January 26, 2015: One Month – Not Viral

This week will mark one month since Invited was released.  Has it gone viral?  Ha.  No.  In a way, I am glad because there are so many things to do before I am satisfied with the quality of the app.  There are so many issues that come up.  Here are a couple recent issues that we have been dealing with:

1).  Problems with Creating a New Group

I was informed today that when a new user was trying to create a new group, they couldn’t do it.  I had them run me through what the problem was.  It took me a few tries to realize that the apostrophe ‘ was causing the problem.  Special characters (&, $, “, ‘, ) cause problems unless you adjust the backend settings.

So, when a user was typing an apostrophe into the create a group text box:

IMG_5121They would get this error box:



I don’t know how many users have tried to create a group, have used a special character, have gotten frustrated and deleted the app, but I’m sure more than one.  We will fix this issue.

Iphone 6 Compatibility

We started building Invited at the end of Spring 2014, well before the Iphone 6 announcement.  So, we made it compatible with Iphone 5.  There are MANY issues that we are working on to create a better user experience with an iphone 6.  One of the major issues is Image Quality and Upload experience:

Say for example you want to upload a photo of your kids mini motorcycle:

IMG_5102 The image uploader shows that the WHOLE photo is within the height and width requirements to fit into an upload:IMG_5125However, the next screen actually crops out from the top and from the sides:

IMG_5126 The End result is a cropped photo that looks too blurry:



We are working on fixing this.  One delay is that my co-developer in INDIA doesn’t have an Iphone yet.  Ha.  This is bad.  We are working on getting him one.

Invited 1.0.2

Apple has approved our 2nd update.  This update is kind of cool.  It allows the user to “Upvote” reply comments and the user to see who has upvoted their comments.

January 22, 2015: Money Question Again

Why do I make apps?  I must hear that question once a day and that is a lot for a guy that hardly talks to anyone.

Do I do it for Money$$$?

You see that is a difficult question to answer.  If I say:

“yes, I believe that my apps will be profitable soon, I hope to quit my job and make a good living creating apps”

than people think I am 1). weird, 2). hate my current job, 3). am an overly optimistic wannabe entrepreneur and they start questioning my sanity.  If I say:

“It is purely a hobby”

Than people think I am wasting my time and money.

The honest truth is that the answer fits somewhere in between.  I absolutely love dreaming up apps and creating them.  It gives me early morning, late night and lunchtime purpose.  It fits the empty OCD gaps in my brain.  The truth is:

I would never create an app that I didn’t plan on using

I cannot create based on what someone else may like or use.  I have to create what I will use and then hope that there are enough people like me to make money on it.

The best compliment that I have received on invited is from my Mom (who hates most entrepreneurial things): She said simply:

I Love This App – From Mom

Frankly, I feel satisfied with the success of Invited.  My family and extended family use it everyday, far more now than Instagram and Facebook.  It is a simple way to have great discussion.

We have good, lively, entertaining conversations, thoughts and life sharing.  My niece set up a group called “professional Photographs”.  I asked to join (and she sent me an invitation), just so I could peak in on what was happening in this group:

She posted this


I posted this:


Than we discussed:IMG_5114

Update on the New App?

I am excited for my new app also.  It will be used everyday between me and my wife.  Our designer has started the process.  I will be using the same money guy that I use on appthink.org (because I already purchased the graphic and wanted to save money)

page 1 page 2 Page 3

January 14, 2015: Second app progress

I have completed the wireframes and started the design process on my second app.  I underestimated the amount of time I would still be putting into INVITED.  Invited will still be and will probably always be my #1 priority.  But my mind went into creation mode again and I couldn’t suppress it.

This next app will be A WHOLE LOT SIMPLER.  It is in the Finance/Budget sector and will be a simple way for couples to monitor spending and track their monthly budgets.  I have tried many budget apps.  There hasn’t been anything that I have stuck with.  So, I’ll build my own.

January 12, 2015: Sustainable, long term growth

Along with the never ending technical glitches and questions, most of the conversations I have with interested people are regarding marketing, growth and when Invited will “go viral”.  My canned response is it is not going to go viral, I hope it grows and Most Apps Fail.

The thing with the Invited app is that it fosters online relationships and communities.  It is not a fad app or game app that will rise and fall with the waves of popularity.

I have enjoyed my time on Invited.  I really believe that even if it wasn’t my app, it would be the first one that I check and the one that I check most often during the day.  Unlike Instagram, I have selected the people that I want to share with in my group.  I feel comfortable here and I enjoy it.

Kim Kardashian app losing popularity

I read this Yahoo article about the Kim Kardashian app today.  It has been wildly popular in the mobile gaming app stores.  I have never played it, but I have followed it to see where it would end up.  They have talked about it being worth $200 million or more.  

Catch the Vision

If people will slowly catch the vision of Invited, I do think it has potential of becoming a household name app.  It will never be Instagram and it will never be facebook.  But it is a nice way to discuss relevant issues within a private group setting where you feel comfortable.  Find a group of friends that you feel you have common interests with.  Start a discussion and see where it goes.

January 9, 2015: Android coming soon…

Invited 1.0.1 took less than 24 hours to be reviewed by apple and approved.  It is a pretty big step up from Invited 1.0.  A lot less glitchy and some better functions.  It will only approve from here.  Our list for 1.0.2 is about 50 things.  The biggest thing is the Push notifications.  We still didn’t get those to work with 1.0.1.

No Money/Time for Marketing

People ask me what I plan to do to market Invited.  I hope it markets itself.  I don’t have time or money in the budget to spend on marketing.  I know it will be a slow growth, but I remain sold that if I work on technical improvements and user experience, it will grow on its own.  I don’t want to over market the user experience.

We will hopefully be ready to release the Android version by the end of January.

Positive Experience so Far

I wish people would spend 2 weeks testing out Invited with their family or group of friends/book club, study group, church group, etc.  They will find that it is beautifully private, pretty intuitive and highly addicting.  Our family has thoroughly enjoyed it.  I have 3 brothers that would definitely tell me if they hated it.

