Taking the First Steps

Fox and I have started taking a course about developing Android apps on Coursera. We started accessing the Week 1 materials yesterday, watching videos and downloading the software development tools we’ll need to participate in the course, and beyond! It felt really good to be focused on learning, get new software, and start playing around with what I’d just learned. I’m very glad I have a structured course in which to learn how to use the software development tools, so I can take advantage of all their features should I choose to use them to develop new apps.

I’m also eagerly waiting for my new tablet, which runs Android, to arrive on my doorstep. It will be the first time I’m able to fully and freely access “smartphone” technology, including all the apps that already exist. Even if I never develop new software of my own (or decide tablets and smartphones aren’t the right platform for it), I’m hoping that I can use my new tablet to help improve my own mental health (and not as yet another time-wasting device!).

As awesome as it felt to DO SOMETHING toward a goal I feel passionate about, I do foresee some areas of frustration and obstacles I’ll need to overcome:

1) Software development seems to require a different way of thinking from what I’m used to; none of the material covered in the videos we’ve watched so far seemed intuitive to me. I felt like some of it might’ve gone over my head. I’m not really used to that – if anything, I’m used to material being easy for me to understand.

But, I was able to learn algebra by copying everything the teacher put on the board until I started seeing the patterns in it. I decided to major in music because I was similarly challenged by the first semester of music theory, so I wanted to take the second semester. I can face this challenge! I just need to be aware of it and willing to accept some frustration while I navigate it.

2) I’m very codependent with Fox. He’s been very supportive of me since I first came up with the idea to develop software that might help me overcome some of the difficulties I’ve been facing. He suggested Android apps and offered to take the Coursera course with me.

But I don’t know how interested he really is in learning this stuff for himself, and that could make this process difficult. He seemed annoyed with the course creators for requiring students to interact on the forum, frustrated because if his laptop is able to run the required emulators at all they will be painfully slow, and less enthusiastic about the learning process than me. I don’t want him to feel like he has to do something he’s not really interested in or doesn’t find satisfying.

I was hoping that he would help me stick with the course and complete it – if nothing else so I could recall that experience when faced with uncertainty, instead of perpetuating this image I have of myself as someone who never completes anything. But now I foresee being faced with the difficult dilemma of wanting to watch the next video lecture, but also feeling like I should wait for him because we’re “taking the course together.” I need to stay firm and focused on what will be best for me – what I can do to learn and keep up with the course, whether we’re watching videos together or not. If he decides it’s not for him, I need to be able and willing to fly solo.

As much as I wish I could let go and trust him to take care of me, the truth of the matter is this: it will only lead to resentment when my needs aren’t met. We both need to figure out how to take care of ourselves, and each other. It’s not easy.

3) I’ve gotten some encouraging responses from people I’ve told about my idea, but for the most part I’m frustrated by lack of response. I’m especially frustrated by lack of comments on this blog.

I know I need to take at least some responsibility: I’ve been intentionally vague about the software I want to develop, how I want to develop it, and what I want it to do. I’m not sure how much is safe to disclose online; I don’t want someone to steal my idea (especially not some big wealthy company that will use it to make money and prevent others from making free or inexpensive versions, or worse use it for even more invasive advertising). But if I’m going to get feedback I need to give people something to respond to, something they can understand and connect with and want to respond to. How do I protect my idea AND get the feedback I need to create a program that others might also find useful? Well, I’m also taking a course about entrepreneurship on Coursera, maybe it will give me some ideas.

Var and the Vikings

There’s this really awesome project on Kickstarter that I’d like to encourage everyone to support: a game that is a lot of fun and enables the player to learn AI (artificial intelligence). It’s called Var and the Vikings. I played the demo (in Chrome) and in just 10  simple levels felt like I had learned quite a bit about AI, while having fun and feeling a sense of accomplishment. From my experience, I believe it has the potential to be an extremely enjoyable, engaging, and educational game.

b7dd9f7bba601fc220368ccffc05baf3_large

I’m one of 324 backers who have already pledged a total of $8,481 to the project.

The thing is, the project has only 18 days to receive an additional $22,519 in pledges. Pledging doesn’t cost anything unless the project reaches its funding goal. So, if you think this is worth getting behind, you can show your support (for as little as $1) completely risk-free!

It costs just $10 to receive the game for Mac or PC, and all future updates (once the project is fully funded, then completed). Any backing of $20 or more gets you additional awesome rewards, which may (depending on how much you contribute) include:

  • the digital art pack
  • the opportunity to create custom message(s) other players will see in the game
  • opportunities to interact with developers
  • the soundtrack
  • the opportunity to name an enemy – possibly even a boss!
  • existing in the game as a viking spirit or statue that helps players for a short time while shouting your custom battle cry
  • be a character in the game!

You can also pledge to receive a classroom or school license for the game.

22c54275c2f1fa04c3a90efba584b3d9_large

But don’t take my word for it. Visit Var and the Vikings on Kickstarter today!