Welcome back to the next iteration of Audacious Software. The world looks a good bit different than when it did when I put my full-time consulting on hiatus, and I'm optimistic that there are plenty of opportunities to create value and spend time and effort to make each day a bit better than the one before. As car companies have recently learned from Abe Lincoln: the best way to predict the future is to create it.
Before we get into what the next iteration of Audacious Software is going to be, let's take a step back to review what's been happening since its hiatus. In September of 2012, I put the company into hibernation, ceasing full-time consulting and maintaining a low level of activity maintaining legacy clients and using time leftover from a regular 40 work week to do some product work. During that time, the iOS and Android Fresh Comics apps received a facelift and a good amount of work was put into the server backend to expand the information the apps could offer as well as improving the quality of the data pipeline. (More on this in a future post!) Fresh Comics is overdue for another refresh, so keep an eye open here for news on that front.
One other product that came out of the hiatus period is something I'm calling "Narrative Realms", an app and server platform for building apps around information and media about specific places. The first Narrative Realms app was The Pnakotic Atlas, an illustrated atlas for the places in H.P. Lovecraft's stories from the 1920s and 1930s. The Atlas is available on iOS and Android devices. (Windows 10 Mobile support is a priority for this year.) Narrative Realms was recently used to create Santa's Map to Christmas, an app similar to the Atlas that focused on locations and illustrations from classic Christmas stories.
In addition to the products, I also continued to maintain legacy clients' Wordpress installations and I built some web applications for university researchers, created an iPad app for a children's book (alas, changes in direction led to it not being released), and did some freelance Bootstrap work helping a startup put together a mobile face for their site.
During my day job, I was the Head of Mobile Research and Development at the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (CBITs). There, I was responsible for the projects that required a more native approach toward mobile software development either to overcome the constraints of web-based technologies like Cordova or to try and maximize the user experience through more fluid apps. At CBITs, I created Purple Robot, a passive data collection and mobile automation tool that built on my past work and ideas that went into Pennyworth, Jarvis, and Shion. In addition to the Android app, my Purple Robot work also included building server components (using Django) to support both the data collection as well as data comprehension for the hundreds of megabytes of time-series data we could generate from a single user.
In addition to Purple Robot, my second major project was IntelliCare, a suite of native Android apps that each implemented a single strategy for combating depression and anxiety and are combined with a recommendation engine that tries to use low-level user behavior data points to try and match users with the app that is most likely to assist with their condition. This ended up producing fourteen discrete apps and a Django dashboard for collecting the engagement data and providing it to various stakeholders for research or coaching purposes.
Aside from Purple Robot and IntelliCare, I also spent a significant amount of time building SMS-based experiences combined with mobile apps (IntelliCare) as well as systems where SMS was the main user-facing interface (HealthySMS).
My decision to leave CBITs to restart Audacious Software was primarily driven by my personal desire to apply some of the lessons and techniques I acquired in my official capacity as a Northwestern University employee (as well as a moonlighting product developer) to problems outside health and behavioral interventions. I'm a firm believer that in addition to customer needs being able to drive technological development, independent technological development can also create new opportunities for customers that would otherwise be inaccessible if the customer-to-technology vision only flows one way. Audacious Software is my very public wager on the proposition that a more symbiotic approach is better for all involved in the long run.
In addition to restarting the consulting business – this time with an explicit focus on mobile development – I have some big plans for resuming the work I started on Pennyworth and Shion to create a platform for developers to improve the collection and analysis of passive data generated by users, while including a strong ethical position promoting transparency about what data is being gathered and why. I look forward to promoting the Narrative Realms platform in 2016 and to begin recruiting partners like local historical societies to begin exploring how we can use mobile devices to help people better understand the places and history of locations they either visit or where they reside. This will be the year where Fresh Comics realizes its inherent potential as an instrument to drive more people into an art and storytelling form I've loved for over two decades.
2016 is going to be a big year and I have a lot of work to do to accomplish the agenda I've set out. Thank you for your support as I make a go of this (again).