Developer Interview: Wil Shipley

[As a part of researching Delicious Monster for my last developer spotlight, I had the opportunity to chat with Wil Shipley, lead developer and founder of the company, and ask him a few questions. He’s been gracious enough to allow me to post the interview here. If you find it useful, let us know, and we’ll try to do more interviews in the future! — Nabil]

1) Delicious Library is a fast, rich media library solution, but so far is primarily geared around personal, non-commercial use. Do you know of anyone using your software for larger solutions, or any libraries considering it?

There are a lot of issues we’d have to deal with to make our Delicious Library really robust for large community libraries… modification permissions is a huge one, but also we’d need a robust way to distribute a single database across multiple machines. These are capabilities we think would be neat to add, but we didn’t want to delay version one for this stuff.

Existing commercial library solutions costs thousands of dollars, since there aren’t that many libraries in the world total, and we were really committed to making a $40 application for home users or small businesses or organizations.

It turns out a lot of churches love Delicious Library, since they’ll often have a central repository of literature that is available to members, and it’s OK that right now Delicious Library only really allows a collection to be on a single machine at once — most small organizations don’t have multiple workstations from which people would want to check out books.

On the other hand, we’ve gotten word that there’s a library in a developing country on the other side of the world that’s using Delicious Library to track 27,000 volumes. Version 1 of Library is definitely not zippy with that many books, and they’ve had to come up with some unique hacks so their users can’t corrupt their colleciton, but, hey, they only had to pay $40, so for them it was worth it. (I’m going to offer them a free upgrade to 2.0 professional when it comes out, which will hopefully ease their pain.)

1b) Do you feel Delicious Library would be a good fit for an institution?

Not for an institution with multiple machines intended to access the same collection, or one in which untrusted people are supposed to be allowed to access Delicious Library itself. Any time, however, all the members are trusted not to corrupt the central database, (eg, “Oh, I didn’t check this book out… Bob did! Heh heh.”) -or- there’s a single account that accesses Delicious Library and only trusted people are allowed to access it, then it’s a great fit.

2) What features ended up being more popular than you expected? Which did you expect to be more popular?

The loaning aspect was something I wasn’t sure people would use at first, but it turns out to be one of the biggest sellers for people who aren’t obsessive-compulsive and so don’t need to scan in their collections just because. Everyone I know has lost a book or CD to a friend when a loan got forgotten, and so the app quickly pays for itself if you use this feature.

We thought referrals (picking other books or cds you like based on current ones you own) would be crazy popular, but so far it’s not a super-widely used as we thought. We can see how many sales we generate because all sales from referrals are tracked with our Amazon associate code, which is how we “pay” Amazon for using the data from their servers — we have no formal arrangement with them, but we know that if referrals drop below a certain rate they are going to want us to pay them directly, which would kind of stink for us. (Incidentally, as a side effect we get 5-7% of the sales generated this way, but we give it to charity as a matter of course so nobody will think Delicious Library is just a trojan horse for Amazon sales — if it were, we’d be out of business, believe me.)

3) There are currently several third party support apps that are mentioned in your Support FAQ. Are there any plans to add the functionality they provide directly into Delicious Monster? (Specifically, publishing to the web, and importing iTunes data come to mind.)

Yes! Delicious Library 2 will allow you to just check a box and all your iTunes albums and TV shows and movies will show up on your shelves automatically, and “live” — eg, they’ll change as they are changed in iTunes.

In Delicious Library 2 we’ve actually added five really major features, corresponding to five of our top six requests. (The one that’s missing is supporting collecting individual comic magazines — we still don’t have that data from Amazon.)

4) Where did you come up with the idea for Delicious Library?

Mike Matas looked around the industry for shareware that seemed to be popular but that hadn’t been done the way he wanted to do it. There were several library-type applications, and he saw the idea as being very powerful. We worked on the interface for months to try to refine it, and ended up making plans for the first three versions of Delicious Library.

Now Mike’s off working on the iPhone, but hopefully I’m carrying on his legacy in a way that doesn’t displease him too much.

5) What’s next for Delicious Monster? Any plans to grow into a 2000 employee mega-conglomerate?

Nah. I like my two employees, and they are pretty much all I can handle reasonably in terms of making sure they are growing as programmers. In fact, they’re both overdue for a code-pimping right now.

6) Other than your own software, what other Mac apps would you recommend folks check out?

I’m really proud of the work Kevin Steele and I did on OmniGraffle, and I think it’s an under-used application. I’ve never met anyone who wouldn’t find it useful if given a good demo.

Also on my dock is QuickBooks, which I think is a great choice if you’re running your own business. I’m not a huge user of third-party software, which I recognize as a failing, but I’m just so darn busy, i don’t have time to try stuff.

7) Any words of advice for aspiring indie Mac developers?

Write code! Write some more! Don’t ask how to start, just start. I started on a game first, and it was way over my head. That’s OK! I learned a ton.

The main point of writing code is we enjoy learning, not that we enjoy the programs we write. Remember that. If you’re not trying new things and figuring out things you didn’t understand before, you’re missing out.

7 thoughts on “Developer Interview: Wil Shipley”

  1. I use OmniGraffle all the time. It is like a swiss army knife. If they would include pen/tablet support it would be my main app for about 90% of the stuff I do.

  2. Everyone in my department uses OmniGraffle. It was invaluable for my internship and all my class projects this year. Thank you!

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