Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to the 27th issue! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
This week is a fun week for two reasons! The first being Arnaud 👇 The second being that it looks like I accidently started an Indie Dev Monday subreddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/indiedevmonday/) 🤷♂️ i don’t actually know what to do it with but I guess let’s get this community talking to eachother but one condition… POSITIVE VIBES ONLY
📆 Today I’m featuring Arnaud Joubay.
👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.
1) What is your name? Where do you live?
Hey, I’m Arnaud Joubay, and I’ve been living in Limoges, France, for the past 7 years. The Limousin region is famous for its porcelain, the limo car, and the Limousine breed of beef cattle.
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
I make apps that are meant to be fun and have a positive impact on people’s lives and the planet.
🇫🇷 I spent most of my early years in or near Paris, France. I have a CS degree, briefly worked as a financial auditor because I thought it’d teach me how a company runs. I then joined a consulting agency/startup. I was part CFO part project director, working on various projects, including iOS apps the year they launched.
🇻🇳 While working there, I moved with my wife to Vietnam, where we spent 3 years. A year after we returned to France, we decided to leave the capital, and I decided to start my own venture.
🐟 Besides some consulting work, I attempted to turn my logbook & fish guide Tortuba into a B2B business. It started as an iOS app for scuba divers, and I wanted to offer dive centers a chance to sell their digital content instead of being on the web as ad buyers. I made all the classic mistakes even though I knew about them and gave up 3 years ago. I shut down everything except the iOS app, which received its first update in 3 years.
🥐 Since then, I co-founded a company of 2 with a long-time friend and colleague. It’s called Teambakery and started as a company selling team-building activities in a box. Each box has a mini handbook to be used during a team meeting, and it always includes a snack for conviviality. We cover topics such as “optimizing your time,” “how to delegate,” “how to give feedback,” etc. It used to be only in French and only physical, but we started created Murals in English, and we have an app for teams in beta (more below).
🤿 Outside of tech. I love scuba diving. Well, not scuba diving per se. I get seasick quickly, I’m not a great swimmer, always afraid that a shark will come out of nowhere and eat me (ty Jaws), and I don’t care much about the tech. But I love the encounters with marine species (even with sharks, go figure), the out-of-this-world experience, and trying to take decent pictures without harassing the fauna.
👾 When I have time, I play video games. I wish I’d make time to play WoW again, but these days I mostly play on my Switch. I’m curious about the Art of Living and life in general (from the universe down to consciousness).
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
Not really, I just saw this trend appear, and at some point, I told myself: “wait, I’m an indie dev too.” So I started using the term because it helps others get me.
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
Back in high school (20+ years ago), I was playing Counter-Strike in a team. I created a website for us, which almost immediately turned into a dynamic/PHP app to handle our calendars and results. I realized at the time that I was having more fun building the app than playing the game.
I’ve always had this relation to coding as magic at your fingertips. You write weird symbols in a language most don’t understand, and then this pack of bytes has a life of its own. I still find that fascinating. Even more so, people will use the stuff you built-in unexpected ways.
More generally, I create apps to scratch my own itch in the way I think it should be done.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
My typical weekday this year is:
- 5:30 to 8:30am - Kidroulette. It’s a bit random and depends on my daughter. It will be a mix of taking care of her, catching up on sleep, or working.
- 8:30am to 6pm - Teambakery (“day job”) + Walk dog & eat somewhere between 12 and 2pm
- 6pm to sleep - Family time and indie projects Since last September, I take care of my 2yo daughter on Thursdays, so my workday is condensed in her 3h nap. None of my family members and long-time friends live nearby, so I don’t really have to make any compromise, and I mostly see them in person during weekends or vacations.
Having a kid changed my balance. And yet, I managed to ship No Meat Today during her first year, which I didn’t do in the 2 years before (I started to work on NMT back in Feb 2017). It forced me to make choices, and I ended up watching fewer TV shows and playing fewer video games. As we speak, I have yet to find time for another hour on Hyrule Warriors, even though I bought it the day it got out. Whenever I have spare time, I can feel how limited and precious it is, and it’s easier to decide what to do with it. And most of the time, I want to spend it on my side projects.
Let’s be honest: sleep is the ultimate adjustment variable. I’m a night owl and don’t intend to change. But, I’m learning to get more sleep, and I try to discipline myself into going to bed earlier. In any case, I have 4 things that make my life very easy:
- A fantastic wife who endures (and get me through) the rough times of an indie life
- A “day” job I love and that I do working from home, which brings a lot of flexibility regarding schedules
- the fact that my day job and side projects align in many ways: both sides benefit from the things I learn, skills I develop, and creative ideas I have in the other
- A nanny cam - I’ve spent countless hours working while watching my daughter sleep. Perhaps one of my biggest tricks is to give myself 3 to 5 times the time I think it should take. So if I have a deadline I want to meet, I always grossly underestimate the amount of time I think I’ll have to do it. Because family and work take priority and are guaranteed to claim some of it.