Later this week I will discuss the updates that we are working on for 1.0.2….

January 5, 2015: Much to Do

I knew that as soon as the app was approved, my life would get busier.  And it has.  The problem is trying to fit the extra busy into an already busy schedule.  There have been many well meaning inquiries and advice texts/emails/phone calls/conversations.

Here is a list of some of the BIGGEST complaints so far (there are many more than this):

1).  How do I register?  My three icons (facebook, twitter, email) were not intuitive enough for some users.  So, for 1.1 we have added the three words “Register below with”



2).  Crash with Upload: Users with a slow network connection or lapse in connectivity would get the never ending Loading circle.  Even when they disabled the app and came back, it would be loading loading loading.  We fixed this with 1.1.  Now when the user gets a fail response, the app will stop loading.  I hope.


3).  Goodbye VIDEO – for now:  We have not been able to improve our video experience well enough to have it work properly.  There are frontend, backend, database issues that we are still working on.  So for 1.1 we have removed video.  Will this hurt the user experience?  I don’t know.  I rarely post videos, but some people might.  We will continue working this video issue until we are satisfied that it should be implemented again.



4).  Upgrades – Push Notifications and Group Alert

 Along with fixes, there are a couple of upgrades to 1.1.  First of all, we have implemented push notifications for the following events: User receives an invitation; User replies to your comment; User comments on your post.

Also, we have implemented a “Group Alert” function.  When you share a thought with your group and you want to alert them to it, you can check mark this box and all of the users in your group will receive an alert by push notification:


5).  Here are more issues we have resolved in 1.1

– Sentence sometimes cut off in discussion page

– The stop character count over image caption was not functioning

– Landscape images were not cropping properly (still working on image quality)

– Quotations in the caption were causing crash problems

– Numerous Crash occurrences

This is a short list.  There are many more on our Trello.com board that we have fixed.

6).  When will 1.1 be released?

 We uploaded INVITED 1.1 to the app store this morning.  Hopefully by the end of the week, it is approved.  At least for the near future, we plan on uploading a new update to the app store once per week.

January 1, 2015: Thank you Joey Newton

I promised myself that I would NEVER write my own review, or have someone write a review for me.  I don’t like the idea of manufacturing reviews or manipulating the review process.  Not my thing…..  So, when I went to look in the reviews, I was surprised to find such a perfect first review.  It captures exactly the experience that I am trying to create for the user.

Many Glitches Still

Believe me, my text messages are lighting up with all of the questions, problems and glitches in INVITED.  There are MANY.  With the release of the Iphone 6, we didn’t solve all of the problems yet.  Here are a few of the major problems that we are working are (There is well over 100)

1).  VIDEO:  I think we are going to have to disable the video upload until 1.2.  It is just a problem for us right now.  We need to fix this process.

2).  Editing Comments: app crashes

3).  Sentences cutting off in the discussion page;

4). Duplicate posts showing up;

5).  Push notifications: Will be resolved in version 1.1

6).  MANY MANY More Issues

We are working to release 1.1 by early next week (We will than have to wait for apple to review it).  There is much to improve on and much to be done.

Anyways.  I thank Joey Newton, whoever you are.  You could have creamed us on a lot of these issues.  I’m glad you didn’t.


December 29, 2014: APPROVED!


Invited Icon 3 Capital Letter3

HERE IS the link to download Invited onto your Iphone: https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=946502594&mt=8

December 15, 2014: Rejected

Apple Rejects Invited. No Problem.


rejected by apple

December 10, 2014: Waiting on Apple

We have been waiting 10.5 days on apple to look at our app.  So far no word.  We have started working on the website to compliment the app.  It is going to be awesome.  Better than Facebook, I hope.

I got an early christmas present though:

IMG_4841 IMG_4842

December 4, 2014: Minor Emergencies

 When an Odesk Worker screwed up my app

vomit emoji


November 28, 2014: “Waiting for Review”

Average wait time: 5-10 Days:

November 18, 2014: Facebook Groups

Facebook just keeps pumping out apps that are similar to Invited.  They won’t leave me alone.  First it was Rooms and now it is a stand alone Facebook Groups App.

“No one is really doing this out there. We think what we offer is unique”, says the Groups app’s project manager Shirley Sum. link here

Actually Shirley Sum, I’m doing this.  Oh well.  I can compete with facebook.  Me against the world.

November 17, 2014: 100% Done Before Thanksgiving

We are down to 19 items on my Trello.com “To Do” list. We would have uploaded to the app store last week, but with the change of servers (from bluehost to Amazon AWS) there were some complications that caused delays. We are now finishing our Push Notifications (User will receive an alert to their phone when they have been invited to a group). We didn’t want to send notifications all the time, like when a user comments on a post, etc. Too many push notifications causes people to delete an app from their phone.

I will let you know when it has been submitted and when we get a response from Apple.


November 12, 2014: How will INVITED make Money?

The question I generally get from people after I explain my app and show them the beta version, is “How do you plan on making from this app”.  Let’s explore this a little today:

 How I plan on Monetizing my App


November 4, 2014: No Deadline:

My last post says “One Week Away” from submitting to the app store.  HA.  That is so funny that I wrote that.  It is wrong.  It was right when I wrote it.  But it is so wrong now that it hurts my head.

I’m going to quit giving myself a deadline.  It will get done as fast as I can get it done and as fast as I can push people to wrap it up.  Every task I conclude, creates about 10 additional tasks that need to be done.  I tried hiring 2 more coders to help, but there were MAJOR conflicts between coders.

One told the other to Shut the F up.  That was just the beginning.  It was fun to watch, but I had to separate them.

Now, I am working on smaller timelines to remain sane.  I could literally release Invited today and it would be my favorite app.  But, I’m going to wait until the wrinkles are ironed it and release it as close to perfect as I can.

October 30, 2014: One Week Away:

And this is the Icon that I settled on.  The great thing about being an Independent app developer is that I can make my own decisions.  No need to round table.  No focus groups.  Just make a decision and move on.

