"The imagination of nature is far, far greater
than the imagination of man."
That simple but wonderful quotation has echoed a sentiment
which I have felt in many forms ever since childhood:
The sense that there is a deep truth somehow
in the amazing diversity found in Nature.
Richard Feynman, lovable polymath that he was,
poured it into those words many years ago.
For me it became the strange attraction
to things like strange attractors :)
Hofstadter’s “Gödel, Escher, Bach”
Peitgen’s “The Beauty of Fractals”
it did not take long to find
Benoît “Almond Bread”…
Ben Weiss coding the engine, UI and more
Tom Beddard coding the cloud, web and more
it became a wonderful project for the three of us
to create Frax, a little Thing of Beauty
the definitive Homage to Mandelbrot and Julia
(and Ben even got to show the first tests
to Benoit himself at TED 2010)
In these personal pages here I will focus on other topics really
but just to point to the proper places:
My essays on the subtle fractalian aspects live here: blog.fract.al
An introductory video (more to come): fractal/video
There is a lot to say about Frax as an app, fractals as a mathematical topic,
or the process of designing an interface. I am writing more about the subtle details
in the blog.fract.al as essays with lots of sample images (many in 4000 line resolution)
Another really fun angle is the process how the app was built - which is 3 guys living in 3 countries working for 3 years - and meeting just once, all 3 of us. All triphilia aside, we got so much done by focusing on the work, each of us in a different area. All “meetings” were done with live chatting almost on a daily basis, with many gigabytes of files flying back and forth via Dropbox, code on Github, server stuff with Heroku in the Amazon S3 cloud, etc etc…
It is just wonderfully liberating to have this freedom - that one could drift along on the time cycles working into the night, shifting at will, doing 15h stretches when it gets into a real workflow, or switching to short bursts when that fits better.
Ben in Santa Barbara and L.A. doing his cappuccino foam painting at noon, when it was already 8pm in Scotland and another hour later for me in the Rheinland. And when Tom got to read stories to his little boys it would soon be teatime for me (a neat little midnight ritual, slowly working through box sets of Britcoms). Nightshift until maybe 4am, I think, overlapping nicely with Ben again. He then had the end of his day touch on the beginning of Tom’s. Perfect.
We also had special custom designed ToDo list documents, bug databases, as well as common folders on Dropbox to throw in snapshots, movies of odd bug behaviour and seemingly a zillion sketches of UI alternates and variations of all kinds. Complementing it all was an occasional sms texting flurry, asking for 3-way-chats or even the old email, forwarding things… all in all a many hundreds of thousands (!) of files live in the Frax folders here.
It was living proof of several notions: one that “a thing of beauty” can be done without selling your soul, without pointless deadlines, no endless meetings, no business plans, just as friends having a common goal and respect for one another.
It also was an absolute pleasure to escape the quarterly thinking we were forced to live with as a public company at Meta in the 90s.
When we got to the half way point, the feeling was: now we really know how we should do this properly…. and when we would have been forced to kick it out half-baked we redefined the format, and changed the entire UI from scratch.
Bottom line: over the lifetime of the product, the delay will soon be forgotten and the “long tail” of it - the area under the curve of its total revenues - will likely be larger, possibly much larger, than the rushed way.
Frax hit the #1 spot of all paid Entertainment iPad apps (US and Germany) That is pretty boggling and unexpected - after all it is a very niche thing not truly right in Games, or Education, or Photo/Video or Entertainment.
Obviously it did not stay there, but much like some hit reaches the #4 spot in the Billboard charts - that will be the number, even if it was just for a day
It is just a nice thought that this entire ecosystem of technology enables such a process and makes it possible to build very serious contenders.
The one thing that becomes valuable more than money is… time.
One needs to be able to devote serious levels of time and energy to do this. But one can trade time for a lack of money. It takes longer, but can be done.
In principle each of us could have lived at the remotest places - as long as there is at least a bit of net access to send files and communicate.
These truly are options that democratize the whole concept of “work”.
Distance dissolves - even in rural areas someone can build greatness.
Time dissolves - defining your own work rhythm, not hours commuting…
Structures dissolve - no “meetings to have meetings to be innovative soon”
In the end anyone is limited only by their own ability to come up with ideas and execute them well. It is basically a very positive statement to make: Smartness is cool, and it can pay off, no matter who you are, where you are, neither color nor size or age or anything need to hold you back.
Just don’t do it only for the money. Many will fail trying it to get rich quick.