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A prototyping kit (stories, supplies, and source files) for empowering curious grrls to design & hack together their own mobile apps.
A prototyping kit (stories, supplies, and source files) for empowering curious grrls to design & hack together their own mobile apps.
A prototyping kit (stories, supplies, and source files) for empowering curious grrls to design & hack together their own mobile apps.
116 backers pledged $5,464 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

APPALOOSA! Mobile App Prototyping Kit for Curious Grrls. project video thumbnail
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APPALOOSA! Mobile App Prototyping Kit for Curious Grrls.

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The Mission

Knowing how to code or dream up ideas is great, and being able to even kind of do both can be super awesome and fun. The Appaloosa! Kit is an experiment in sharing some fundamentals of designing & hacking through actually making mobile apps. It's also an attempt to inspire & empower other curious grrls to do their own strange & wonderful things with technology. 

The Appaloosa! Kit

The 3 main components of Appaloosa
The 3 main components of Appaloosa

Appaloosa! is a three part system: stories, supplies, and source files. It will be released under a Creative Commons license to be broken apart, remixed, and expanded upon. 

1. STORIES: The Handbook 

Mockup of the Appaloosa handbook cover (Credit: Science pattern by Fabricio Marques, thepatternlibrary.com)
Mockup of the Appaloosa handbook cover (Credit: Science pattern by Fabricio Marques, thepatternlibrary.com)

The main part of the project is the handbook. It's really more like a zine that will include comics, essays, quotes, coding tutorials and activities. The pages will be full of things to get grrls thinking, designing, making, and breaking things.

Throughout the handbook I'll also be highlighting other awesome women working with technology. (Feel free to suggest awesome women you think I should feature, including yourself!)

The handbook is broken into 4 sections:

  • Why? The Big Picture 
  • Imagination, Inspiration, Iteration
  • Code, Communication, Culture
  • References & Resources
Preview of a comic (part 1 of 2) adapted from: http://qr.ae/yOoQD
Preview of a comic (part 1 of 2) adapted from: http://qr.ae/yOoQD
Sample spread from the code section (draft)
Sample spread from the code section (draft)
Sample spread from the code section (draft)
Sample spread from the code section (draft)

I like that zines have a history of being sort of empowering and experimental in nature. I'd also like to sell the kit at some local zine fests next year. Based on my own experience, my hypothesis is that people who enjoy self-publishing and have a habit of making things could be good designer/hackers too. 

Specs: 5.5” x 8.5” perfect bound. Offset printed. I'm aiming for about 128 pages because it seems long enough to be substantial but short enough to be digestible. 

2. SUPPLIES: Widgets & App

First prototype of paper widgets and app
First prototype of paper widgets and app

The middle piece of the kit is a combination of physical and digital tools. Drag and drop user interface widgets & icons in the real world. In the spirit of collage making and scrapbooking, these paper cutout widget are meant to speed up the creative process of prototyping. It also encourages remixing from several sources. Diverse elements can easily be brought together using the Appaloosa API (Adhesive Paper Interface – a glue stick).

Sample preliminary sketches of widgets
Sample preliminary sketches of widgets
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I'm also including Prototapper, a simple app I made in App Inventor that lets you link photos of screens to quickly create a tappable prototype on your phone. I have a bit of the functionality built out already, still have quite a few things to add and a lot of refinement to do, but it's coming along nicely. 

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3. SOURCE FILES: Code & Comps  

Collection of source files (will likely appear in folders like this)
Collection of source files (will likely appear in folders like this)

I like learning by looking inside other people’s examples files. I like to see how things were made, tweak stuff, and build on top of them. So visual assets and source code are part of the kit and meant to be hacked on, recombined, and remixed.

Sample App Inventor code from one of my projects
Sample App Inventor code from one of my projects

Visual source files will include things like png files, vector icons, and layered Photoshop comps for the widgets and projects in the handbook. Source code for the app tutorials will be in the form of project files for App Inventor. It's a free web based tool from MIT for quickly making working Android apps using code blocks. I really like it because it's tinkering friendly. It's great for learning and but also robust enough to be extended. The apps can run in an emulator, in the companion app, or packaged and installed on a phone. 