Here it is:

Invited Icon 3 Capital Letter3Here let’s compare it to the new Facebook Rooms Icon.  Mine cost $50 and took 30 minutes.  I’m sure Facebook’s Rooms Icon cost closer to $50k dollars and took weeks or maybe even months to settle on:



October 27, 2014: Designing the ICON:

Relying on others feedback on these designs.  I’m not a design guy, I prefer functional creation.  Here are some of the app icons we are sorting through to come up with a winner:

1Invited Icon 1 Capital Letter2 Invited Icon 1 Capital Letter23 Invited Icon 1 Small Letter4 Invited Icon 2 Capital Letter5 Invited Icon 2 Capital Letter26 small black

I like #2 and #5.

October 23, 2014: Tough to Compete…..

Update on Facebook Rooms: So my initial reaction to Facebook’s latest app called Rooms was this:

I like Rooms.  It has some engineering and cool features (like invitation by QR code) that INVITED is not able to replicate.  It is smooth and sleek.  It has an old school (circa AOL) design.  The premise is to create groups of equally minded people and either open it up for public invitation or by selective invitation.

Will Rooms kill INVITED?

It might.  And if doesn’t, another app will come along that might.  Did Facebook take INVITED’s ideas?  No.  They are different.  They are similar but Really Different.

I did receive some solace from the Rooms launching article:

So I was talking to Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, on Twitter, and he tweeted at me that Snapchat took a year before it had any growth at all, and a lot of products these days he thinks see this unnecessary pressure to grow quicker, and I think that’s very true.  So I think if anything, Facebook’s a great place to do this because Mark understands that if you’re going to build something novel and new, it’s going to take a while for people to get it and it’s going to take a while for people to grow.  Techcrunch article here

I don’t feel the enormous pressure to GROW quickly.  Yes, it would be nice, but not necessary.  I’m certainly committed to long term success and can weather storms as they come.  I will guarantee that INVITED Users will get used to a reliable product that will provide sustainable relationship building and enlightening discussions with peers.

Connecting with Family members will be easier and more secure.

Connecting with Peers of your choosing will provide opportunity for discussion and relationship building.

Update Over…..

Businesses and Developers with Unlimited funds (ie Facebook) just pump out apps.  They have full time staffs related to ideas, creation, design, development, backend hosting, coding, you name it they have full teams of high level and low level staff and engineers.

I am one person.  I have one coder.  I have a designer that works late after his full time job at night for the pennies that I can afford to give him.

Facebook has released, or is releasing a new app called Rooms.  It is an internet forum sharing app that has an anonymous aspect to it.  Concept sounds neat.  It still doesn’t afford that which INVITED will and that is privacy by groups and invitations.  I do like the anonymous apps out there (ie Whisper, Secret and Yik Yak) but there is very little by way of relationship building with these.

I am hoping Facebook stays with Instagram and leaves the Invited concept alone.  I am not trying to compete with Instagram.  I can’t, nor do I want to.  It is a different concept.  Instagram is “like” driven and has an element of popularity contest that I am staying away from.  Look through your instagram feed.  It has really turned into a commercial with people trying to turn into celebrities.

Being an Unfunded Independent app developer is an uphill battle to say the least.  If my concept isn’t stolen by the time I get to market, it will be after the release.  There is very little by way of legal protections that I can look to.  I am just going to have to hope that INVITED is Accepted by the masses, catches on quickly and can’t be stopped.

Snapchat is an app that I look to.  They have been copied again and again.  Facebook tried to buy Snapchat for $3 Billion and were turned down.  In their spiteful anger, Facebook creates Slingshot to try to compete and bring down snapchat.  So far it hasn’t worked.


October 22, 2014: My Favorite Podcast

I’m a podcast fan.  I listen to podcasts when I drive, when I exercise and when I mow my lawn.  I would love to start a podcast in conjunction with appthink.org and with the launch of INVITED.  I have brainstormed many different potential ideas.  Here are some:

1).  A “Rest of the Story” type podcast (similar to Paul Harvey)

2).  A “Wish I had a different Job” type podcast where I complain about my current job while chronicling my efforts to find something new.

3).  A Mr. Rodgers type podcast using my kids as actors.

4).  A how to create App and Websites podcast.

I have formulated numerous scripts and even recorded my voice a few times to test it out……


My Favorite Podcast

October 22, 2014



October 21, 2014: Social Media Updates

Twitter: Invited_app

Instagram: InvitedappIMG_4411


October 20, 2014: Changed the Name Again

Look up at the new banner.  I have changed the name of this website again and am narrowing the approach to this blog.  This is largely due to the upcoming release of INVITED.  Read more Here…..

Name Change to AppThink.org

October 20, 2014



October 16, 2014: Updates

Time is flying by.  I am putting about 3-5 hours per day on INVITED now.  I usually try to get most of it done in the morning before work, but I usually have issues that I need to resolve before I go to bed at night.  Lunch breaks are more often then not spent working on INVITED.  We are getting Close.  We are finishing some of the design elements and working on others.  This is how the Discussion page (What I believe is the most important page of INVITED) will look like:

05 - Comments Page

How the Discussion Page will Work

The photo & Caption are at the top so the users will know what they are discussing.  These will scroll up and out of view when the user scrolls through comments.  Original comments will have the rounded square profile photo and reply comments will be circle.  The text of the comments will be embedded in a white background.  The + sign will start an original comment.  When the user clicks on any comment, this pop up will show:

IMG_4379The user can Reply – Edit  – Upvote or Delete.  Every upvote on a chain of comments is counted and the highest upvoted comment chain on the discussion page moves to the top of the page (similar to how Reddit works).


