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
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
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
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
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).
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.
3. SOURCE FILES: Code & Comps
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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 Ruby, Goldie 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
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.
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.
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (46 days)