Why I don’t write “apps”

MetroUI-Apps-Mac-App-Store-iconWhat is an “app?” Is it a useful tool, or a toy? Is it a piece of software carefully designed to fulfill a purpose, or is it just a bit of code that is part of a larger marketing and branding ploy? Is it necessary, bringing something unique to the world, or is it just another RSS reader designed to tie you to a single source of news and opinion.

I don’t write “apps”.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is software out there that is useful, inventive, fun, and damn near necessary for daily life, but I don’t call those “apps.” This is software, and it is designed by software engineers and architects like myself. They are carefully coded, creative expressions of a programmers life of learning and exercise of their chosen trade — designing and building software. They take effort and skill. They deserve a name to fit. They are not “apps.”

I know some will quibble that an “app” is only a name, and that it’s the thing that has made mobile applications accessible to millions on their smart devices. But note also that the huge majority of those “apps” are, as I described above, derivative, thinly disguised web pages that are only available to place the company’s branding on your phone. I do not include them in my list of ground breaking or even slightly useful software; perhaps they deserve the diminutive name, for they are the result of small thinking — remixes of already known software, reused code often given away for free in return for the rent on your valuable eyeballs.

Some will also say that there’s no doubt that I’ve written software like this in the past. I might have, but only because my employment contract has almost always included a “morality” clause that states I can’t refuse work because of an ethical or moral reason (did you know most employment contracts with public companies have this clause? Explains a lot, doesn’t it?) I’m not proud of them.

I’ve written animation software used by dancers and choreographers. I’ve written video games that eleven to seventeen year old boys would play for 10 hours and then never play again. I’ve built facial recognition software used to catch criminals and pedophiles. I’ve written emergency management software designed to help save lives. These things I am proud of. These things are not “apps”

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