6) No Meat Today - This app is the most adorable app that I have ever seen 🥰 I don’t think I’ve ever seen cows drawn any cuter than this. What came first? The cows or the app? What was your inspiration to make No Meat Today?
First things first: thanks a lot, it feels good to read this! My greatest pride is that my 2yo daughter calls those cows “la vache de papa” (daddy’s cow), and she enjoys them. The look in her eyes as she inspects them is delightful and priceless.
📱 The app came first. Back in 2017, my new year’s resolution was to eat less meat for various reasons. But after a month, I couldn’t tell how much I had changed. Trackers are based on streaks, but streaks are demoralizing because you fail once, and it’s like there’s no more acknowledgment of all your past efforts. They don’t care that life is random and we are humans. I wanted to eat less meat, without a clear idea of what less meant, and not necessarily several days in a row.
🐕 I remember walking my dog in the winter and telling myself that I’d be happy if I only had a daily push notification asking me, “Did you eat meat today?”. I would reply without opening the app if I didn’t care to, and I’d be done with it.
So I built this, and I started logging my answers.
🐄 Now that I had all this data, I needed to find a way to get a sense of my accomplishment. That’s when I decided that you’d earn cows for meatless days. And you’d scare them away if you’d forgot to eat green once in a while. I tried various shapes, but I wanted something simple because a) I have to make do with my skills, and b) I wanted to easily create variations in the design. 🌍 Where should I put these cows? On a planet, of course. And to keep the UI to a minimum, I thought I could simply make that planet the button to answer. 😒 Two things happened:
- I got bored to receive the same daily question, so I added jokes or messages along. I’m still laughing regularly because I forgot most of them…
- I started to have too many cows, so I imagined they’d merge into super cows, with different designs to tell them apart based on their worth (a day, a week, a month, a quarter, a year)
👨🎨 And finally, I only had 5 cow designs, and I thought it’d be fun to have unique cow looks to keep things motivating and engaging.
As I went along, I made sure it all kind of made sense. The planet, the cows, the shapes, I came up with a story, which influenced some coding decisions.
But I used the app for myself from Feb 2017 until Dec 2019. It wasn’t until summer 2019 that I decided I needed to stop playing with Apple tech and ship something by the end of the year. ✨ When it comes to inspiration, I can link back some of it to various things:
- No Meat Today is a tribute to the No Milk Today song by Herman’s Hermits.
- Seasons and special cows are something I’ve always dreamed of having in my apps. It comes from a mix of games that nailed it: Asheron’s Call, World of Warcraft, and more recently, Subway Surfers.
- Inspiration for the onboarding (or lack thereof) is Super Mario Bros and Apple’s progressive discovery. I went very far into building an onboarding with animations, asking your name and whatnots. It was pushing the release date further away until one day I decided to drop it all. People are in front of a screen with a question and 2 buttons; they should just get it.
- Inspiration for the history view is the Apple activity, of course.
- Inspiration from the settings comes from Lazy Bones. I found it quite brilliant to put your name there when you’re an indie. In the past, I would sometimes pretend I was “many,” and people would expect a whole team and treat me as such. Even with my name there, I get people asking me if I did this alone. With this plus the contact buttons, I get lovely messages from users, even when it’s a bug report.
7) No Meat Today - Being able to adjust your target diet is a really cool concept! I honestly always thought the vegetarianism was an all or nothing thing 🤦♂️ Did you make up the names for the different level of target diet yourself? I love the “Connoisseur Flexitarian” name 😁 Are there challenges to marketing No Meat Today across all of these target diet groups?
🤜🤛 Don’t blame yourself. I used to think that, and I feel like a dissident for promoting moderation. But a radical change of diet is not possible for everyone. I believe that it only creates unnecessary antagonisms and prevents some immediate positive outcomes. Just one less steak will make a change and contribute to shifting the baseline.
You have to remember that, in the words of Ian Maclaren, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” You can’t expect them to be ready to embrace a radical change as soon as they hear it, and if you push it, they will reject it vigorously, even if some parts of it appeal to them.
I’m here to encourage goodwill and avoid crushing it in the name of perfection and idealism.
🥩 Eating less meat doesn’t mean that you have to renounce who you are; you can figure out the new you as you go.
I mean… one of my favorite meals as a kid was the steak tartare (raw ground beef), my favorite pizza used to be the supreme meat-lover, and the first thing I bought when we got our house was a BBQ to grill meat. Explaining to my family that I decided to eat less meat was a cowming out of sorts.
Over the years, I started to see reasons to eat less meat pile up, and it was so easy to change just one meal that I couldn’t justify not doing it anymore. Every decision in your life doesn’t have to be a “jump from the nest and fly” decision.
