Like many other King of Code finalists, iPhone developer Ricky Robinett got an early start. In middle school, he built a basic side-scroller application using Visual Basic. Now, over a decade later, he’s still programming and thinking much bigger.
The best athletes are the ones who train regularly. Robinett’s experience suggests that the same can be said for coders. Even though he has a day job as a senior software engineer at Targetspot, the country’s largest radio advertising network, he’s found time for herculean side projects in his spare time.
Collaborating with friends and striking out on his own, he’s launched a few high-profile products, including World of Fourcraft, FakeGirlfriend.co and Discouraging Doug. But more on those later. What makes Robinett really stand out is a pact he made with himself at the start of 2011: to launch or co-launch one project a month, every month. Eight months and launches later, so far so good.
“At the end of 2010, I had a pretty harsh realization,” he wrote of the decision. “Even though I spent the year talking about, and working on many projects, I never actually launched anything.”
Initially, he assumed that time and money constraints could be blamed for the lack of launches. After some self reflection, however, he realized it was actually fear of criticism that was holding him back. People don’t usually think of technology as an emotional business, but app creators who invest much of themselves in their products may have more in common with artists, Robinett suggests.
Forging ahead with launches this year has helped him face his fears and gain much more.
“By working with new technologies, I’ve really expanded my skill-set and developed some great friendships,” says Robinett, adding that every project he’s launched has involved some help from his wife Hannah Robinett.
In many ways, the project-a-month marathon (which he’s dubbed 1x1x2011) has been humbling for him. Yes, some of his launches have been highly acclaimed, getting exposure on sites like Mashable and Thrillist. But others, like drunk-dial prevention app TrashedTweet and Twudge Report, never really saw the light of day. At the same time, this has helped him beat fears of failure, and he recommends the experiment to any coders having trouble getting their apps off the ground.
“1x1x2011 showed me that launching an app isn’t as scary as I made it out to be, but it also showed me that to be successful you have to do so much more than just launch,” he writes on his blog. “You need to iterate and make the idea better. You need to engage your users. You need to add value to their lives.”
In 2012, Robinett says he plans to settle on just one idea and “devote some serious effort to it.” It might be a project he launched in 2011, but it’s too early to say.
In the meantime, he’s definitely made a name for himself — with two of his apps especially. As part of the World of Fourcraft team, he took second place at the NYC Game Hack Day. And his other popular creation, Discouraging Doug — a portable discouraging message generator — was featured as a new and notable iPad Entertainment App Feature on the iTunes Store.
World of Fourcraft, in particular, makes it clear that Robinett is on the road to greatness. It’s become popular for college campuses to turn themselves into digital board games for student bonding activities, but this app takes the concept to the max. It transforms the map of New York City — including the boroughs — into a gigantic game of Risk using Foursquare and Google Maps APIs.
As Mashable’s review of the game describes, “Checking into a neighborhood on Foursquare is the online game’s equivalent to placing a plastic man on a country in the board game. An algorithm decides who owns each neighborhood using the number of people who have checked into it on each team.”
This is pretty ambitious, especially given the compressed time-frame of all of Robinett’s 2011 projects. Who knows what he’ll be capable of when he actually sits down and focuses on just one of his creations. We’re looking forward to it.