Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to Issue #79! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
Before getting into today’s issue, I wanted to mention an event that RevenueCat is hosting this Friday! It’s a free to attend webinar on “Subscription App Trends and How To Grow in 2022”. This is a great event to catch if you can! 👇
This Friday, the one and only @drbarnard will be hosting @eric_seufert and @Thomasbcn to talk about how to grow your app in 2022. We'll cover:— RevenueCat (@RevenueCat) January 24, 2022
• Breakout app categories
• Opportunities for user acquisition
• Hybrid revenue models
See you there? https://t.co/jCjS1QxEZf pic.twitter.com/07NtsJPfFD
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
📆 Today I’m featuring Matt Kandler.
👉 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?
My name is Matt Kandler and I’m living outside of Chicago, IL - but plan to be back in New York City next year.
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
I have a pretty traditional engineering background. I studied mechanical engineering in college because I thought robots were cool and ended up getting my Master’s degree with a design focus. It turns out that I enjoyed the coding side of robotics a bit more 😅
My time is split between Happyfeed and freelance software development work. I’m lucky to have worked with some big brands like Spotify, Care/of, and Casper.
Interests outside of tech: I like running but don’t love running in the cold (a real problem in Chicago). Apart from that, I enjoy tending to house plants, attempting to make the perfect coffee, and exploring new restaurants in the city.
Interests inside of tech: Lately, I’ve been trying to get deeper into the iOS developer community. Swift is such a joy to work with and I feel like I’ve barely touched everything it can do. Last year I built a Watch app for Happyfeed as a way to explore SwiftUI.
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
I think so! I was very active on Indie Hackers in the early days so it’s fun to identify with the term. This community can be incredibly supportive and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to watch the trajectory of people I’ve met! I’m terrible at predicting the “winners” though and it’s a good reminder to be nice to everyone, especially early on.
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
Half the reason I started Happyfeed was out of concern that I didn’t have enough skills to get a job in the tech world. Even though I used an Android phone at the time, I decided that designing and building an iOS app would boost my resume. Learning is a major motivator for me - especially when I was frantically trying to get a paycheck.
Now that Happyfeed has over 100k registered users, I’m motivated to keep improving the experience for them. It’s fun to chat with customers and build a new feature that will absolutely delight them.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
With the pandemic and everyone working from home, it feels more like an amorphous blob of #productivity than any kind of meaningful balance. I’ve been freelancing for almost 8 years now though and here’s my best advice: Keep to-do lists. I get super detailed with my to-dos. This means taking a big task and breaking it into smaller pieces (maybe even 3 or 4 levels deep) until you have a list of tasks that take 15-30 minutes each. Even an overwhelmed brain can handle that. Front load the hard stuff. The best days are the ones where I complete 4 hours of client work or tackle a challenging feature before lunch. My brain isn’t as sharp in the afternoon and I don’t need to stress about it for the rest of the day then. Listen to music. I love a good podcast, but if you try listening to a podcast while working or taking a walk, I don’t think you’re giving yourself a proper break. Let your mind wander every now and then!
6) Happyfeed - I’ve been trying to find things that can shine a little light on these dark times and I’m so happy that I came across Happyfeed! A very crude idea of something like Happyfeed has been floating around in my head for a while but Happyfeed is so much better 😊 When did you start working on Happyfeed? What was the initial idea and how has it evolved?
Thank you! And I couldn’t agree more! The initial idea for Happyfeed (in 2013) was to build a super simple gratitude journal where you would record three good things each day to focus more on the positive. I wanted them to be “tweet” sized and the app had a cute interface with three smiley faces that filled in as you went.
In that first version didn’t have streaks, you couldn’t add photos, and there was no way to edit posts. I think it was the definition of an MVP. Now the app is a lot more focused on photos and finding ways to surface your past memories, like daily throwbacks and a “happiness jar” to see random past posts. It’s been crucial to keep it simple though because habits are so hard to form in the first place!
7) Happyfeed - I love the name “Happyfeed’ 🥰 It fits so perfectly. I knew exactly what the app was about by hearing the name. Was it difficult to find a name that fit? How many name choices did you consider?
