Software

Get an inside look at the world of app development in App: The Human Story

A new documentary highlights the struggles and successes of five developers trying to make a living off of creating apps.

Apps are a major part of most of our home and work lives, but we often don't spend much time considering how or why they were created. App: The Human Story is a feature-length independent documentary, looking at the forces behind the screens that have turned mobile devices into a world phenomenon.

The film tracks the breakout success of Apple's iPhone, and the journeys of five developers trying to make a living in the App Store. Viewers follow two women fresh out of a developer bootcamp starting a second career in tech, two men running an esteemed software shop trying to break into iPhone apps, and an iOS developer found success in the field later in life and is struggling to make a sustainable living.

The launch of the iPhone allowed apps to enter the cultural milieu for the first time, director Jake Schumacher told TechRepublic. "I was so intrigued with these people who were actively trying to make my life easier with their new tools, so I dug a little deeper and discovered that indie iOS developers were having a harder time finding sustainability with their apps than the indie Mac developers, even though their customer market was expanding as fast as the iPhone was," Schumacher said. "This disconnect is a story that hasn't really seen the light of day to those outside the developer community in the last nine years of the app store."

SEE: Job description: iOS developer (Tech Pro Research)

The documentary was crowdfunded via Kickstarter in July 2015, with 2,165 backers raising $163,990.

As software increasingly infiltrates our lives, it's important to remember that there are people behind all of the apps we use. Developers must take responsibility for the programs they help bring into the world, and should build with care, Schumacher said.

"We should be offended when we are not treated with dignity by these people," Schumacher said. "When apps and services respect our human dignity and provide value in our lives, we should support those people. In the long view of humanity we are at the beginning of something that's going to go on for decades beyond and as Brent Simmons says in the film, we need to get the DNA right."

Apps stores are always going to put the company's needs above those of developers, Schumacher said. "If developers want real change, they're going to organize in a real way to have their needs met," he added.

For those interested in breaking into a career as a developer, "start today," Schumaker advised. "We need amazing software from every type of person and we need more voices in the space," he said. "It won't be easy but if you persist, you will find a community willing to help you."

App: The Human Story is available now on Vimeo on Demand.

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Image: App: The Human Story

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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