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Kevin Walzer, software developer.



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Fri, 15 Mar 2013

The update treadmill

After spending a few months working on mobile apps, I am now back working on Mac desktop apps in earnest. The challenge when working on multiple apps, as I do, is how to prioritize updates in such a way that I can actually ship releases at semi-regular intervals.

It's easy to develop a long laundry list of new things to add to an app--it's hard to exhaust that list. Even if an app is fairly mature, it's easy to identify small improvements to make or bugs to fix. However, limiting the scope of such changes is necessary to keep the update treadmill in check; some changes can be deferred until a later release.

Historically, in my apps I've tended to alternate between app-specific changes and improvements--new features for a single app--and more general framework improvements, which can be implemented across all my apps. A rewrite of an app's underlying engine for improved speed is an app-specific improvement. Implementing a Cocoa-based toolbar integrated from Tk is a framework improvement that can be rolled into every app.

At present I'm working more in the framework mode. I have a large list of app-specific improvements to add, but I would like to add some of the framework features first--these will improve all of my apps in meaningful ways. Shifting afterward to more app-specific features and improvements will allow for more than a single release per year. Looking back last year, I see that I tended to combine both library and app-specific features into larger, monolithic releases, and that reduced the frequency of my app updates. Making more regular releases seems to be a better way to keep your apps in the public eye. So, that's what I plan to do this year.

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