Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to Issue #43! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
I decided to add a new section to the newsletter this week! I originally created Indie Dev Monday to highlight indie developers stories and creations by spotlighting one or two indie devs each week. I just recently started to realized - as this newsletter started to grow - that I wasn’t really statisfied with just spotlighting one or two indie devs. There are so many more apps and indies that I want to get recognized. Scaling the number of spotlighted devs would be way too much work and way too much content. So…
There is going to be a new section each of of “Newly Released and Updated Indie App” 👇 It came to that when thinking about the indies I was missing out on, I was missing out on the indies that are continuously releasing new apps and updates to their existing apps… and some of this updats are so 🤯 that they need to be recognized. I’m going to aim for three-ish news app and three-ish updated apps to show each week. Hopefully I don’t get to backlogged here but I will try to think of a nicer way to show more apps if I do 🙃 I don’t like to leave anybody out on purpose. Make sure to add the look at me form to your release checklist to possibly get your new app or version in an issue!
Anyway… I hope you all enjoy this week’s issue and this new section! As always, feel free to hit me up with any feedback!
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 👀
Today’s Spotlighted Indie Devs
📆 Today I’m featuring Daniel Jilg.
I've had my own (serious) indies apps out in the App Store since November of 2020. Analytics is something I was interested in but many of the solutions felt so intrusive to users. I don't want to know any personal information about my users. I didn't want to add a complex dependency in my app. I didn't need an advanced dashboard. There were so many things I didn't want that it crossed almost everything off my list but... AppTelemetry came to my rescue! It's privacy focused. The SDK doesn't creep on my users but I could also just send a HTTP POST request if I didn't want to use the SDK. The dashboard in the iOS and macOS app is as simple and yet informational as possible. It shows me only the things I want. AppTelemetry is the perfect analytics solution for this indie dev and it seems like its the perfect solution for many other indie devs as well 🙌 I highly recommend taking a look at AppTelemetry if you are an app developer or work with app developers! I know you'll fall in love with it like I have ❤
👉 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?
I’m Daniel Jilg, from Augsburg, Germany, 36 years old, married, two cats
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
I have a Bachelor’s in Computer Science, but I’ve been experimenting with stuff like QBasic since I was about ten and discovered you could change the parameters of the Nibbles game to make it easier.
During uni I worked freelance on small web apps, and when the iOS App Store was announced, I really really wanted to make my own app, so I made “Tenplustwo”, a small tool to help you concentrate by giving you small 2 minute breaks every ten minutes, similar to the Pomodoro Technique (I just found a YouTube video of it in action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRTxjkya58g ). That was my first app, and it was either available on the App Store Launch or shortly thereafter, I’m not sure.
After uni I wanted to freelance more but ended up working at a tiny agency for making mobile apps and web apps. I made CTO and the company grew to 50ish employees, it was challenging and a lot of fun, but after some years I wanted to work on something for longer, not in an agency model where you work on something for a month or three and then never get to touch it again.
I worked on large data analysis processes at Elgato, telemetry data parsing at BMW, and privacy-focused and ad-blocking iOS browsers for KeepSafe and then Cliqz, better known as Ghostery in the US. Many of these were project based contracts, but some where regular employment contracts as well.
I’ve always had side projects, preferably those that combine my server skills and my mobile app development skills, and with some I had high hopes, but most ended up pretty obscure. With AppTelemetry, I seem to have hit a nerve though, so that makes me super happy!
Within tech, I’m super interested in privacy and people’s digital rights, as well as creating open spaces for collaboration and communication. For example, there’s this organisation Appsterdam, that tries to help indie app makes in Amsterdam, so I reached out to Mike Lee and asked him if I could create a satellite organisation “Appsburg” in Augsburg, which enjoyed a lot of success with meet-ups for a few years before it morphed into a game developers meet-up thing the running of which I handed over to some friends. I also like Python, Swift, and being inclusive.
Outside of tech, I’ve recently discovered biking. I got myself a cyclocross bike and ride it all over. I’m also super into space, which is why many of my side projects are a little bit space-themed. Oh and I like racing cars, mostly virtually these days. I’m a feminist and try to act as an ally wherever I can.
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
Being an indie has always been an aspiration of mine, but I’ve never reached the status where I could live off my side projects. So you could say indie-ish? I’ve certainly met a lot of Indie developers and found myself right at home with them.