Bonus Level:
If I have enough time I would ideally like to also include videos of the tutorials as well. I've often found that when I'm learning something it helps to see and hear how to do something, rather than just reading instructions. But I definitely want to focus on the rest of the content first before working on the videos.

Why Mobile Apps? 

An app seems like a format that's easy to relate to since we use our phones all the time. It's important to me to make something more applied than theoretical. I think concepts are more exciting and interesting when put towards to making something relevant to us. 

Quick UI and character sketches for "Lucy the Appaloosa"
Quick UI and character sketches for "Lucy the Appaloosa"

I'm also using this as an opportunity to experiment with making the kind of apps I've always wanted to use, and writing the kind of tutorials I've always wanted to read. I've been wondering for a while what a programming guide with a feminist bent might look like. Since I haven't been able to find anything like this, I thought maybe I should just make one myself and find out. 

I believe apps have the potential to be tools for social activism, creative self expression, and playful experiments. Instead of just learning how to make little games, why not learn how to make apps that could empower you or make you think differently about the world around you?

Grrls

I think a lot of grrls already have what it takes to become great designer-hackers. If you already like to take risks, ask questions, and make stuff, you’re already halfway there. As a woman working in tech myself, I would love to see more of us in here doing strange things with technology. 

We all know there aren’t enough of us in the industry. This is my attempt to alter that, even if only in very small specific way, by leveraging my particular strengths. My hope is to inspire by example. Perhaps Appaloosa can provide a different perspective and point of entry for someone who might have not considered it or just didn't know where to start. 

Inspiration & Background

A sampling of the physical, interactive, animated, and illustrated things I've made over the years. Check out my portfolio www.seejayne.com for more details.
A sampling of the physical, interactive, animated, and illustrated things I've made over the years. Check out my portfolio www.seejayne.com for more details.

It's hard to pinpoint an exact source of inspiration for this project, it's the combination of so many tangentially related influences and experiences. Somehow, these things (and many more) combined in my brain and turned into Appaloosa:

Mentoring girls with Technovation. Designing Scoodle Jam at Scoot & Doodle. Seeing other women creating projects like Hello RubyGoldie Blox, and Clyde. Making strange things in Grad School. Garnet Hertz's Critical Making zine. Reading Paul Graham's essays (like this one and this one). Creating Tiny Thai. Admiring Why's Poignant Guide to Ruby. Self-publishing comics, vol 1 and vol 2. Mentoring girls with Reel Grrls. Hacking together visuals for videos at Digital Kitchen. Learning design in college. Making & reading zines in high school. Growing up with Klutz books in elementary school. Drawing & programming turtles on my brother's Apple IIGS. 

Timeline & Budget

Storyboarding the handbook on index cards on my floor
Storyboarding the handbook on index cards on my floor

Since I have a full time job right now this is an after hours, nights-and-weekends passion project kind of thing. But I've been waking up early and staying up late sketching, planning, writing, and prototyping this kit for several months now. It's a work in progress but I have a plan of attack, with wiggle room for iteration and experimentation. I'm aiming to have content wrapped and sent to press by June 2015 (hopefully sooner) and rewards shipped out once they're printed (4-6 weeks after).

Where I'm at now:

  • Handbook: outline, storyboard, & rough drafts of some content.
  • Widgets & App: Sketches and initial prototypes. 
  • Source: A couple of sample app project files I've made.
Working on Prototapper
Working on Prototapper

Since I’ll be creating the content, the overhead production costs will be pretty low. It's mostly just my time. I'll both generate new things from scratch and build upon Public Domain & Creative Commons licensed content. After telling people about the project several people have kindly volunteered to help in various ways too, which is also awesome. 

So the minimum budget goes towards the cost of printing and shipping these things. Over the years I’ve printed zines and comics using photocopiers, laser printers, or online on-demand digital printing services. For this project I’d really like to get a little more legit and go off-set, which means a minimum print run of at least 250 copies. I'm hoping this Kickstarter campaign will also assure me that I'll be able to find a home for at least 250 copies of this once it's all done. 

A bigger budget would give me the flexibility to explore more options for both content and production. Basically making the kit even more fun and polished. I also have lots of ideas about how to I could take this idea even further in the future, but first I just want to focus on making this piece of it awesome and get it out into the world. 