HouseNoodle.com underwent some major revisions this past week.  First of all the User will now be able to login entirely with their Facebook account (without signing up with HouseNoodle or providing us with any user information):

house3We have also added a Yahoo Search API to the website.  This is more difficult than it sounds. The search results are eerily similar to Bing.  Almost Exactly, really:
House2And there is a new look to the Drag and Drop design:



October 13, 2014: New Login Page

I have been looking at istock and other stock photo websites for too long now.  I have plugged in everything from the ridiculous:


to Pretty Colorful:


I think I am going to settle on this one.  I know it is not perfect and there is probably better out there.  But frankly, I am not a design guy, I am a functional creator and this just isn’t something I want to spend more time on.  Plus, this is my brother and his photo is free:


October 10, 2014: End of September?

Some Curious SpecDuo followers have questioned the date listed on the INVITED website: ONLYINVITED.com:



So, September has come and gone and we are already well into October and yet there is still no Invited on the App Store.  So, why don’t I change the website?  Where is Invited?

Frankly, I haven’t had a chance to change the website.  Life is busy right now.  To try to start an App brand from scratch takes a lot of work.  There is the INVITED Facebook, Invited Instagram and Invited Twitter .  I don’t want to run these.  I don’t want to pay someone else to at this point either though.  So, they are there but without much interaction or updating.

INVITED is getting Sooo close.  There are still about 100 things to do, but the list is decreasing.  We have spent the last couple of weeks working out kinks in the design, video functionality and discussion.

We have implemented the Bottom Tab bar which I really like.  It is a very simple design that changes colors when touched.  There is a Home Page (With the sharing/discussion), a Group Page (That shows the groups you are in and allows you to create groups and see the users in your groups), a + (image, video, thought upload page), a notification page (notifies you when someone replies to your comment, upvotes your comment, adds discussion to your post, etc), and a profile page.  My goal was for simplicity in design and ease of use.IMG_4306

I hate the Word LIKE

One functionality that we recently added was to assign the discussion with the most ‘Upvotes’ to the top of the Discussion page.  So, if there is a chain of discussion that is appealing to the group it will show at top (kind of like Reddit).

I hate the word LIKE.  You will not see that word anywhere on the INVITED app.  It is a cop out and silences discussion.  I think it has effectively hurt Instagram, facebook and every other social media app.  Here is my recent discussion on like driven social communities:


So – when will INVITED be Done?

OUR Goal is now the end of October.  We are moving as anxiously as we can towards reaching that goal.



October 6, 2014: Getting Anxious

Another week has gone by and we are still not Ready to release INVITED.  The closer it gets, the more anxious and tense I get.  There are just too many issues right now to release it.  My developer would have liked to released it today.  I was firm that it is not ready.  I said, let’s finish it this week, test it all next week and hopefully have it released by Oct 20th.


October 2, 2014: Maybe Changing Design


Splash Screen 1 finalized 3

or Squares?

Splash Screen 1 finalized 4


September 30, 2014: Testing…..

I spend about 30min to 1 hr every day testing and improving invited.  We have been working on the discussion page the past two weeks.  It is an improvement over instagram.  It will have these characteristics which I believe make it more inviting of quality discussion:

1).  Large letters and easy to read spacing

2). Ability to add photos to the discussion section and zoom in on photos

3).  Ability to easily edit comments

4).  Ability to up vote/like discussion chains that will move the discussion to the top of the page

5).  Ability to link to a website/app/url directly from the comment section



September 25, 2014: More Delay

I’m sitting here tonight at home on Skype with my development team leader.  He is frustrated.  He feels like I am nit picking his work.  I think he is right.  I have been too hard on him lately.  I really wanted to meet our end of the month deadline, but in doing so I have become obnoxiously controlling.  So, I apologized.  I told him that we should cancel the deadline and just work towards perfecting what we have left to do and release it when it is naturally ready.

I think that took a big load off of his mind and relieved some of his stress.  We are still shooting for early October but I will be less demanding.  I want the first product to be great.  It won’t be perfect and we are committed to its long term success and improvement, but I want INVITED 1.0 to be great.

We are starting to think of how to market the app.  We know that it is going to have to be cheap.  We just don’t have the budget right now to spend a lot marketing it.  We will brainstorm some of what we have come up with.  Hoping that the popularity of the app will create some buzz by itself.


September 23, 2014: What I want for Christmas

Hey Heather (my wife), if you are reading this (if you still read my blog – which I think you probably don’t anymore).  I would say there is about a 25% chance that you look at SpecDuo.com once a week.  You just aren’t AS into my new project (INVITED app) as you were into our Spec Home.  I would still appreciate any guest posts when you have time.  I miss your guest posts.

But, if you happen to come here to see what I’m spending our money on, please take notice that this is what I want for Christmas:

A 1938 restored Soviet Style bike.  If we can’t afford it, I’m willing to trade in my 2001 Ford F-150 with 173k miles on it.  Thank you.



September 22, 2014: Two Weeks

September 15, 2014: Burning the Candle on Both Ends

If you have checked the app store, INVITED is not there yet.  It is getting awfully close though.  I have been spending late nights and really early mornings working on it with my team that is overseas.  Their days are my nights, so there has been some lost sleep working out the ‘final’ kinks.  When I say Final, I actually mean a list of about 100 items that need to be improved, repaired or replaced before I feel comfortable submitting INVITED to the Apple App Store.

Will the FIRST INVITED be Perfect?

No.  It will be great and a favorite app but it will not be perfect.  I already have in my mind and in discussions with the developers changes that I want to make for the first update.  However, the bones are in place for a long term app with a lot of potential.

What is the Risk?

The risk is the money, time and effort that I have already put into INVITED.  The App could still easily flop and drift away into app store oblivion.  If it does there will be some naysayers, mockers and disappointed people.  ‘Tis life.  When we built our first spec home, there were people laughing all along the way.  It is not something that bothers me at all.  It is part of the life of an entrepreneur.    Anytime you take a step out into the unknown, there will always be those that would point fingers and laugh.

What is the Upside?

My goal, as stated previously, is to build INVITED into a brand.  I want to be able to earn money from investors after it is launched, create a company that earns money, hire an employee and eventually quit my job.  I will continue to work towards this goal until I run out of expendable money, the app fails or the market rejects INVITED.


