January 24, 2011

First-year Student Aims to Create 52 Facebook Apps in 52 Weeks

Joshua Schwarz
Joshua Schwarz

New Year’s resolutions can be daunting—really, you have to really stick to that for 365 days? But first-year computer science student Joshua Schwarz, originally from Medina, kicked off the year with an even more ambitious resolution than many people: to create 52 applications for Facebook within 52 weeks. And so far, he’s on track to stick to this resolution. So why did he make this his resolution, and how will he keep coming up with new app ideas? Read on to find out.

Q: Where did you get the idea to do 52 weeks of Facebook apps?
A. I’ve shown a couple of people at Case [Western Reserve University] some of the projects on my website, www.amagit.com, that I’ve worked on in the past and gotten good reactions. [A friend] compared me to [inventor and engineer] Nikola Tesla and asked me one day, “Josh, what did you create this week?” Without an answer, I sought one, asking myself, “What can I do that is bigger than the things that I’ve done before?”

I’ve created a few web applications in the past, including three Facebook apps, but I created them and then sort of let them simmer. In other words, I haven’t actively been pursuing new ideas. I decided that I need some sort of long-term dynamic plan to create new things that stays interesting and engaging, so I decided to create 52 Facebook applications in the 52 weeks of 2011.

Q. What do you hope to get out of creating all of these apps?
A. I want to find a breakthrough idea and create something that could potentially become an “entrepreneurial project.” If I create enough new things, there will be clear winners that are the most popular. I can then further develop those ideas and ideally launch a business endeavor.

Q. How much time does it take to create a Facebook app, on average?
A. There is a steep learning curve to understand the language and code that makes Web applications work. I started to look into such technologies years ago and learned many of the core ideas behind computer science by applying them myself. Much of this took place because I was—and am—fascinated by Google and how it works. I wanted to create something similar (and have made some progress). This interest has led me to the resources necessary to understand the basic ideas behind programming.

The difficult part is not doing the programming, but thinking of an idea for something interesting and useful. With a good idea, I believe a week is a sufficient amount of time to create an interesting application, and it has proven accurate thus far (three weeks in). I may not be able to create the next full-fledged Farmville game in a week, but I can at least create something interesting.

Q. Will your apps be games, or something different?
A. The applications I have created so far have not been games, but I’m not ruling out creating some. It just depends on the interesting ideas I stumble upon. Additionally, games tend to require creating custom graphics—characters, playing cards, other game-play objects, etc.—a skill that I have not looked into much. Perhaps I could partner up with an artist on campus and develop some games…

Relationship ManiaQ. The first three weeks of the year are up—what apps have you released so far?
A. My first application called “Relationship Mania” allows its users to see the relationships their friends are in—sorted by type of relationship like single, in a relationship, engaged, etc.—and receive notifications (if they opt in) concerning changes in those relationships. My second application, called “Music 4 2day,” gives its users song recommendations based on the artists they have already liked on Facebook. A music search engine I’ve worked on in the past allowed me to quickly get the “recommendation” aspect of the app up and running within the week. My third application, called “Teddy Bear Hugs,” allows users to interact in a more meaningful way with friends, by “teddy bear hugging” them. Users choose a teddy bear graphic and can write a custom message for friends. I’m using royalty-free clipart that I found online, and some friends on campus are also creating teddy bear pictures for me.

Q. How far in advance do you need to work on these apps?
A. I’m constantly brainstorming new ideas. I spend an hour or two here and there throughout the week doing the coding. If I can sit down with a clear idea of what I want to accomplish and have at least a hunch on how to do it, I can get more done in less time.

Q. Where are you getting ideas for the apps?
A. First, I look at the data Facebook makes available to its applications via the user running the application, and things like friends, likes and other profile information. Then I come up with ways to do interesting things with that data. Applications can also potentially add to that data, so I come up with ways to further connect users on Facebook through their ability to share (i.e. “Teddy Bear Hugs” app). I’m also open to ideas that people share with me.

Music 4 2dayQ. Do you use a lot of Facebook apps, personally?
A. Actually, no. This is probably a good thing for the sake of this project, though, because I won’t be overly influenced by what is already out there. Instead, I will come up with my own ways of doing things.

Q. Which do you prefer—Facebook or Twitter?
A. Definitely Facebook. I have a Twitter account, but I don’t actively use it. I believe Facebook gives its users a better ability to connect and, while Twitter lets its users share status updates like Facebook does, Twitter’s point is merely to send data out to followers, rather than “share” it with them.

Q. Is there a way to connect with you or keep up with your project?
Anyone can see my progress and get to my project’s Facebook page directly from my website. [I’d like to] gather feedback from anyone who may have ideas.

Posted by: Emily Mayock, January 24, 2011 08:39 AM | News Topics: Students

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