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
When you’re working for someone, you always have limited control over your work. I found that I’m most fulfilled when I can set a lot of parameters of a project myself. In my own applications, I CAN decide everything (even thought I oftentimes ask friends and family for help or advice). That makes me happy because I can follow these hunches that are hard to put into words and see if they lead somewhere.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
If I work on a project based contract, German law allows me to set my own hours. So usually I would try to work 7-9 hours a day, but allow myself the occasional day where I would just call it quits after an hour or so I could hang with my friends or do something I like, or go to the lake and wakeboard (is that a verb even?).
The last year has been a bit different. Originally, me and my wife (who is a teacher) were planning to have a sabbatical from August 2020 to August 2021 where we would travel the world, so we saved up for a few years and I let all my contracts expire. Then the pandemic hit and made travel impossible. My wife started helping out in the state’s contact tracing call center, and I felt like I might as well start hacking full time on my newest idea, AppTelemetry, and see where it goes.
6) AppTelemetry - This is super legit! I’ve been avoiding putting any sort of analytics in my indie apps because it all seemed overkill but App Telemetry is so spot on. Light and privacy focus is exactly what I want 🙌 When did you start working on App Telemetry? What were your initial goals? Have they remained the same?
Thank you so much! The first iteration I made was a quick python script on my server that would receive signals from another app of mine, Libi, and stuff them into a database. That way I could see, e.g. how many people had the HealthKit-related features enabled, and how many people would use the app.
Turns out, seeing users pour into your app is super motivating, and I quickly started working more on the analytics server than on the app! I showed this to a few people at the company I was contracting for, and they were super interested and told me they’d think about licensing it if I ever made it work on a large scale. This never panned out, but I realised that more people might like to get their hands on such a thing. I also had learned a lot about how to run analytics without compromising user privacy at Cliqz.
The first line of code for what is now AppTelemetry was written in September 2020. I wanted to replace the hacky Python script with something more reliable that I could extend to my other future apps. But I also kept in mind that this should be something I might be able to license to other indie developers – big companies already have large and clunky analytics tools, but if I made something small and nimble, I could have something of value for the community.
7) AppTelemetry - The testimonials on your website are perfect. I read through them and recognized them as indie developers. I knew that this was going to be the analytics product I wanted in my indie apps ☺️ A lot of other analytics services I was interested in seem to forget that indies exist 🤷♂️ Is your plan to keep always market or have a pricing plan gear for indies?
At first I thought only Indies would ever consider using AppTelemetry, but since launching the beta, there has been interest from larger app makers as well. But I still think the right way to go is to always keep independent developers in mind, kinda like Bitrise is doing.
The current plan for pricing is to have a free tier for small apps, and then paid tiers for medium and large apps. This way the service always has an easy entry point for people with a cool but small side project.
The pricing of these tiers is not entirely locked down – I’ll send out some questions to the beta testers soon to help determine what’s a fair and inclusive price that allows me to keep the (surprisingly beefy) servers running.
8) AppTelemetry - I had a question planned to ask you about how AppTelemetry is affected by iOS 14.5’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) but… it looks like you already have this answered and more in the docs 🤯 Was App Telemetry a direct answer to ATT? But these docs and FAQ sections are so 🔥 It’s like just the perfect amount of information to be an easy read but also very useful. Do you have a lot of previous experience writing docs and making developer focused websites? I really which I had skills like these 😁
Privacy has always been a “thing” for me, so it was clear from the very beginning that if I was going to create an analytics app, it had to be engineered for user privacy from the start. And it saves you from so much hassle too! You don’t have to get people’s consent with ridiculous dark-pattern-infested banners! You don’t have to deal with deletion requests. You can never sell private data because you don’t ever have it in the first place. And you can answer questions openly and in good conscience, without hiding anything.
The fact that Apple decided just NOW to launch iOS 14.5 with ATT was a very lucky coincidence, because it helps me getting the word out. It’s clear that Apple is becoming more and more privacy-focused, so I’m happy to be part of an ecosystem that values privacy and still be able to help developers improve their apps.
Glad to hear you like the docs! I feel like I’ve always liked documenting my code, helping the next person to look at it grok it faster, and I really appreciate projects with good docs. So my goal is, whenever I get a question, I want to write a documentation article answering that question and the context around it, so the next person doesn’t even have to ask.
9) AppTelemetry - I think one of my favorite things is how the analytics dashboard is first and foremost a native iOS and macOS app. I felt very at home using the app 😊 What was the decision process behind using native app as the main interface for interacting with AppTelemetry? Was it just more fun to make? Because that would have been my reason 😉 What were some of the challenges or benefits to going native only?