September 15, 2014: HouseNoodle

HouseNoodle.com has recently been updated and will now allow the user to do the following:

1). Log in and save home ideas in their “bowls”

2). Name bowls and search for home ideas

3). Make and save notes to your page and email friends your home ideas

4). Now search 4 websites: 1). Houzz.com 2). Google 3). Bing 4). Pinterest

5).  Zoom into HD images

6).  HouseNoodle.com is now mobile responsive so you can enjoy the searching on your smartphone.

Why do I like HouseNoodle?

Because it is simple and there are very few distractions.  You get the best images that the internet has to offer in the easiest manner to sort through them.

What improvements can still be made?

Image loading time is still too slow – We may add additional search functions – Add a user to user sharing component – clean up some of the user bowl options.  There is still a lot to work on and my developer continues to improve the site.  This is a long term project that we are committed to and will continue improving.

HouseNoodle.com Update

by: Mr. Spec Duo September 15, 2014


September 10, 2014: Getting Close…

September 5, 2014: Update on App/HouseNoodle.com:

My Development team is “really Motivated” to get our App INVITED to the App store by September 15th.  10 days?  I don’t think it is possible.  We have some functionality issues to work out, the design is not implemented yet and we haven’t even tested our backend hosting.  We are planning on using the Amazon Cloud (same as Instagram) as we can pay per month only for space that is used.

HouseNoodle.com Update

HouseNoodle.com has been SLOW in getting finished.  We have added some new functions and designs that will be released soon.  The user will soon be able to sign in and save home ideas to their own “bowls”.  We have also added Bing as a home search row.  Bing actually has very good home images, I am impressed.  I am hoping that it will be fully functional and released by next week.

App #2 Update

This is going to be a fun app.  I am sincerely excited to be able to use it.  We are already moving on it.  It shouldn’t take as long as INVITED from start to finish.

Here are the Emojis that we have designed that will be part of App #2.

Free Emojis

by: Mr. Spec Duo September 5, 2014


September 3, 2014: Trying out Other Apps:

September 2, 2014: Can we make the Deadline..

My current ‘Drop Dead’ Deadline to have INVITED Released into the app store is September 20th.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  September 20th is the date that it will be submitted to the App Store (I have no control over their submission process).  I think we have about a 40% chance of hitting that goal.

The difficulty recently has been in quashing any new ideas that I want to add to INVITED.  The goal is to get it released into the app store.  Any new ideas (of which there are many floating around in my head) can be added to later versions (INVITED 1.1 etc).

Any Update on App #2?

None that I am willing to provide yet.  I am going undercover for as long as I can with app #2.  It is a simpler app and won’t take as long to finish as INVITED.  The only thing I have shared so far is that it will incorporate some original Emoji Icons into part of the design.

New Stats on App Downloading

This new article states two things that stuck out to me:

1). Over 1/3 of Smartphone users download at least One App Per month


2). 42% of all app time spent on smartphones occurs on an individual’s single most used app.

Do I expect INVITED to go Viral?

No.  I have already discussed this here. The premise of INVITED is that it is a Private sharing app.  You can only take part if you are the “Captain” of a group or if you are INVITED to attend a Group of a Limited size.  It is Not a Popularity app.  It will not explode by someone posting viral photos/videos.  My hope is that it will have sustainable growth, that people will form long lasting digital communities and that it will be an alternative for the Instagrams/Facebooks of the world.  Where people that may tend to be more private can feel more comfortable sharing their lives with people they trust.

August 27, 2014: App Graphics

How to Design your App’s Graphics

by: Mr. Spec Duo August 27, 2014


August 26, 2014: I’m addicted

Right now I have an addiction for app valuations.  I crave articles on what apps are valued at what price and if there is any interest from the major tech players in purchasing them.  Today’s news and rumors about SNAPCHAT are as follows:

Snapchat is valued at $10 billion dollars – Techcrunch article

There are also rumors that Snapchat and Microsoft are in “Discussions” but that the discussions are unlikely to lead to a deal.


I like snapchat.  Out of the social media apps available it is one of my favorite.  But, to be worth that kind of Money?  It is almost absurd.  Remember, SnapChat has NEVER MADE ANY Money

Here are a couple of companies that are worth about the same as SnapChat:

Burger King

Western Union

All I want is $1 million.  With the numbers people are throwing around, can’t someone just pay me $1 Million to shut up and go away?

August 25, 2014: Another app…

I’m starting another app project.  I couldn’t even take my own advice to “Focus on one app at a time”.  The idea was too tempting to resist.  I will provide details and the name of the app soon.  So, as of today, I officially have TWO apps in Production.  They will hopefully both be released before the end of September.

August 21, 2014: Discouraged yet….

Here are a couple of pretty discouraging articles about being an Independent app developer that I read today.  The First article is put out by FT.com and is titled “Apps: Growing Pains”.  The second article is called You Guys are Millionaires Right?”

Here are a couple of quotes that I liked from these articles:

“Yes. You put an enormous amount of effort (and yourself) into every product you make. Sometimes you find people deriding it, or dismissing it after spending 13.2 seconds using it. People tell you not to take that personally. Good luck with that. When you invest 6 months of your life, day and night, creating a product there’s no way in hell you can’t take other people’s comments personally. Reading App Store reviews can be as much fun as slapping yourself in the face with an ice cold trout on days where you manage to ship a bug with your product.”

“So would you recommend the life of an independent developer to others?
If you have the right personality, then sure, being an independent developer is a huge blast. Don’t come expecting millions of dollars to fall into your lap though, it’s damn hard work. Chances are you’ll make less than you would working for a giant, faceless corporation…but you’ll enjoy life so much more :)”

Making Money as an Independent app developer

by: Mr. Spec Duo August 21, 2014


August 20, 2014: Celebrity to Endorse Invited?

