Developers Cubed: Sometimes It Pays To Walk Away From A Problem For A While

Developers Cubed: Sometimes It Pays To Walk Away From A Problem For A While

Gizmodo’s Developers Cubed series offers a behind the scenes look into Australia’s up and coming dev scene. This week: We chat with Dan Hare from Slap Harry Larry about picture books, publishing costs and why it pays to step back from development every once in a while.

Developers! Developers! Developers! It’s not just Steve Ballmer’s favourite sweat-laden catchcry! If you’d like to be featured in Developers Cubed, shoot a note to alex.kidman at I’d love to hear from you.

Who are you and where do you work? We’re a husband/wife team, and call ourselves Slap Happy Larry. This is actually ironic, since neither of us could be described as ‘Slap Happy’ when it comes to this kind of work. There’s me, Dan, I’m the coder. I have an IT related day job and do this in the evening for fun. Lynley is the other half of the team. She does an amazing job with the story and art. Working and living together has its challenges, but can also be really powerful. Lynley wrote a blog article about that very topic.

We live in a quiet country town north of Canberra with our daughter Hannah, nearly 4, and our border collie, Flicker Houdini.

Why do we know you? What have you created? Last year we created a storybook app called “The Artifacts” for iPad,iPhone & iPod Touch. It’s an interactive storybook for children aged around 7-12.

All the reviews for “The Artifacts” have so far been very positive, including a Kirkus starred review, which we were very chuffed about. As long as people enjoy the app, we’ll keep making more. To be honest, not many people do know about us. We keep to ourselves, and we both hate self promotion. Maybe that will change one day, but I doubt it!

What platforms do you develop for? Just for Apple devices. We’ve considered developing for other devices, but just the thought of having to test it on all Android configurations gives me a headache. It was hard enough testing it for three different screen dimensions on Apple products (and now that the iPad retina is out, that makes four).

What are you working on right now? We’ve got two projects on the cooker. One of them is our next interactive story book, working title “Midnight Feast”. This story is aimed at the same age group as our first app and, like “The Artifacts”, the story is about what happens when a kid learns to imagine an alternative universe. We think the interactivity afforded by touch screen devices works really well with stories in which a child makes use of imagination.

The other project is called “Bug Lab”, which is more of a “sand pit” play toy and allows the user to create all sorts of weird bugs and watch them interact.

Both are very much in early development, and considering it took us 8 months to make “The Artifacts”, it will be some time before either of these is released.

What do you think about the rise and rise of App Stores? How has it influenced your titles? Well, we couldn’t do what we do without them. We pay 30% of every sale to Apple. I’m ok with that, because distribution costs money. I will have a whinge about the findability of apps though. There seem to be three types of smart device user: the informed buyer, the top 25 buyer, and the Angry Birds buyer. Unfortunately, the truly informed user seems to be a small minority.

What’s your favourite app that you didn’t create? Well, everyone loves Flipboard, don’t they? I’ll pick something different. I’m definitely a gamer, and some developers are those that make intelligent use of touch screens. My favourites are Grim Joggers, Battleheart and Where’s my water?

What phone do you use? Why? I’ve got an HTC Desire. It’s functional. But I wished about six months later that I’d got an iPhone instead. I get around the limitations of the HTC Desire by carrying both my phone and an iPod Touch around with me. I route Internet through the phone to browse on the iPod. This means my pockets are always full of nerd gear, but hey, the Android was half the price. This probably still makes me a mugger’s delight though.

What advice do you have for budding Aussie developers out there? If you have something you can’t figure out — a bug or whatever — leave the computer and do something else. Your brain seems to work in the background. I solve most nasty bugs like this.

Also, try to stop daily work in the middle of, or just starting, something interesting. That way there’s more incentive to come back to it.