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Adventures of an independent software developer.

This was quite a year! As I hinted in July: I have been working on a web-based service and it just went into its beta-testing phase today! Hurray!

The new service is called burntrac and it is a web-site for activity tracking, nutrition logging, fitness coaching, and find/organizing local fun events. That is quite a lot and it took me a whopping 10 month to implement the beta version of it.

First things first though! The idea for burntrac came to me when I was getting rather annoyed at the fitness web-site that I was using at the time. A lot of metrics and statistics that were presented to me were not really aligning with reality anymore. It turned out that other people had complained about this issue beforehand too, but to no avail. Then, a friend of mine, mentioned to me that she really would like an app (or something) for tracking nutrition information. That is a problem for me too, because calorie counts only help me so much, but I desperately need a way to check my micronutrient intake!

I started working on burntrac in January and I only stopped working on it for about 1-2 months when I was in Yoga teacher training. That was a good break though, since talking to a lot of fitness professionals helped me to narrow down all the ideas floating in my head and to create a more focused service.

Long story short: at this point only people that got a promocode from me can use burntrac. If you feel that you really need to be a beta-tester too, then feel free to get in touch with me. There might be a promocode waiting for you too!

I believe that burntrac is technically rather well-positioned and it will be interesting to see what the future holds!

I have not been posting for a while now, because I am still working on getting my next big project out – a web-based service. It is always difficult to decide when to go live with a product. Some say that if you are not embarrassed about the first release of your product, then you have launched too late. Others say the exact opposite. I have to thank Niantic for providing a good example for what happens when a product (a web-based product too) is launched prematurely.

Pokémon GO is currently all the rage: non-gamers are drawn to it, a lot of people can be seen playing it on the streets or in parks, and local businesses are tailoring their marketing around Pokémon (slogans, baked goods, theme nights). It sounds like a tremendous success, right?

Unfortunately, negative impressions have started making their rounds. Players cannot log in to the service, the app itself is buggy, and Niantic still does not employ a community liaison. In Apple’s App Store, the current version of the game has gone down from a 3.5/5 star rating to 3/5 stars.

I think Pokémon GO is a great reminder to all startups/entrepreneurs that quality is very much valued by customers and that a hype wave can easily turn into negative marketing. How many users will remember the game’s start-up screen with Niantic’s logo and the phrase “The Pokémon Company” before being unable to log in to the service or the game freezes? I will remember Niantic as “The Ingress Company” and I hope for them that the current catch phrase “Pokémon NO” is not going to stick to their brand.

As a small update, Brightword Lite is available in the app store for free now! It has all the speed-reading features of Brightword without any limitations! If you later decide to switch from Brightword Lite to Brightword (to get rid of ads), then that is no problem either: your reading stack will be the same thanks to both apps common iCloud storage!

Both Brightword 1.1 and Brightword Lite 1.1 also feature some improvements – thanks @tscholak! Highlighting works better now, importing web-sites/articles shows the content immediately, and text extraction has been refined.

Speaking of free: I open sourced LibDocument, which is a tree-like document and trie processing library. LibDocument is written in C and can be included in C, C++, and Objective-C projects for Mac OS X, iOS, and Linux. In fact, LibDocument is being used in both BioInterchange (OS X, Linux; compiled with Python 3 API) as well as Brightword (iOS; compiled without Python 3 API). Should you be working a lot with JSON or JSON-LD (JSON Linked Data), then LibDocument might be for you!

This week I released my second commercial product: Brightword for iPhone and iPad. Brightword was designed to solve one of my own problems: How can I keep up with all the tech news and articles around me? I essentially needed an app that helps me with speed reading and skimming, which supports me in picking interesting reads, and it also needed to seamlessly sync between my iPhone and iPad. Brightword performs all three of these tasks!

Brightword creates a distraction-free reading environment by importing only the main contents from news and articles. On top of that, Brightword uses Natural Language Processing techniques to emphasize parts of speech and it also highlights IT buzzwords, products, companies, and cities/countries. This makes speed reading and skimming of tech news/articles much easier for me!

How to manage a reading stack though? Picking interesting reads is simple with Brightword too! Brightword summarizes buzzwords, products, etc., in a reading stack, so that it only takes me a glance to choose the most interesting reads based on their summaries.

Last, but not least, Brightword synchronizes content between devices using iCloud. This means I can populate the reading stack whilst on-the-go with my iPhone, then later go through the reading stack on the couch with my iPad. It is convenient!

Sounds good, but not good enough? Give me a shout – I still have some promotional codes available for free.

Last week Toronto enjoyed its first RethinkDB meetup. Chris Cates organized the meetup with the sponsorship of Pilot and RethinkDB. Pizza, salad, soft drinks, and swag. It was good! Technically I am a co-organizer of the event, but honestly, I did not contribute much to the meetup besides getting the word out.

There was also a Apache Spark meetup this week. Sponsored by Shopify. It was business as usual, but it was very interesting to hear how Hadoop, Hive, and Python are already being replaced by Spark and Scala – in production!