Walker Builds an App

"Just because you live in Haiti, it doesn't mean you can't do build a business."
"The world is flat. You don't need to live in America to innovate and create a business on the Internet.”
“This Haitian beach is just as good as a boardroom. "
Give-A-Pig.  Give-A-Goat.

In our attempt to abort a growing sense of entitlement in our three sons, years ago my husband and I traded our family vacations for mission trips to Haiti.  Dozens of trips to Haiti added a new world view for all of us.  We returned to the same village again and again.  This area became our classroom; we learned and so did the Haitians.  Our sons got a front row seat watching our attempts to stimulate economic development in a third world country. 

Americans and Haitians make the same mistakes with money.   Americans mismanage money. The Haitian mismanage poverty.  The debtors and the impoverished stay stuck in their financial problems because of how they think.  Both struggle to think beyond the crisis-moment to get out of their entrapment, yet both live in the abundance of Emperors and Kings from 100 years ago.  

Our sons heard countless sermon to Haitians and Americans alike, “Your location is not the reason you’re financially trapped.  Your MIND is.”  Michael heard this numerous times as well.  Michael, a Haitian whom we met right after the 2010 earthquake, joined us on nearly everyone of our trips to Haiti.  Last summer Michael completed his first year of college education in America. Needing a place to stay, he joined us for the summer months between his freshman and sophomore year. 

Walker, then age 12, roped Michael into his summer project. Walker was building an app. Thankfully I knew nothing about the subject and diverted him strictly to Google and life-hacking the process. In essence he put to use the instructions given to the Haitians: You can learn to do anything through the Internet. Together Michael and Walker built an app. At the end of the summer Walker said this:  

"Mom, our app stinks. We put all that work into it. It's taken us all summer to get this far. And really… It just looks like a 12-year-old and the Haitian made this app."

I cringed as I previewed it.  He was right. It was terrible. Despite all the sweat-equity in the project, Walker was too embarrassed to show any of his friends. 

He was stuck holding onto this moment of failure. I don't know how to build an app. I didn't know how to make it better. The app was clunky and not attractive. In this moment of failure, I hung out in the painful disappointment with him.  "Yep.  It’s not good."  As the mom of three boys and a physician working in addiction, I’ve found failure to be a wonderful teaching environment. Yet in this failure, I had nothing. The only statement I kept hearing again and again in my head was "START ALL OVER." 

I muddle through that tender moment with, "Walker, skills are not built when we succeed, they're built when we fail." That's all I had… I literally couldn't find any other words to help him.

And so the app sat there.

I knew this summer was off to an adventure when Walker started asking very detailed questions about the company Fiverr.  Walker taught me, "Fiverr is this place where you can get people from all over the world to do things for five dollars. It's awesome."  I tried not to squelch his curiosity when he requested a payment card to contract someone at Fiverr.

Next, Walker began quoting Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  A lot.  I mean A LOT. 

He’d spend hours at the table with his headphones on listening, clipping, and cutting different quotes from these two politicians. 

After listening to countless speeches, news soundbites, snapchat videos, and who knows what else, he would clip a 15 second blurb here, and a three second blurb there. He would sort the audio-clips into keepers and non-keepers for both politicians.  After hundreds of saved and sorted clips, he requested my focused attention. With fingers on the mouse for GarageBand, he played the clip and watched my reaction.  

Some of the quotes were hilarious. Gut-splittingly funny. Some quotes were shamefully, ludicrous - so much that I questioned the authenticity, although their unique voices gave both politicians away. Some quotes were R– rated. And some simply were not funny, or made no sense when heard out of context from the speeches from which they were taken.  

“Come on, Mom, that was funny.  That speech was three hours long and this was all I got out of it.” 
“No, Walker, it wasn’t. I am sorry, but that was not funny.  Go ask your, Dad.” 

He kept a tally of my reaction, Dad’s reaction and the tie-breaker was a family friend. Three strikes and the clip was off of the list. Two, and it was sorted to the maybe list. The slap-stick-comedy of a 13 year old boy proved vital to the sorting of this political satire. 

The compiled clips grew to a sizable list with over 200 keepers from Donald Trump and over .  During this process, Walker pitched several ideas for ways to use this content.

"Mom, what about a Whack-A-Mole game? Instead of the holes for the gopher, we will use the windows from the White House. Every time their head pops out of the window you have to tap the game. When you get a hit, their quote will play."

Another idea was a version of a magic eight ball: "You ask the app a question, then their quote will answer the question."  This idea fell short when all the comedic momentum vanished in the time needed to type in the question.

"How about a sort of slot-machine?  You pull down the handle; The dial spins.  Your prize for a match is one of these hilarious quotes." Didn't work.  Too much time in between the laughs and it seemed a mismatch for a slot machine to be spewing out political quotes. 

Each version of his brainstorm got better. A bobble-head idea was another fun stream of thoughts.  A bobble-head of the candidate opened up.  When you shook the device, the head bobbled and instantly blurted out one of their quotes. That was win.  The timing was right.  The connection of bobble-head and candidate seemed to match . . and the quotes were super funny. 

Finally Walker landed on the Whack-A-Mole game for Hillary Clinton and the Shaking-Bobble-Head for Donald Trump. 


