Creating Apps That Contribute

Pretty much my only “free time” activities during this time are going to the movies and the occasional LSU game. Houston actually has a lot of different options, theatre-wise, so it’s been great to see smaller movies I wouldn’t normally get to see on the big screen. I may talk more about this, but Houston really reminds me so much of Los Angeles (where I lived from 2003-2005), it’s kind of bizarre.

Last week I saw Men, Women, and Children and have thought a lot about it the past few days. It follows the lives of a few families in a small Texas town and is a treatise on how the internet and web applications have changed our culture almost irrevocably. I actually love the internet and the iPhone to me is truly a work of art. But I’m old enough to not be a “native” web user. Although we all knew it was a thing beforehand, it wasn’t until I started college in ’94 that I had my first email account and a whole new world opened up before me (and all of us!).

The movie shows people using games like World of Warcraft and sites like Tumblr and Facebook to express thoughts and connect with each other, but also using sites like AshleyMadison and creating private “modeling” sites for connecting to each other in less “socially approved” ways. And of course there is the ever-present spectre of porn and how it has transformed so many of our relationships and interactions. The movie is not “anti-internet” as much as just really honing in on the fact that it touches almost every part of our lives and can be such a force for good or evil.

I gotta tell ya, honestly I left that movie feeling the pressure of creating apps and sites that really contribute to the world. I can’t even imagine what parents today experience when trying to explain social networks or online gaming or just any of it to their children. It’s almost impossible to overstate how different social interactions are today. I think it’s not even enough to say the world is different because it’s more accurate to say we’ve discovered an entirely new continent and it has laid itself on top of us.

I thought about blogging about this earlier, but waned to really seek out some examples of apps that are really making a difference and that I could point to, saying, “See, this is what I want to build!” Inspiration has hit me twice in the past two days, so here’s what I got:

I’ve been experimenting with public transportation since I live outside of Houston and the drive down can take over an hour (you can see where the L.A. comparisons start creeping in). It can be crazy stressful, so I’ve used the Park and Ride service to let someone else handle the stressful stuff while I do some reading. I ride from Cypress to downtown Houston and then transfer to another bus that takes me a block away from The Iron Yard. Except that yesterday I got off the bus downtown and waited for my transfer bus… and waited… and waited.

Eventually it was time for class to start and I was still waiting on the bus. So what do you do in this situation in 2014? You sign up for Uber. I signed up, but didn’t want to bust out my credit card on the street so I chose the PayPal option and linked my account. TWO MINUTES later I was picked up and driven down to school for $5.00 (plus tip).

This morning we got to listen to Erik Ibarra and Erik Cardenas talk to us about their startup Navassist. They’re basically developing an app for patients with cancer, their families and their healthcare providers to be one central hub where information such as test results and definitions of terminology are available as well as functions for scheduling and chatting with your doctor or other staff when you need it.

These are the ideas that get me so excited about joining this community (and it really is a community)! We’re in a new world, a new frontier town where the terra is no longer firma, as one of my old professors was fond of saying, and the amazing thing about this new world is that we can actually start contributing to it almost immediately. Now it’s up for you if you’re contributing something amazing like Navassist or if you’re just trying to make a quick buck. But frontier towns are always like that, and that kind of freedom/power can bring out the best and the worst in all of us.

I’m still just taking those first steps into this world, but I am loving it so much. I’m still growing in actual application of all this crazy new knowledge I’m amassing here, so it’s also encouraging that I don’t have to ever “arrive” when it comes to building apps/sites. I can keep learning and honing and refactoring/reiterating for the rest of my life if I want, and if you know me well you know the idea of me always getting to learn new things is pretty much my idea of paradise.

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