Issue #69 - Oliver Haslam
Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to Issue #69! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
First things first… I’m planning on migrating newsletter services in the next few weeks. The web version is a Jekyll site but the email is sent using ConvertKit. ConvertKit is great but it doesn’t fit well with my workflow. I’d ideally like to simply send off the markdown file I write for this issue but that’s not possible with ConvertKit (so I need to do a lot of manual copying and pasting). So in the next few weeks I’ll be moving the subscription list and email sending to a self-hosted version of listmonk 🙌 I’ll announce when I make the switch be please reach out to me if you stop receiving any of the emails!
Also… Charlie Chapman is back from his summer break with a new episode of Launched! I love the Launched podcast and I love Russ Shanahan (who was featured in Issue 52 ) 🥰 Go subscribe to Launched and listen to this episode (and the rest of them)!
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 Dev Writer
📆 Today I’m featuring Oliver Haslam.
👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.
Indie Dev Writer
Blogger, writer at iMore, and developer consultant
1) What is your name? Where do you live (city or general area)?
My name is Oliver Haslam and I live in Doncaster, UK. I doubt too many reading this will have heard of it, though!
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
In terms of education, I don’t have any beyond the age of 17. I did spend a few weeks at college learning what I suppose would be called Computer Science these days, but I was learning things I’d been doing since I was much younger — programming in Pascal, for example. I got bored and that was the end of that!
3) What does your day-to-day look like as a tech writer? I pretty much only know what a day looks like as a developer so I’m really curious what a day looks like in the life of a writer
It isn’t as exciting as I suspect many people expect, but I get to work from a home office and only sometimes get dressed so it has some perks! I’m freelance so have a lot more freedom than most, which I like. But between doing school runs I spend my days hunting for news, whether that’s something Apple is up to or learning about new apps. I probably spend more time dealing with email and reading RSS feeds than I do actually writing!
4) iMore - First off, thank you so much for writing about An Otter RSS Reader and Oh Crop. I remember running around the house with excitement when seeing an article being written about my app. I never thought such a big news site would write about my app. How did you get into writing about apps? Is there a difference when writing about big mainstream apps versus indie apps? Did you just kind of stumble into it or have you always had interest in the indie scene?
I love apps. I think they’re way more important than most people think, and I’ve felt that way since I jailbroke the first iPod touch many, many years ago and before I ever got an iPhone and the App Store existed. Without apps, and the developers that make them, iPhone wouldn’t be what it is today. I firmly believe that, and I wish Apple was better at looking after the people that make the apps people use every day.
Writing about apps was something I used to do for fun because I’m a nerd. Then someone was silly enough to start paying me to do it and here we are today.
I’ve always been interested in indie apps, perhaps more than the mainstream ones. It’s the indie developers that often have the space to try something new or, more often than not, just make an app that they want to use and just so happen to have made something we all wanted as well. We’ve seen apps go from passion projects to App Store hits and that’s what makes the App Store so great.
5) iMore - What is something indie developers can do to help get their app written about? Do you have any suggestions on what should all be in a press kit and how things should be formatted to make it easiest for press to use?
This is something that I know developers have wrestled with for years and they’ll no doubt wrestle with it longer after I’ve been told to get a real job. It’s difficult — my inbox shows me how hard it is for developers to get attention. As for what should go into press kits, I actually have a thing up on iMore about that! https://www.imore.com/some-great-indy-apps-go-unnoticed-devs-heres-how-tell-me-about-your-work
6) Developer Consulting - I’m so bad at writing my own copy for my apps. I often wish I had the skills myself or somebody to help So I was pretty excited when I found out that you offered the exact service I needed! When did you start offering developer consulting services for copy? How did you know there was a need for this? Are you able to share some of the apps you’ve previously worked on?
This is an interesting one, because this side of my business found me, rather than the other way around. An indie developer suggested that I should do it months before I did, and then it just sort of took off. I wouldn’t know where to start in terms of writing an app, but I like to think I know how to sell them. I’ve found that developers are very good at making apps, but most just don’t have the skillset to do a good job of explaining their apps or telling people why they should download them. That’s cool, like I say, I can’t make apps! Words are where I think I can help people out.
I’d rather not share any specific apps that I’ve worked on — that’s up to the developer — but I can say I’ve worked on some big apps in the indie scene and there’s a very good chance people reading this have read my copy in the App Store.
7) Developer Consulting - How do you work with developers? Do you have a face to face call to talk with the developer about what they want and what the app does? Do you get full creative control or do developers try to give you some bounds to work in? How long does this process usually take from the first conversation to the end result? I’m asking that question so I can plan around my next app
I always say that I can write the words, but I need to know what the app is about and which features are the big hitters before I can get started. Nobody knows the app better than the person or team that created it — I need their input before anything else. That can happen however they’d prefer, but I’m a typical nerd who prefers email or iMessage — plus it gives me an easy way to reference things when I need to. I have a few questions that I have everyone ask and I always try the app myself so I can get a feel for it.
Creative control is all down to the developer — I do what I’m told, Mostly! If they want me to run with it, I can do that. If there’s a company voice already in place, I can use that as a starting point. Whatever works!
The time it takes to get copy done varies depending on the complexity of the app and my workload — I often share on Twitter when I’m wrapping up work so anyone who needs a job turning around quickly knows that I’m free for that reason. I’m pretty good at getting App Store and press kit copy done in the second draft, if not the first. It’s very, very rare that we need a third.
8) What’s been the hardest part of being a tech writer? What is the most fun part of being a tech writer?
The hardest part is sometimes trying to fit 26 hours into a 24-hour day, but I doubt that’s specific to this gig. I’m lucky in that I don’t consider myself to have a real job these days — I was in IT service management in a previous life. I’ve done office jobs with rules upon rules upon policies upon office politics. I don’t get any of that anymore so it’s difficult to complain.
The most fun part is just trying out apps and toys. New iPhone season is always something I look forward to. I know some people dread it because of the constant workload and everything that goes with it. But I honestly love it — it’s a buzz you don’t get most of the year and the news finds you!
9) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
If you’re working on an app, have worked on an app, or think you might work on an app — follow me on Twitter and give me a shout. My email address is in my profile and while I can’t always promise I’ll reply to everything, I’ll at least read them. It’s the same for the rest of the tech press, too. If you think people are ignoring you, don’t give up. If you’ve a new launch or a big update, pester people. We’re snowed under, but I know I’d rather be pestered than miss a great app!
10) Do you have any other indie devs or tech writers that readers should follow / lookout for?
I’m far from the first person to highlight the work indie developers do, but I’d always suggest that people keep an eye on the MacStories crew. They’re great at finding gems and helping to turn them into popular apps with their coverage. In terms of developers, you’ll probably all know better than me. If there’s a super secret developer Slack somewhere, get involved. Talk to each other. Stuck with an API? Ask — indie developers are awesome people and they’ll help where they can. The indie developer community’s greatest resource is the indie developers themselves. Make use of them all!
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 👀
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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