150105_jsaddington_1000.jpg Courtesy John Saddington

DIY Diaries: John Saddington, Mac app developer

By Nick Mediati (@dtnick) · Published January 05, 2015 at 8:50pm.

In early December, I reviewed John Saddington’s Mac blogging app Desk for Macgasm.net. But as intrigued as I was by the app, I was just as intrigued by the person behind it. John was gracious enough to answer a few questions about his life as an independent app developer, and to share his thoughts on the challenges and rewards of doing things yourself. Here’s John in his own words.

Tell us a little about yourself and your app.

​“Hi, I’m John, and I’ve been a professional developer for 17 years. When I say “professional” I mean that I’ve traded my skill for money. It’s hard to imagine actually… it’s been a long time.

“Over the course of those 17 years I’ve worked for some of the largest companies on the planet (4 Fortune 50 orgs) and was even an Executive for one of them. I loved and hated it at the same time (more on the latter side of things). It just wasn’t easy for me to do great work in environments that weren’t conducive to how I did work.

“So about 7 years ago I dipped my toe into ‘startups’ and ‘entrepreneurship’—although those words were not really part of my vocabulary. They found me in a way and I stumbled into them as I simply wanted to build my own stuff. And over the course of those years I learned a lot about business, software and product development, and perhaps most importantly, about myself.

“The one consistent thing that I did during my time in both words, though, was writing and blogging. I’m now entering my 14th year as a blogger, having written something publicly every single day since I first started. I’m obsessed… which is really the right word for it.

“And out of that long obsession came Desk App, a simple native OS X app that publishes your written words to your blog. It’s nothing fancy but it does the job elegantly.​”

How did you get into software development?

​“The first ‘app’ I built was in BASIC and then Visual BASIC came a long and my entire world changed. It was a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game and you could either slay a dragon or save a princess (you couldn’t do both at the same time… not sure why I didn’t write it that way…).

“But initially I got into programming because of video games. I loved games. I loved how they told stories. I loved the emotion. I loved the excitement. I loved going into new worlds and seeing what was possible.​”

What’s a typical day like for you?

​“There is no ‘typical’ day for me actually. Rather, I have ‘boundaries’ that I try to work within that help me manage my time and help me get my stuff done. For instance, in the morning I do most, if not all, of my writing. I’ve just discovered, over time, that my best work comes early in the morning and that’s when I’ve decided to do it. As the day progresses I hit other boundaries that help me do my work. I do all of my programming at evening and night and into the early morning sometimes.

“In between bed times I hang out with my wife, my two daughters. I love doing that a lot because they make me laugh and make life so immeasurably fun.”

Desk app
Say hello to Desk.

What’s your setup? What tools do you use to get work done?

​“I have listed out most of my tools here on my Colophon. I love my 11-inch MacBook Air and my iPhone 6 Plus. I love my Moleskine notebook and my Pilot G-2 pens for writing.”

What are the biggest challenges—and most rewarding aspects—of being an indie dev?

​“The biggest challenge is that you’re doing it yourself. You don’t really have a team and so you get caught “in your own head” sometimes unable to break free. There’s a lot of anxiety and fear that people won’t like it but you are, at the very same time, compelled as if by a demon to build. It’s frightening, really.

“The rewards are all internal. It’s the satisfaction of knowing that something you wanted built is now built and completed. It’s the joy of seeing what you had imagined in your own head in the flesh, so to speak. It’s the awareness that you did it and that you accomplished something intensely personal.”

​Any advice you’d like to give to aspiring indie developers?

​“Ship. Just fucking ship. Do it over, and over, and over again. And remember and realize that you’re probably not going to make it ‘big’ or make a ton of money. That’s just the way it is. But also remember that that’s not why you wanted to build in the first place.​”