Surprisingly, the name and initial idea came together very organically! I was noticing all the negativity on social media and wondered if there was a way to filter out only a “happy feed.” Ultimately, I thought that social media was inherently too performative (your brain is literally trained to post what you think will get likes/dopamine) and journaling would be a more natural way to surface some happiness. At the time, there were probably two or three gratitude journals in the App Store.
I just wish I had pursued the .com domain when it was still a bird food company in 2012.
Maybe the process was so smooth because I started with a problem? I worked on a startup before Happyfeed and it took us months–almost a year–to figure out a name that we still didn’t really love 🥲
8) Happyfeed - The pod feature is my favorite. Reflecting on my own memories is fun but sharing it with a small group of people that are close to me is fun! Do you have a favorite feature you like as a user? What has been your favorite feature to develop?
Amazing! It’s my favorite experiment in Happyfeed so far too. Last year, I added an option to join a Random Pod with strangers and it’s surprisingly wholesome and uplifting. Sharing your journal entries requires some real vulnerability. I’ve tried a couple “social” things and am so glad this one worked!
Pods were a huge challenge to build, but I’ve most enjoyed my work on photo uploading. The iOS app intelligently syncs your journal between Core Data and the cloud to allow for online or offline use. Instead of downloading photos and storing duplicates, it references Cloud IDs from your Photo Library to fetch as needed. Getting that all working properly was really satisfying and gives Happyfeed a nice technical edge 🔪
9) Happyfeed - Is there anything awesome that you learned (besides development stuff) while building Happyfeed?
Some of the most interesting things I’ve learned have been how people use Happyfeed. At the beginning of the pandemic I found out that a school swim team created a giant Pod to send positive moments to each other. A few summers ago, someone at a church must’ve mentioned Happyfeed in a sermon, because I saw a huge influx of Christian users! It’s fun to see how much variety journaling can have and where motivations come from.
10) Happyfeed - I see that Happyfeed is on iOS, Android, and web 🤯 I love the cross platform support! Do you have fun building and supporting across all platforms? Does each platform have its own unique challenges?
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that question! It’s a TON of work and I would definitely NOT recommend attacking so many platforms unless there’s a clear need. :SOB: For Happyfeed it breaks down into a few reasons:
- This is a journal meant to last for decades - you should be able to use it even if you switch platforms.
- Social features work better with cross-platform support - not being able to add your family member on a different platform to your Pod is a blocker.
- It just feels good to support everyone. The Android app has only recently started getting reviews as positive as the iOS app but it’s a huge point of pride for me!
The iOS app is built with Swift, the Android app is built using React Native, and the web platform is a React app on Next.js. I have plenty of opinions on each - if any readers want to chat about pros and cons 😉
11) Happyfeed - What’s next for Happyfeed?! Do you have any future features that you can share?
Right now, I’m trying to be laser-focused on solving this social journaling concept. Pods was a great way to prove to myself that people would actually want to share parts of their journal and I think there’s a lot more I can do now.
I’m planning to build a direct follower system into Happyfeed that would allow you to share with all your followers instead of specific groups. Groups are great but it requires some mental work to combine friends into groups and decide what should be shared with whom.
12) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What is the most fun part of being an indie dev?
Hardest parts? I never have enough time or resources to do everything I want to do. There are so many obvious I-should-do-this improvements, like video and internationalization, that I keep pushing off due to the time commitments.
Most fun? Every now and then one of my friends will mention that they have been using the app for a whole year or something - that’s a wild feeling. I’ve been using Happyfeed for almost 2400 days myself. It’s also fun to have a platform to test out new tools and technologies. I learned how to code in React when I launched the first version of the web platform. Now, all my client work is in React.
13) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
Let’s connect! I’m somewhat active on Twitter @mattkandler and love to commiserate and learn from other consumer app founders in particular.
14) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
Apart from the big names you probably already know, here are a few indie devs I’ve enjoyed getting to know a little on the internet:
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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