After seeing the recent reports of celebrity endorsed apps climbing to the top of the app store, I became interested in finding someone to endorse INVITED.  I sent out this tweet:

I don’t have a response yet.  Consider the following:
Kim Kardashian’s Game App is making $700,000 PER DAY:



She is ranked above GOOGLE Search and Netflix.  Her game app is only one below Pinterest.  Tom Hanks’ Typewriter app is currently in the IPAD Store’s #1 Position:

So, I ask:

Can I find a Celebrity to Endorse INVITED?

by: Mr. Spec Duo August 20, 2014



August 18, 2014: Too Late to the App Game?

I read the Drudge Report.  I don’t like to talk about Politics at all.  But, for your information I would consider myself an – economically conservative – Independent moderate.  I’ve voted for a lot of different people and parties and recently was the committee chairman of an Independent running for Congress locally.  We lost, Big.

This morning, an article on the bottom left hand side caught my attention:


The headline read “Appetite for new apps wanes; developers concerned growth ending.”  Over the weekend on my business trip to Seattle I also listened to the “Iphone app development and marketing tips” Podcast done by ‘Smart Passive Income’.

Appetite for New Apps Wanes

First, let us talk a little about the article “Appetite for new apps wanes”.  These are the major quotes from the article:

“If you are not in the chosen 200 or 300 [top apps] it’s very hard to make money in a substantial way on the app store,”

“In the early days you had fewer people with phones but it was easier for apps to be discovered”

“The average number of apps downloaded on a monthly basis has decreased considerably in 2014″

“The market has got “a lot tougher” for independent developers, who create the vast majority of the apps available”

*My Comment on this article.

1).  I do think that the app market has matured for gimmicky, utility and game apps.  Generally speaking, if there is a utility that the phone can handle (ie flashlight, camera, level) it has been done.

2).  I agree that people don’t like to pay to download an app;

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 10.06.28 PM

3).  I agree that people are using less apps and are loyal to their favorite apps.

4).  I don’t agree that the app market has matured or is overgrown.  In fact, I think it is at the ground floor and will continue to increase in popularity over the next decade.

5).  I believe that the app market is going to trend less towards gimmicky/gaming apps and more towards long term sustainable and dependable apps (Instagram, facebook, podcast apps, discussion groups) etc.  I think with INVITED we are poised to enter the Private Photo/video/discussion group market at a perfect time.

Smart Passive Income Podcast

I enjoyed listening to this podcast.  In many ways it mirrored my attempt at my first app.  These folks are/were involved in gimmicky/utility apps.  They created small games and tricky apps and put them in the store for between .99 and 2.99.  Their business model has been successful and they were making decent money with these apps.  At the time of this podcast, Jan 2011, they thought that the app market was already saturating.

I would like to hear an update on how their apps are doing now.

I think that app users are less interested in tricky apps that cost money.  Sure, they may download the free ones for fun.  For example, I have the “Super Sirens” app.  It is great because I can turn it on when I get in the car and scare the kids into putting their seat belts on.

The other day, my son had my phone in the back seat and was playing it on the way home.  My wife and I kept thinking we were getting pulled over.  We didn’t realize until we got home and saw him chuckling in the back seat, that he was using my app against me.

But, do I consider Super Sirens a long term successful proposition?  No.  It is a nice niche gimmick that might make some money along the way.

August 15, 2014: Invited Launch Update

Sitting in Seattle, WA for work related business.  It is currently a lunch break.  In the back of my mind I am hoping that Invited will propel me to a new career.  A career that wasn’t so adversarial.  I don’t know if I can fight my whole life.  I’m more of a lover/forgiver than a fighter.  But, I do my best with the situation I am in.

I spoke to my developer yesterday.  We are working on our website to introduce our Invited app.  I gave him two app websites that I like.  The first one is http://www.glide.me/ and the second is Snapchat.  I like them both.  Love the simplicity of the snapchat.  My business partner (who I will talk about later and who will be in charge of marketing) likes the video playing on glide.me.

So, I asked my developer if we were going to meet the launch date (August 30). Ha, knowing that there was no way in the world we would.  We have officially moved the INVITED launch date back to September 20th, but I’m certain that it won’t be that either.  We are working hard on finishing it.

As you can see, one person “favorited” my tweet.  I’m still learning the significance of that.  I still have zero followers.

August 13, 2014: App and SpecDuo Update

I enjoy writing about my hobbies.  It would be painful to write about something that I wasn’t so involved in.  I know that some professional bloggers are required to write about stuff that is entirely uninteresting to them.  It just doesn’t seem that would hold my attention for very long and it would at the very least cause poorly written and uninspiring blog posts.

Change from BuildSpecHomes to SpecDuo.com

This is one reason I changed the name of this blog from BuildSpecHomes.com to SpecDuo.com.  We aren’t building a spec home right now (For reasons out of our control). So, blogging about spec home building started to seem insincere and fake. Some in my family said to just drop the blog.  I didn’t want to.  I enjoy doing this as it is a part time hobby that gets my mind off of my real career.  It gives me hope, even if only illusory.

So, instead I re-named and re-branded.

Internet Traffic since the change?

Predictably, the week following my change to SpecDuo.com brought a large drop in my loyal viewers.  The Spec Home crowd was quickly disinterested and quit coming back.  Recently however, the viewership has broken above where it used to me and is now higher and more consistent then ever.  It seems that there are plenty of people interested in Spec App creation.

Zero Twitter Followers

I like Twitter.  I don’t know if it is something that will catch on with me forever though.  I am trying it out now in relation to our current projects.  It has actually been a great tool to teach me about others apps, marketing, etc.  It is also a way to easily update my followers on day to day activities.  So far I have zero followers though.

Android vs IOS

I was frustrated this morning after testing the Android version of INVITED.  It is just no good and doesn’t compare to the progress we have made on the Iphone version.  I have to start at square one with the Android developer.  I am worried about the time and budget.  My goal is to have the Android and IOS released by the end of August.  I have written a blog post on whether a new app developer should start with Android, Iphone or Both:

Android, Iphone or Both?

by: Mr. Spec Duo August 13, 2014

photo 2

August 11, 2014: Yo App Valued at $10 million

How is Invited going to compare with the Yo app?

