Usually when someone sits down to learn a programming language, they start with a very simple task in mind, usually the developer writes what is called a ‘Hello World’ program that displays ‘Hello World’ on the screen, literally, nothing more, nothing less. One reason for starting with something so trivial is that it gives the developer an early sense of achievement and proves that everything is setup ready to do something more challenging.
Perhaps then it’s unusual for someone to decide to learn iPhone development with the anticipation of releasing it on the Apple app-store, with functionality that you wouldn’t expect in your first ‘Hello World’ grade application?
Rob Wilson is full-time employed, married, with three children, yet he found some ‘spare time’ to learn a new programming language called ‘Objective-C’ and write a Twitter program with a difference, one that enabled him to ‘hear’ the tweets he received, whilst he was driving to work in Tunbridge Wells, or whilst cooking his predictable meal choice in the kitchen (99% of the time it’s a curry!).
It started off sounding like a trivial project, but anyone that has attempted iPhone development will realise that there are hurdles involved, most of those hurdles cause your application to ‘crash’ if you do something even slightly wrong. After a couple of months, he now has a stable application called ‘SocialSpeaker’ that monitors a Twitter account for new messages, then reads them out loud through your iPhone.
Although Robs initial plan was to only provide the speaker functionality, he often found that he wanted to reply to a Tweet too, it seemed obvious that he needed to add the ability to enable a user to reply to a tweet, the functionality slowly started to grow, including the ability to listen to music in the car, then SocialSpeaker would reduce the volume of the music so that the Tweet could be heard above the music, then the music volume was returned to the original volume (this is commonly known as ‘Ducking’ – don’t ask me why!).
Before submitting the application to the Apple app-store, Rob sent special preview versions to his friends, it was then it became obvious that a historical view of Tweets would be useful, so that if you went out of a room whilst a couple of Tweets were received, you could go back and replay them, a bit like Sky+ but for Twitter.
Once the last few tweaks were made, Rob submitted his application to Apple who have strong guidelines and rules for all applications to meet, but he didn’t need to worry, the application was accepted on his first attempt. Rob plans on adding Facebook support and other features not found anywhere else.