket - I’ve been trying to get you on Indie Dev Monday for so long for Pocket Rocket but now… here we are! First… Pocket Rocket is such a weirdly appropriate and inappropriate name and its just perfect! Were there other names you were considering when building Pocket Rocket? What inspired you (and your team because I think I saw there are three of you) to build Pocket Rocket and what were your goals?

Hahaha, yes, it is deeply inappropriate in its origins, on purpose. I was taking an online course from Udacity while I was learning Swift, and during my final assignment, in which I was building this rocket tracking app, they completely ignored all of my requests for help or code review, so I figured I would exact my revenge on them by giving them an inappropriately named app to review in my final submission, as a sort of “fuck you” sentiment. Pocket Rocket was the first and only named I considered. Same with Fair Weather Friends. There was never an alternative. Both came instantly.

Back when I was learning programming, I would watch every single SpaceX launch religiously. The trouble with rocket launches is that their schedules can change at moment’s notice due to minor weather changes or unexpected instrument data from the vehicle (the rocket itself) or payload (like a satellite). So I would sometimes stay awake until 3am to watch a launch only to find that they time had changed earlier in the day, but I just didn’t know. When I was doing that Udacity final project, the requirement was to build something around a 3rd Party data source, and I found a site that had links to APIs, and one of them was “r/SpaceX Launch Schedule API”. I took a look at that and realized I could build myself a schedule of the launches where the dates would update, and got started from there. The app looked like shit until Aaron (Abentheuer) took a look at it, loved the name, and asked if he could design it for me, as long as I built it. He really wanted to have an app called “Pocket Rocket” in his portfolio lol. We found Kimi on twitter, loved his rocket models, recognized him as a great artist, and hit him up to invite him to join us.

Our goal, outside of making an app that proved my abilities as an engineer, was to give something to the space community that was worthy of their love for space. Everything else in the market at that time looked like absolute shit. Like an app built from a lazily constructed excel spreadsheet. We wanted to give people something that celebrated and magnified their love of space and spaceflight. Something they could be proud of to represent them.

9) Pocket Rocket - When did your love for space start? Is it bad that I’m assuming you love space? This is going to be an awkward question if you tell me you don’t love space. What are your favorite rockets or missions? I know almost nothing about space so I’m looking forward to learning a lot from your answers here ☺️

No, not bad at all— it’s entirely correct. I’ve always had a deep love for NASA and space exploration. I had toy models of the Space Shuttle when I was a kid, and ambitions to go to space camp to become an astronaut. I’m not sure if it first came from watching Apollo 13 or Star Wars as a toddler, but the love has just sort of always been there. All of my books growing up were astronomy or cosmology books. I watched Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series fanatically, maybe hundreds of times. That was what led to me working on the reboot of that TV show— one of its producers of Red State knew how much I loved space from our conversations about it on set, so he invited me onto that project. It was a dream come true.

Outside of the Apollo program of sending people to the moon, I have an ongoing love for the scientific and diplomatic work on the International Space Station, every robotic mission to Mars, and a truly, profoundly deep love for the Voyager missions, which were spearheaded by Carl Sagan himself. Sagan put a gold record on each Voyager spacecraft (1 & 2) that contain instructions for a future species to play its recordings, to hear all the sounds and greetings of Earth and its inhabitants. Nothing more beautiful to me than that. They’re still out there sailing across the cosmos.

10) Pocket Rocket - What do you most enjoy about building Pocket Rocket? What’s one of your least favorite things you enjoy doing but you do it anyway because its the job of an indie? 😇

People to this day still deeply love Pocket Rocket. Their affection for it will always be my favorite part. A lot of us really love space, but the space community often produces ugly shit that doesn’t reflect the respect we have for the industry, so I’m just glad that I can offer something that is a decent expression of that respect.

Honestly, managing the notifications for the launches is a huge drag these days. I really want it to be automated, but with automated notifications comes a drop in quality, and I don’t want people to suffer that. That’s not why they pay us.