Can Invited be as Successful as Yo?

by: Mr. Spec Duo August 11, 2014

photo 5

August 7, 2014: Issues at Every Corner

I had almost forgotten how challenging creating an App is.  It is not like building a website.  It is like building a house on top of a steep mountain.  There are curves, engineering issues, rough terrain and a lot of “this isn’t going to works” until the final product arrives.  When creating an app I have learned to be “patient but persistent”. If you allow the coder to get away with “this is as good as it is going to get”, you have started down a slippery slope to a really crappy app.  Keep on them until they get it to where you like it.  Now, I do admit that some things are Just Impossible.  The technology isn’t there yet for some functions that I would ideally like to have implemented in Invited.  But, I am not willing to cut corners or skimp on quality, just like I was unwilling to do so with our Spec House #1.

What issues are we dealing with?


IMAGE QUALITY The first BIG obstacle that we have just recently overcome is getting the image quality just right.  If you look at this page and work your way from the bottom to the top, you will see the progression of image quality on Invited compared to Instagram and finally compared to the original photo.  This was a challenge from my coder to work through.  Had I let him, he would have called it good after the first product and we would be left with garbage.

We are now at a point where our photo looks as good as the original.  After spending a lot of time comparing original photos with instagram, I have come to the conclusion that instagram send their photos through a sharpening filter automatically before it is posted.  This is something we will consider down the road….

Zooming In Photos & Photos/Video/Audio in Comments Instagram does not allow the user to tap on a photo and zoom in.  This is one functionality that we will certainly implement.  In fact, this morning I was sent a beta testing to try out this function.  It works great and is going to be awesome. The other function that we are working on implementing is the user ability to add photos/videos/audio in the comment section.

I can imagine that someone may want to start a “Book Club” group and may start a topic with a photo of a book that they are currently reading.  The other users in this group will be able to add a photo of their own book within the comments of the post.  This will make for a better visual experience.

In this same “Book Club” there may be a user that wants to upload a video or audio analysis or book review.  We are currently working out some kinks on how to embed these media players right into the app so that they can be listened to or watched while still in the app.  We are trying to settle on a time limit for the video/audio and think we have decided on 1 minute maximum.

Doesn’t this get expensive?

Oh yes.  Building an app is expensive.  Building a website is cheap. When I set my budget on Invited, I calculated 50% extra into the budget.  I think I will be at least at 75% when it is finished.  When building a media sharing app you also need to budget in the costs of either a Dedicated Server or Cloud to store the information.  We are using the Amazon Mobile Services cloud for Invited. 

Challenges when Building an App

by: Mr. Spec Duo August 7, 2014


August 4, 2014: Mind Control

My whole life I’ve had a difficult time controlling the “creative” (I put creative in quotes, because some of the thoughts may seem creative to me but crazy or stupid to others) thoughts that flow through my mind.  I get these idea genes from my Dad.

When I was young, he would talk about ALL of the businesses he was going to build, all of the risks he was going to take, and all of the ideas he was going to implement.  He would make me promise: “Shhh, don’t tell anyone, I don’t want anyone stealing my ideas.” I always promised not to tell, and rarely did.

His ideas were crazy.  Building a league to compete with the NBA, opening a bank with an initial IPO investment of $2 billion dollars, starting a Lamborghini dealership in our small farming community, etc, etc etc.  I loved his ideas and loved when he came up with new ones. He never started anything though.

He was and is successful in his own craft but rarely ventured off into unknown waters.  I think my Mom had a lot to do with that. I’ve got a similar idea problem that he has.  My big issue is that I also have a follow through problem.  When I get an idea that I think can get legs and run, I often commit myself to it, regardless of cost, risk or time.

I have done weird things.  Invented a new putter (sold the business to a company in Ireland), invented a Triangle Pillow, started a Rotten Foods Compost business, etc. etc. etc. I have recently tried various mental exercises to train my brain to concentrate on a limited number of tasks and quiet any new ideas until the old ideas are completed.

Currently, I am 100% focused on my App and Housenoodle.com.  I am committed to their success and won’t give up on these projects until they are income producing or they collapse and fail. For example, I have in my mind a design for a different app (one that I will reveal later) that is not in the social media arena.  I have shared my idea with my app developer and he is ready to start working on it.  I told him to hold off until Invited is released.  Once Invited is released (both on Itunes IOS and Android) there will still be plenty of work to do with it, but I will feel more comfortable beginning a new app project.

Right now I give the following odds as percentages:

1).  Odds that “Invited” is successful and earns enough money to hire 1 full time employee: 10% 2).  Odds that HouseNoodle.com is successful and earns enough money to hire 1 full time employee: 15% I am committed to both of these projects for the Long Term (meaning at least 3-5 years if I see continued growth and opportunity).  My goal is to be able to hire someone to manage these assets within this time frame.  My long term goal is to sell these assets for at least $1 million dollars.

August 4, 2014: Reflector

If you are developing an App, this is some must have software.  It is called Reflector and allows you to Mirror your iphone/Android screen onto your Mac so that you can share it with your App Developer.  This is the best way that I have found to implement changes, talk about design and test your app before it is released:

Mirror Your Iphone Screen on Mac

by: Mr. Spec Duo August 4, 2014

photo 2 (10)

July 29, 2014: Spec Priorities…..

What are my Priorities when it comes to my spec projects?  Spec Home Building has been in the forefront of all of my projects for so long because of the Time Commitment, Monetary Risk and potential Profit that building a spec home involves.  However, ever since the bank denied our spec loan, I have been playing the financing waiting game ever since.  In the meantime, I have had more time to devote to other projects that have taken over as priority projects. Here is the list of my current spec projects according to priority and time commitment:

#1: Invited

1). Invited: No question that the majority of my hobby business time has been going towards creating this app. I would say that lately I have been averaging at least 3 hours of hard work time per day (from 6:30am to 7:30am; During my lunch hour; from 8:30pm to 9:30pm).  When I am not working on it, my mind is spinning with new ideas and changes. New ideas and changes are not cheap.  I always calculate them into the initial budget though so I am not shocked at the final sticker prices.  App Design and Engineering will ALWAYS cost more than expected.  Just like building a house.  I don’t even think it is possible to stay on budget or stick 100% with the original plan.  It is too fun to modify.