CHALLENGES OF A 13 YEAR OLD APP DEVELOPER-

1.  You must be 18 years old to submit an application as an app developers for Apple.

Walker’s Solution: Engage Dad to be the app developer by proxy.

2. It is impossible to change the name of your app once it's been submitted to Apple.

Impossible might be a stretch for an advanced app developer. Impossible is the right word from Walker's point of view.  Apparently Walker did a few things out of sequence. When choosing graphics for the apps, Walker asked us to vote on our favorite. His final choice was fun and witty and the design with the title name looked really nice.  We all agreed.  And that title was already taken.  Walker’s Solution: Carefully select your app name. Very carefully. 

3.  Fiverr is great, but . . .

Walker's initial disappointment with Fiverr broke his strike with gaps in effective communication. The first Fiverr assistant that Walker choose mismatched with his situation.  That assistant worked while he slept, the point-person for the task seemed to change every time Walker asked a question, and the delays in the output turned the project into chaos.  The time delay allowed Walker too much opportunity to come up with a better plan than yesterday.  The second time around Walker better understood what he wanted and he only sent his bid-requests the highest ratings people on Fiverr.  The winner of the bid went to the team that answered with complete sentences the fastest.  Luck certainly sprinkled onto his second Fiverr connection. This time the Fiverr-guys answered questions promptly, adapted gracefully when Walker changed his mind on an idea, and communicated expectations about cost of the change and time-to-delivery.  

Another take-home-message: Make sure the payment card has money in it.  More than once Walker would ask his assistants at Fiverr to help him with something.  They agreed.  And Walker waited as nothing happened.  . . . because the payment card had depleted the funds.  

Walker’s Solution: Mom.  Adult supervision for this part proved very important.  

4.  Finally the app got submitted.  Apple now needed to approve the app.  What criteria does Apple use for accepting or denying your app?  . . . Who knows?

After reading from some experts, Walker worried a few quotes with cuss words might block his acceptance.  He also wondered if his app crept too similar to others.  No one else clipped the actual audible quotes from the public appearances.  Yet, have you ever scrolled through the enormous volume of political apps out there? 

Walker's Solution: MVP -Minimum Viable Product.  Put very little of your content into the app before the approval process.  Walker thought it would be far easier to add the full content through iTunes updates once approved.   

5.  Walker’s definition of INTUITIVE did not match my understanding.  

A number of things seemed so obvious to Walker, but not to the rest of us.  

  • Turn on your volume; we missed several of the quotes because we had our volumes on our phones turned off. 
  • Shake Mr. Trump-Bobble-Head in order to advance to the next quote.    . . . "Oh, shake it.  I get it.  Walker, you need to explain that."
  • The first version of the Whack-A-Mole game was too slow to capture my attention.  The second versions sped right past me.  Walker then gradually increased the pace of the game. That worked well.  Yet, once it sped up, the quotes kept piling on top of each other.  Personally I thought the verbal barf was symbolic of the whole political discourse this election cycle.  Walker agreed.
  • Despite cleaning up the sound quality for the audio-clips, the first version of Mr. Trump-Bobble-Head had several quotes that could not be  understood. He scrapped some.  Then Walker added the words to the screen for each quote.  That really helped. 

Walker’s Solution: keep testing the game with any new audience you can find. Everywhere we stop now, Walker asks if the person has an iPhone.  “Hey, I built an app. Would you download it and try it out for me?” 

6.  FREE APP versus $0.99 APP  

Walker surfed the competition of dozens of other apps. Quickly he learned the greatest killjoy of a punchline was an advertisement.  He really struggled over this choice. Paying money for the entertainment would prevent some from even hearing it.  "Mom, if I choose the option where they don't pay anything, it's not funny.  Do I lose the audience that won't pay for it and keep it funny?"   Ninety-nine cents won. 

7.  Androids operating systems.  

Pump the brakes.  As a family of iPhones and MacBooks, we said, "hold on. Let’s see if anyone downloads it on the iPhone before we add another system."

8.  Current challenge: How does Walker get downloads?

How do you slice through the mountain of other apps?  While avoiding either side of the polarizing chatter of politics today?  All while keeping it fun and a genuine teachable-moment for your son?    Certainly, this situation could be the semester final project for Economics 101 at Wharton School of Business.  

Walker's Solution: Keep playfully sharing it with his friends and learning from anyone that will give him feedback.  

Walker's Solution: Dial Mr Snerdley of the Rush Limbaugh Show hundreds of times in hopes to get onto the radio. 

Walker's Solution: Miraculously when Mr Snerdley answered the 250th phone call to the Rush Limbaugh Show, tell the story about when you stood up and argued with your social studies teacher as he tried to teach your class that the best forms of government were communism and socialism.   

Walker's Solution: After getting on a national radio show, take the brave step of being on your local news station for KELO and KSFY.  

Walker's Solution:  When the local news paper calls for a story and you are on a ride at the Sioux Empire Fair, call them back AFTER the ride is over. 

 CLICK HERE for the Hillary Clinton app and CLICK HERE for the Ask Donald Trump.  The comments in this blog return to me.  Share some ideas- I'm stuck.  Send a message to Walker by leaving a review on either of the apps.  

For my baby-boomer friends that don't understand embedded links, here is the

Hillary Clinton link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/never-hillary-clinton/id1131701133?mt=8

Donald Trump link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ask-donald-trump/id1130687491?mt=8