11) Fair Weather Friends, Pocket Rocket - What’s next?! Do you have any future features that you can share with us?

I’ll be starting on a prototype for a new platform now that I’ve launched FWF. This is going to be a massive bet on my future, and will span many years of my life into the future if it works out. I want to make a software platform for the electric vehicle market that positions it as the undeniably best infrastructure for a person and how they move about the world. The software in that place is a total fucking disaster right now, far worse than in the space industry, despite being far more essential to people’s lives. I think I can bring a high quality of service, and high quality of products to the industry that will make it far less painful to own an electric car, and make it far better than owning a gas powered car. That’s the ambition at least. I want to help build the next great infrastructure.

As for Fair Weather Friends, what I’m really hoping to do with it is make the information bidirectional. Right now, it’s one way. You enter someone’s name and city and you get their weather. Works well enough. But let’s say you don’t know that someone is traveling, and they end up in a city that experiences some really dangerous weather that might be affecting them. Now let’s say you actually add each other as friends in FWF, like a typical social app: If their app tells my service where they are, and my service is aware that that place is under threat, then I can notify you and make sure that you check in on your friend. And taking it a bit further, they can just mark in their app that they’re okay, and that can be broadcast to you and anyone else they’re friends with. Complex interactions, but important and useful. Other features on the way are more simple, like Home Screen widgets and ways of showing weather data. I think the important work is all that safety stuff, though.

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

The finances, undoubtedly. If your work isn’t earning you income, then you need to fend for yourself as a contractor or make something else that does earn. And finding your way into an app that actually finds a market is incredibly difficult. The most fun is certainly the challenge to yourself of doing all this. It’s a true test of the will. Can you muster the courage and strength to make something from start to finish? When you get it all done and can honestly answer to yourself “yes”, it’s one of the best feelings in the world, especially when people then seem to like what you’ve made.

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

Shit, I dunno. Maybe that I think I’m just a big dummy and that if it seems like I can do something remarkable, then so can you. Just gotta try. And try really hard. In my experience, anything great I’ve done hasn’t come without great effort.

14) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?

Yeah, several. I think everybody knows Jordi Bruin already, so I’ll just make sure he’s mentioned here. His work speaks for itself. I really love the guy. https://twitter.com/jordibruin

Umar Haroon— recently released his SportsCal app, to show you the summary of scores of active games across different sports leagues. And a great friend and pair programmer. He helped me figure out some last minute mission-critical bugs that held up the launch of FWF. Apple needs to get off their asses and hire him already. https://twitter.com/umar__haroon

Finally, Andrew Zheng. I think he has some of the strongest potential of any single developer that I’ve seen in quite a while. The dude is just a magician with SwiftUI and animations, and is running circles around the rest of us. His work makes mine feel like child’s play. Really excited to watch him grow. https://twitter.com/aheze0

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 👀

Zen Mode Newly Released
Avoid those awkward moments in public places or in presentation meetings in 1-click
NextHub Remote Newly Released
NextHub is a dashboard for all your NextDNS accounts right on your device. - Check NextDNS connection status on your device. - View rich analytics of usage. - Manage and edit your configurations. - Filter, search, and live stream your query logs. - Widgets: See quick statistics right on your home page. - 100% Private. Your data does not leave your device. Nobody but you can see it.
Padlok Updated
Hi! I'm building Padlok, a digicode (door code) manager app. And this major update introduced Widgets support! Widgets will choose the closest address info ; and bring them on your Home Screen or Lock Screen. Padlok is in the build since late 2020 now, and many more features are planned. Padlok was also featured by the Indie App Santa this year. Thanks!

Thank you to everybody who made it to this footer! You either spent the time to read or took the effort to scroll 😊

Make sure to visit https://indiedevmonday.com/subscribe to get an email of future issues!

And go to Twitter and give @IndieDevMonday a follow… or multiple follows if you manage more than one Twitter account 😜