Other Expenses in App Building

I had to go buy an Android Phone yesterday so that I can use it for beta testing the android version of the Invited APP.  I ended up with this MOTO G: photo 2You can see the beta “Invited” on the bottom right hand corner of my iphone screen that we use for testing. You can see some of my other apps that I use (my son lost my Roku Controller – My kids play the games – I like looking for available dogs on Petango – I need to check my mail)photo 1I challenged my Kids and my Nephews and Nieces to come up with a Preliminary ICON Design for Invited (Based on the Aztec Theme): 6 8 7 9 10 4 12 13 I like this one, because it looks like someone is getting flipped off. 11 5 I will submit these to my designer and see what she comes up with.

#2 HouseNoodle.com

2). HouseNoodle.com: Lately I have spent hours with my website developers in fine tuning and getting ready for the updated launch of HouseNoodle.com.  I think it is going to be a hit.  The user will be able to save home ideas into their “bowls”, comment on them, email them and save them for later use. The hiccup that we keep running into is with the Pinterest API (application programming interface).  Pinterest gives website developers permissions to use their searches.  However, the permissions aren’t great and the search results suffer.

This is not good.  We tried going around their API by using google results for Pinterest search terms.  But this was probably worse.  We almost had to give up on Pinterest altogether. I think our latest fine tuning of the Pinterest search will work well and we should be able to save it.  I would hate to lose Pinterest. Hopefully, by the end of the week we will have this completed and launched for use.

#3 IbuildCalculator.com

3). IbuildCalculator.com is slowly becomming an internet authority on the cost to build a home.  I sometimes forget about this website we created, because it doesn’t take much to keep it up.  However, with costs in building material prices and state by state housing market changes, there is still plenty of work to do here.  I have not seen a more accurate cost to build calculator on the Internet.

#4 Spec Home Building

4). Spec Home Building has dropped all the way to my #4 Spec Priority.  There just isn’t much I can do at this point.  I wish it wasn’t so, but it is…….. I am hoping that by this fall, this will move back up the list to #1.

Other Activities

I try not to work on my phone or my computer when the kids are around.  It isn’t fair to them and it makes me grumpy anyways.  So, I fit the time in when possible.  A lot of my other time is spent in the Backyard weeding it.  Our weeds have roots that are 2 feet long.  I’m not exaggerating.  It is an awesome job. 2 I took my kids to the air show this past weekend also.  I love airplanes and wish that I had the money and time to fly one around.  3

July 22, 2014: Going Viral?

No. None of my stuff (websites, apps) goes viral.  When I first started out making websites (over 10 years ago), I had hopes and dreams that some of my stuff would go viral, I would be rich and I could retire young.  After this many years of making websites (about 50 websites and 2 apps) and seeing the growth patterns, I have become more of a realist.  I occasionally still have some thoughts like that, but I certainly don’t count on it happening and I don’t bank on it either.

My First Website: EyeMax.com

The first website I created was EyeMax.com.  I’m not sure what is there now, I have long since discontinued it.  It was an eye makeup website.  I was still in school and my wife had just had a baby.  I was looking for ways to make money.  So, I purchased large containers of eye makeup and smaller containers that stacked on top of each other.  EyeMax.com allowed the consumer to build a stack of makeup containers as they wanted.  Looking back, it was a wildly successful operation.  Back then it was easier to rank on Google and I was on the first page for really valuable terms such as “eye makeup”.  If I knew then what I know now, I would never had let that website go.

Why did I drop it?

It became too much work.  Not for me, for my wife. My job was easy.  I just kept the website running, marketed it online (ebay – a little advertising – SEO) and kept customers happy.  It was my wife that shouldered the responsibility of filling up the makeup containers and shipping them out.  At first, we weren’t really sure of the best way to ship makeup and after one of our first orders we got a mean email from a lady that said that she opened up the package and makeup sprayed all over her clothes, ruining her wardrobe. I sent her some free makeup.  After 1 year of operation, we officially shut it down and haven’t opened it since.  10 years later and we still have some of the large containers of makeup in our garage.  I’m sure it is moldy by now.

Will “Invited” go Viral?

Honestly, probably not.  Apps are a weird creature.  They are definitely the wave of the future, as more people spend less time behind a desktop or laptop and more time with their phones.  However, there is no Google to rank and SEO tactics.  An APP Has to Catch on with the user. I think that to get an app to really be successful it takes time, patience, luck and a lot more money than a website. One reason I decided to venture into app creation is the risk.

Anyone can throw up a content based website with very little skill and almost no money at all.

Competing for Google’s attention when there are no barriers to website building has become increasingly difficult. As you have learned on SpecDuo.com or the former BuildSpecHomes.com, I am not at all adverse to risking money.  I’d rather risk it than save it.  I am crazy that way.  So, Why don’t I just go gamble it away at a Casino? Because I am a family man for one and for two I enjoy this process a whole lot more. Here are some of the design screenshots for Invited that we are working on:

Will my app go viral?

by: Mr. Spec Duo July 22, 2014

loading login-and-register

Will “HouseNoodle.com” go Viral?

I think it might.  Nah, actually I don’t.  I think it will be a slow growth website that will actually turn out to be a very successful product.  It has been BY FAR my fastest growing website (in terms of page views and time spent on the website) of any of the sites that I have made.  I do think it has staying power, for sure.

Does it make money?

No.  There currently isn’t even a mechanism in place for HouseNoodle.com to make money.  There aren’t ads, subscriptions or anything.  It is still in the development and growth stage.  My developers are still fine tuning the “log in” and “Save home ideas” side of the website that I think is going to be great. As soon as the website is fully developed and it is receiving consistent high traffic stats, I will think about monetizing it.  It isn’t ready for that yet…


Taking on Speculative Projects as a Side Job and Hobby


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