Issue #67 - Ben Scheirman
Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to Issue #67! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
And its a new month which means time for a new amazing Indie Dev Monday sponsor 🥳 This month’s sponsor is Tower - the premier Git client on macOS and Windows. Try it today and experience a better way to work with Git. I can’t thank them enough for the support! It’s a great produt and you should check it out 😉
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 Ben Scheirman.
NSScreencast is a website that provides bite-sized videos on iOS development. Ben has been recording these iOS development screencasts for almost 10 years now and has published over 500 episodes 🤯 And actually… lot of my early iOS learnings relied on some of the videos that Ben has produced 😇 I can’t recommend NSScreencast enough. Ben provides a handful of free episodes but the subscription gives you access to the whole catalog and its definitely worth it 💪 If you are early in your iOS career and want to learn a lot or experience but want to stay up to date with new things, NSScreencast is the thing for you!
👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.
Freelance iOS Developer and creator Tonal Therapy and NSScreencast
1) What is your name? Where do you live (city or general area)?
I live in Houston, TX.
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
I’ve been a software developer for about 20 years. Started in web development, then got a degree in computer science. My first jobs were using C# and the Microsoft .NET platform, however once the iPhone came out I decided to take a risky move and quit a lucrative consulting career and start learning something brand new.
In short, I’m glad I made the move. I was happier, working on Mac, on a platform I really enjoyed and working on projects that were more interesting to me.
I also play guitar and am an avid cook, bbq pitmaster, and bread baker.
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
Yes and no. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial drive, but while I’ve created a few independent products (NSScreencast, Combine Swift Course, Side Mirror, and now Tonal Therapy) — I’ve nearly always supplemented this with consulting work. Sometimes full-time, sometimes not.
Having my own products and indie income means I don’t have to take a gig or job I don’t want. I enjoy this freedom and flexibility.
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
Fame and glory! Kidding. I’ve just always found that I have lots of ideas for things I could make, only some of them are actually viable. Occasionally I think of something novel and decide to just go for it.
It certainly teaches you lots of skills beyond just software development. You need good design, marketing, a launch plan, customer support, and long term maintenance.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
I used to be pretty bad at this, but I have gotten better. I work from home, and decide to reserve my mornings for exercise and independent work. Having time constraints like this help keep me focused on what needs to be done, rather than spending that time in ways that don’t move me toward my goals.
The best way I’ve found to do this is to sit down and plan your week in broad strokes. I’ve used many tools for this in the past (iPad with Pencil, Notes app, Good Notes, and now I’m using Craft) but the tools don’t really matter. The main idea is: identify 3 big things you want to get done this week. Then sketch out each day so you can figure out how to get it done.
I cook dinner most nights and eat with the family, and I rarely (if every) do work at night. On the weekends I try to disengage from work and spend time with family, play board games, and make delicious food.
6) Tonal Therapy - Congrats on your recent release of Tonal Therapy! I don’t have (or at least I don’t think I have) tinnitus but I can only imagine how rough it must be ☹️ What’s the story behind Tonal Therapy’s creation? How did you discover you could make an app to help relieve some of the pain?
Thanks! Tinnitus is awful. It is basically a ringing or hissing sound in your ears that can be temporal/sporadic or constant. There is no cure for it, and in my research and browsing forums I’ve found there are a lot of people suffering from it. Some are so bad the discussions can get really dark.
In my research I found a paper that discussed a technique called Acoustic Coordinated Reset Neuromodulation, or ACRN. This paper described a study that showed some promising results for some (but unfortunately not all) people.
The technique involves identifying your tinnitus frequency, and then playing a pattern of tones that dance around this frequency. The idea is that it can trick your brain into reducing the volume of the ringing, or for some even eliminating it. The effect is only temporary — but temporary relief is a goal for many people with tinnitus.
There are websites that offer this, but I wanted to be able to do it on the go, in an app with my headphones.
I figured it would be fun to play around with audio programming and SwiftUI (two things that were fairly new to me) and build an app for it. So I did!
7) Tonal Therapy - How did you go about testing Tonal Therapy to make sure it helped relieve users of some of the tinnitus pain? Seems like this might have been harder than just writing some unit tests 😛 Did you get a lot of good feedback from testers?
I wrote a basic version of the app and tested for myself. I noticed that 1-2 minutes of listening could give me ~5-10m of relief. Sometimes that’s enough to let me go about my day and be able to ignore it for a while.
After I had an initial version I created a website and launched a Testflight beta. Early feedback seemed promising, though the sample size was pretty small. Since I couldn’t guarantee it would work for people I had a hard time pricing it. Medical devices that treat tinnitus can cost thousands, and people suffering would gladly pay $$$ for a solution that works.
BUT, (A) I don’t want to gouge people who are suffering and (B) I can’t guarantee it will work for them. So I decided to price it relatively cheap ($6.99 US) in the hopes that people would find it worth it to try.
In the future I may consider a free trial + unlock, but that was cut in order to actually ship it :)
8) Tonal Therapy - I love the sound animation and colors! I know Tonal Therapy is about the sound but those visuals are 😍 Can you give any tips about how you made the sound waves? 😉 I have no idea where I’d start.
Yes! In fact I have a few episodes on NSScreencast about it!
(Note: I just made the first episode in that list free so you all can check it out. It’s super fun to play with!)
The math behind it is not that scary. It involves a sine wave, which you can control frequency and amplitude to get taller and more spaced apart waves. Then you “taper” that with a function, so the edges get smaller.
Once you have that you can animate the phase, which is essentially moving the graph left or right and you have your animation!
9) Tonal Therapy - What causes tinnitus and how can listening to the same frequency as your tinnitus help? I’m sure there is same crazy science here that I’d love to understand 🙃
Tinnitus can be caused by many things including loud sounds (bombs, gunfire, loud music) or just general hearing loss. It can be exacerbated by some ototoxic medications, caffeine, and most common: stress.
The pattern doesn’t play your frequency, it dances around it. in this way it’s almost like a reset for the hearing part of your brain.
10) NSScreencast - I’ve been a HUGE fan of yours for as long as I can remember. NSScreencast was a big part in helping me grow as an iOS developer. So a big big big thank you for that! What sparked you to start NSScreencast? Did you think you’d still be going almost 10 years later? What has been the best thing that has come out of creating NSScreencast?
That’s so awesome, thanks! I had no idea I’d still be going 10 years later. I started it because I felt that it should exist, and I just kept going because of hearing stories like your comment there!
When I travel across the world to speak at a conference, it it’s completely wild that people recognize me and come and talk to me about it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it! It has also opened many doors for me professionally.
11) Tonal Therapy, NSScreencast - What’s next?! Do you have things planned for the future that you can share with us? 😇
I’ve heard a bunch of stories from folks on things that could be done to help. Possibly separate frequencies in each ear, and perhaps even a new technique of notched listening (basically scooping out the EQ range of your ringing when playing something else, like white noise, waves, or music). I’ll have to do some testing here to see if this is feasible and fits in with the app.
12) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What’s the most fun part of being an indie dev?
Focus. I always feel like I’m spinning plates. Sometimes I envy folks who can just clock in and clock out and do one thing. I haven’t lived that life in more than a decade!
But creating things and shipping them and seeing folks use them and get value out of them is so rewarding, I don’t know if I’ll ever want to stop.
13) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
If you made it this far I just want to give you a high five. You are awesome and stunningly good-looking.
14) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
I’m a fan of Charlie Chapman (@_chuckyc) who is the creator of Dark Noise, a fantastically useful (and beautiful white noise generating app)
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 👀
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