It’s a journey, I’m still adjusting my cursor as I go, but at least I can get a sense of my changes and adjust my diet.
💡 The target diet names are entirely made-up. Connoisseur Flexitarian is my favorite 😄. But the diets I show when you pick the kind of meat you want to remove from your diet are real names.
Marketing is challenging. I haven’t entirely figured out where my target users hang out. If this sounds obvious to a reader, my DM on Twitter are open (@sowenjub)!
8) No Meat Today - I can’t get over all of the cow branding/theming scattered throughout No Meat Today 🤣 I just got an alert that said if I wanted to “Adopt the milky way” which turns out is your way of asking for the in-app purchase. I love it. I want cow theming in all of the apps I use. Not really a question, but 🏆 for such a pleasantly themed app!
Oh yeah. Sorry, not sorry 😅
I often make bad puns, and this project is like my wild card. I authorize myself to get it all out. I keep laughing at my own jokes because I forget them over time.
Even the name of my debug app is a pun: it’s called No Bug Today.
One pun brought another one, and that’s how you end up with the Naomist cult of people who adopt the milky way.
9) No Meat Today - I was just thinking it would be cool if I could have these cows on a poster or something, and it turns out you have posters, phone cases, and wallpapers available for purchase on Gumroad 🤯 I’m 100% purchasing the Kitty Cow Wallpaper. What is the process like for adding and shipping products on Gumroad? Do you have plans to offer more of your cows on there for purchase? I’d for sure be a repeat customer!
Haha, it took so much effort, and I only made one sale for now, but it was worth it because that customer seemed really happy with their purchase.
Creating the Gumroad store was painful, to say the least. Gumroad is fantastic, and their support is stellar, don’t get me wrong.
But I faced all sorts of unexpected challenges: handling multiple languages and currencies, duplicating product descriptions efficiently, setting up prices & shipping options, getting samples without paying taxes, connecting Printful, etc. At one point I came up with a way to make my life easier but it backfired because of some issue with Gumroad.
I should probably write a blog post. If someone wants to learn more, ping me!
I plan to offer more cows and also add wallpapers.
Here’s a coupon with a 10% discount for your readers: INDIEDEVMONDAY.
10) No Meat Today - Besides all of the cool things I mentioned so far, I think it’s pretty amazing that some of your revenue goes to animal welfare, ocean, and tree charities ❤️ It’s so nice to see an indie that’s passionate about an app but ever nicer to one that is also passionate about the cause. When/where did your love of animals and nature start?
The boring answer is that my love for animals has been there for as long as I remember, I’m not sure where it comes from, but I’d wager it’s merely something that runs in the family.
🐬 That being said, as a kid, I loved dolphins, and I wanted to become a dolphin veterinarian, which was a very specific and made-up career choice. I wanted to take care of dolphins in the wild, not those in captivity, and I had to face the fact opening a clinic was not a viable endeavor, especially since they’d probably pay me with pilchards, which I’m not very fond of.
🚮 More recently, I remembered precisely the first time I told myself we as a species really fucked things up. We were on a scuba diving expedition in Papua New Guinea with my wife, with about 10 other divers. After a cruise of 3 days where we encountered 0 boats, we stopped near a tiny village in the middle of nowhere and went underwater. We saw incredible species - like a wobbegong shark and a juvenile harlequin sweetlips - swimming there in the middle of garbage.
I was used to seeing trash in various places, but this was so far away from anything that it shocked me to my core. As soon as a little bit of “civilization” reaches a place, trash invites itself.
For 3 months, we went diving in various places and found garbage even when there was no sign of humanity anywhere around. It was depressing.
We all live so far away from those natural environments that we easily forget that we can hurt the planet that sustains us by doing nothing more than living what we consider a normal life.
For instance, even if you live hundreds of miles away from the sea, any cigarette butt and disposable anything (mask, straw, plastic bag…) has a chance to end up in the ocean and cause damage. Even if you dispose of it and don’t throw it on the ground. And with billions of us, the tiny fraction that does end up in the sea is a massive problem for both the planet and ultimately us.
We can’t ignore what’s happening far away from us forever.
11) No Meat Today - Where do you get your ideas for all the different cows that you draw up? Do some of these comes from user requests?
The different cows are unlocked on select dates, so I mainly look for upcoming events that speak to me.
I have a list of all those possible cows. I add notes when I have an idea for the design right away.
Sometimes it feels so evident that I start drawing it right away, even if it’s months in advance.
Other times it’s a more painful process, but I do it because I care about the date. I try different things; sometimes, I restart from scratch. I make sure I have enough time to let my brain find solutions in the background. I often start by looking for inspiration online, searching for patterns or styles that inspire me. I gather all the pictures I find in Eagle (eagle.cool) as reference.