It was indeed just way more fun to make! 😁 I wanted to try out SwiftUI and it seemed like the perfect project to do that. I like that I can make the app way more polished and smooth than most websites, and that I can compile multiple platforms from the same source code. Right now that’s iOS and macOS, but I have my eyes set on an app for Apple TV as well, because how cool would that be, having your stats live on a huge screen on your wall?
Of course, SwiftUI is in beta right now, and it shows. I must have filed dozens of Radars for visual bugs, plus a severe memory leak that I’m working hard on mitigating, but can’t seem to quite plug right now. I’m really hoping the next version in June brings some improvements there, because I’m beginning to really like SwiftUI’s way of doing things.
But the main downside is of course that you have to have an Apple device to use AppTelemetry right now. You can send signals from Android apps or websites, but you need a Mac to view the results.
The Apple ecosystem is my people, they care about things being nice and good, so it’s good to polish everything here first, but at some point in the future, after launching the finished version 1, I’ll need to start on a web app.
10) AppTelemetry - I’m a pretty big fan of how App Telemetry shows the insights 🙌 It’s super simple to configure and even easier to understand what the charts are showing! It’s pretty refreshing that I start with a blank slate and can configure the view to show only the insights that are important to me. Do you have plans to offer any default insight groups in the future or will you stick with the blank slate? Also, what is in store for insights in the future? 😇 This feels like the core of App Telemetry. Do you have any big plans you can share with us?
At some point I already had code to auto-create a group of insights for you, so you’d have something to play with immediately. But it turns out people find it easier to learn how the app works when I offer some pre-configured insights in the “New Insight” menu. This way, you only have to only interact with one new thing at a time.
You better believe I have big plans for Insights! There’s this thing called the AARRR Pirate Metrics Framework which has the best name ever, and lists the default insights that analytics tools should have. I plan on using that as inspiration and have insights for Activation, Retention, and Referral, which means more analytics of sessions, funnels, etc. That also means more docs and videos of how to use these effectively.
A good friend of mine is a marketing expert, and she has a lot of opinions of how AppTelemetry can provide value. I’m spending a lot of time talking with her about these things. And the users I have now are friendly and vocal about what their needs are, which is incredibly helpful.
One thing that’s super important to me is Live Insights. I feel like it’s a core part of the app that you can just play with insight settings and see the values change on the spot. It gives you a better feel for the data and what it means, and it feels safe to explore without fear of breaking anything.
11) AppTelemetry - I’m curious if you can share language / framework the backend is in 🙃 I don’t do much backend development these days so I like to see what everyone is using. Why did you choose to go with the one you chose?
Did I mention I’ve been writing Python/Django apps for the last 14 years? 😁 But I wanted to try something new, so AppTelemetry’s server is written in Swift, using the Vapour framework. It’s super interesting because just like Apple’s Combine framework, it’s all streams and asynchronous blocks. The community and documentation is very friendly and nice too, so while I’ve hit a few stumbling blocks on the way, i always found people to ask questions. I’m happy to have taken this route.
12) AppTelemetry - What else is next for AppTelemetry?! You have me hooked as a user. It’s going to go in all of my apps and probably on indiedevmonday.com so I’m pretty excited 🥳
Lots and lots of polish, but there are so many features I want to work on as well! AppTelemetry is my most successful project to date, and I’m eager to see how far it goes.
At some point in fall or winter of this year, after lots of interaction with the community, and with plenty of warning, large apps with a LOT of signals will begin to be charged for the service, and then we’ll see if I can make this into a sustainable business! I’m so excited, because the response from the developer community has been overwhelmingly positive and friendly, and I want to give something back.
13) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What the most fun part of being an indie dev?
The hardest part is definitely that moment when you release and you just don’t know yet if anyone will actually care about your app.
But then when you see people reacting to your project, telling you they like it (and you see them pouring in live on your analytics dashboard, tee hee), that’s just the most wonderful feeling!
That, and I have a cat sleeping next to my keyboard just now, and I can scratch her head between bursts of writing. Best office ever!
14) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
Yes my beard is actually blue in real life. I use bleaching solution and a combination of dyes by Manic Panic :D~
15) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
I want to give a shout-out to David Gary Wood for his excellent podcast, Waiting For Review. And to Gianni Carlo with his wonderful app BookPlayer, a player for free audio books.
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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