One of the perks of being a Canadian millennial is that I don’t have to work too hard to understand coding. The language translates fairly easily when you grow up digital, and I have been able to build on the small amount of html I taught myself when I was in elementary school. This was an absolute necessity, as I needed a way to best express my specially cultivated pre-teen, punk-rock, suburban angst. Where I am from the go-to online journaling sites were Livejournal, Xanga and Asian Avenue (please see “About the Author” photo to understand just how hilarious that profile was… I’m fairly certain my user name was BubbleHoneyPuff or something just as ridiculous). I am not sure what young Newfoundlanders used in the mid-nineties, but I am fairly certain there were versions of this type of basic coding being written in online diaries across Canada.
Now, I can parse out a WordPress problem, but I am always floored by people who can envision great things and build them from scratch. Matthew Stenback (MS), the founder of Brownie Points, is a self-taught programmer who uses these tools to creatively improve the world around him.
Matthew is giving his first workshop this weekend as part of the Scene and Heard Film Industry Conference. He’ll be at NIFCO tomorrow morning at 10am to teach us all about the basics of mobile app development. Matthew took the time to answer a few questions for us about his career, mobile apps and the workshop tomorrow.
SJIWFF: Tell us a bit about yourself.
MS: I’m a self-taught programmer and designer. I founded Brownie Points and co-founded Common Ground coworking. I love all things entrepreneurship and product development. I’d rather be the guy in the background making stuff, than the one in the front talking about it.
SJIWFF: Where did you get the idea for Brownie Points?
MS: I got the idea in University when I was shopping downtown one weekend. The downtown area just felt like it’s own community and I thought there might be an interesting way to tie all the stores together. I also noticed that hardly any of the stores had a points system or any sort of modern marketing tools. The way my mind works, I’m always puzzling out how things could be better, so naturally I started to dig into that problem. Brownie Points was my way of connecting independent businesses, and modernizing their marketing tools at the same time.
SJIWFF: How did you develop the skill set to bring the vision for Brownie Points to life?
MS: I got really interested in video game development during University so I started programming in my spare time. The skills I learned while developing my game translated pretty easily over to other platforms and programming languages. I’m self taught, but I don’t really feel at a disadvantage because of that. In fact I’d say that most CS students probably learn more outside the classroom with their side projects anyway
SJIWFF: In your own words, why is app development important for artists/organizations/businesses?
MS: In my opinion, learning the process of app development is useful for almost anyone. Without the knowing what’s involved in making an app, it might seem too complex, too expensive, or unrealistic for a given organization or project. But the reality is, most mobile apps are fairly simple to make. Once you understand the process, you can make much more informed decisions about whether or not it’s right for your business, project, or event.
SJIWFF: What is your favourite mobile app?
MS: Instapaper. It’s focused, useful, well designed, and it’s not trying to be all things to all people. It does one thing, and does it really well.
SJIWFF: What are you most excited to cover in your workshop this Saturday?
MS: Well it’s my first time delivering a talk/session/workshop, so I’m pretty excited just to be doing it! But in terms of a topic that I’m most excited about covering, I always love talking about managing the scope of a project, keeping the purpose focused, avoiding feature creep, that type of thing!
Tickets are still available at the LSPU Hall Box Office for Matthew’s workshop.
See you all there!