Thank You!

Thanks for your support and taking the time to read this far! I'm hoping you and the Kickstarter community can help me bring this little experimental project to life. I'm excited to be making this happen together.

Risks and challenges

1. Scope: I have been designing things, drawing comics, self-publishing, and hacking things together most of my life. And once an idea like this plants itself in my head I have a borderline neurotic obsession with getting it out into the world. So I'm confident I have the grit to make this happen.

2. Time: The main challenge will be my personal bandwidth, but I don't have many other major commitments competing for my attention. Of course life is unpredictable so I plan on keeping everyone updated with how things are going the entire time.

3. Printing & Shipping: This will be my first time using a printing company to produce offset books. I've been researching different companies' price estimates and turn around times and tried to account for that in the timeline & budget. As far as delivery goes, I plan on mailing the rewards out myself. If I somehow end up with an unwieldy number of packages to send I'll find people to help me.

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FAQ

  • All the apps created with App Inventor (including the Prototapper app that I'll be making and the tutorials) are only for Android, so unfortunately they will not work on iPhones. I was a little torn about this going into the project because I'm honestly really an Apple fan girl, I use a Macbook Pro and an iPhone primarily. But I was so excited by what was possible with App Inventor that I went out and got a no-contract Android phone for development and testing.

    That being said I think most of the content in the zine will be useful regardless, and many of the tutorials will be doable without a physical device because you can use an emulator on the computer. And I will also include information about other tools you can use that will work on both.

    Last updated:
  • I think it will definitely be good for anyone 12 and up. For a particularly motivated kid, maybe as young as 10. I don't know exactly what most kids are doing at what age, but I was making websites for my David Duchovny fan art by the time I was 11. So I think it's a reasonable guess.

    Last updated:
  • I'm not going to label it "for girls" anywhere on the actual kit. I'm sure it would good for boys too. It probably wouldn't hurt for more boys to grow up reading about awesome women in tech anyways, right?

    Last updated:

Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    LIKE: A big thanks for being a supporter! Follow along the journey through the updates.

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    DOUBLE LIKE: Your name in the handbook plus a big thank you!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    DIGITAL KIT: PDFs of the handbook & widgets. Source files & app. Your name in the handbook plus a big thank you!

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    THE REAL THING. Physical printed handbook & widgets. PDFs of the handbook & widgets. Source files & app. Your name in the handbook plus a big thank you!

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    TRIPLE THREAT. 3 Hand stamped Appaloosa mini sketchbooks. 3 copies of the physical printed handbook & widgets. PDFs of the handbook & widgets. Source files & app. Your name in the handbook plus a big thank you!

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    QUINTUPLETS. Hand drawn thank you postcard. 5 Hand stamped Appaloosa mini sketchbooks. 5 copies of the physical printed handbook & widgets. PDFs of the handbook & widgets. Source files & app. Your name in the handbook plus a big thank you!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    APPALOOSA PARTY. Hand drawn thank you postcard. 10 Hand stamped Appaloosa mini sketchbooks. 10 copies of the physical printed handbook & widgets. (Each copy signed with one of a kind, customizable sketch & message made out people of your choosing). PDFs of the handbook & widgets. Source files & app. Your name in the handbook plus a big thank you!

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    APPALOOSA BEST FRIEND FOREVER CLUB. Glorious drawing of you (or someone of your choosing) shooting rainbows out of mobile phones while riding a magical Appaloosa with a party hat. The original drawing + digital file to do whatever you want with. 10 Hand stamped Appaloosa mini sketchbooks. 10 copies of the physical printed handbook & widgets. (Each copy signed with one of a kind, customizable sketch & message made out people of your choosing.) PDFs of the handbook & widgets. Source files & app. Your name in the handbook plus a big thank you!

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    CORPORATE SPONSOR! A very special custom full page shout out with your company logo and website url printed in the handbook. 10 Hand stamped Appaloosa mini sketchbooks. 10 signed copies of the physical printed handbook & widgets. PDFs of the handbook & widgets. Source code and comps. Your name in the handbook plus a big thank you!

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Funding period

- (46 days)