The first special cow I did was for Earth Day. It came with a big app update, and I wanted the first cow I did to have some environmental significance because it makes sense for this app.
Soon after came May the 4th, which I couldn’t avoid. Plus, I was watching The Mandalorian at the time. I’m not sure the concept of eating less meat appeals to Jon Favreau, but he certainly knows his way around cooking vegetables.
I did another Star Wars-inspired cow because it was Mark Hamill’s 69th birthday. I hoped both that he sees it and that he doesn’t see it. He’s such a kind person he’d probably say he likes it but let’s be honest: it’s weird. I saw the 69 and had this idea for a design with a 69 “yin yang” representing the inner batter between the two sides of the force.
But I swear I’d stop with the geeky references for a bit after that.
One thing I do is that I try to make cows around but not on significant dates. I know it can be hard not to eat meat on Thanksgiving or Christmas, for instance. Instead, I created a cow for the turkey pardon, 2 days before Thanksgiving, and one for ugly sweater day, a week before Christmas.
I’ve only had one user request for a cow that I plan to do. I’m open to suggestions!
12) No Meat Today - What’s next for No Meat Today?! Any future features you can share? I see that you may also have an Android app on the way?
Many more cows and themes! I have many ideas and plans for that to keep things fun and engaging.
When it comes to features, aside from more support of Apple technologies (CloudKit, shortcuts…), the most awaited one is perhaps an analytics/trends view.
I’m looking at ways to bring the app to Android a bit more actively these days cause I’ve had more people asking for it. You can join the waitlist from https://nomeat.today to know when it gets out (just the one email).
13) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What the most fun part of being an indie dev?
😬 I’d say the hardest part is doubt. Not in the sense of “am I able to do this?” because it seems a prerequisite to be an indie, but it’s more about “should I do this?”. The feedback loop takes more time or is not systematic. So you spend your days taking an almost ridiculous number of decisions alone, while companies rely on teams of experts in their fields who can challenge each other.
Regarding the most fun part, I think it’s two folds.
🤗 Of course, there is the fact that when you touch lives and have a positive impact, you know that you’re 100% responsible for it. Every time I receive a message from a user telling me how I helped them, I feel proud that my silly ideas could make a difference. So it’s really fun to put something out there and see that it changes the world you live in, even at the tiniest scale.
🏝 But that’s not what gets me through the countless days when nothing exists yet, or something exists, but no-one seems to notice, or people notice, but some of them send bad vibes, or the project simply did not work and it’s time to move on. You have to find fun in the daily and endless struggle, and for me, the most fun part is freedom.
It’s a double-edged sword, so you have to be wary, or you risk abusing it. But you get to satisfy your curiosity; no topic is off-limits, you’re the only judge of what is worthy of your attention.
You can imagine anything you want, but you can also change course in the blink of an eye without having to go through a 20 slides pitch deck to convince anybody else. You can do things your way, even when everyone seems to think differently. You’re free to be yourself.
14) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
🍭 To stay on topic, I’m working on a sister app that will probably be called No Treat Today. It’s for people who want to reduce their consumption of anything that can be seen as a guilty pleasure, such as sugar, junk food, alcohol, cigarettes, compulsive purchases. You can register here to be the first to know when it launches: https://airtable.com/shr6O1HUrvNYM72oJ.
🥐 Circling back to my “day” job, Teambakery, we just launched an app for teams (the app is in English, but the website is still in French because we started there). It’s a place to make sure important things are not forgotten while enabling async communication. A way to escape the Slack+Zoom hell.
We’re 100% remote and work with other indies. Communication became a nightmare with constant interruptions despite the distance between us. The first time we used the app, our 1h meeting turned into 15min, and since then, we have less stress and more time for deep work during the day.
Also, it has watercooler/retro questions that help us be… humans and have a deeper/personal understanding of each other.
The waitlist is here https://airtable.com/shroilOLJTkawKBun
I have more cool projects in the pipe for Indies and people disappointed in Facebook. I guess the easiest is to follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sowenjub
15) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
I have a couple of lists where readers can find indies:
- Indie/Makes Vibe https://twitter.com/i/lists/1228798723041439747
- App Creators https://twitter.com/i/lists/1228798098203344897
- Swift Fantastics https://twitter.com/i/lists/94342888
- Ruby or Rails https://twitter.com/i/lists/1162422287842336768
Off the top of my head, here are some that come to mind:
- @JohnONolan and his newsletter https://rediverge.com for his no-bs approach to indie biz
- @kaibrach for his inspiring @densediscovery newsletter - not a dev, but I think the newsletter is worth following as a dev
- @onmyway133 because he is an app generating machine and always spotting (or providing) great tips
- @yongfook for his style and the way he is growing his indie business
- @coolprobn because his positivity is contagious
- @adamwathan because you have to learn a thing or two watching him build the Tailwind CSS universe
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