Today we’re talking to Daniel Jalkut, the man behind Red Sweater Software, and developer of the popular desktop blogging tool MarsEdit. Red Sweater makes some incredibly handy Mac software, and today’s interview shines a little light on what goes on behind the scenes.
I hope you enjoy the first in our new interview series. We love the developers that produce the amazing software we review, and hopefully this will be a great way for you to meet the names and faces behind the apps that you use every day!
Where did you start out as a Mac developer, and how did working at Apple affect the way you run Red Sweater?
I started as a Mac developer while I was still in college, when I was around 17. I used Think C which was a popular compiler and IDE at the time. It came with a great documentation tool called Think Reference, which I used to study in all my down time between classes, etc. I slowly built up the knowledge needed to write my first app, which was a simple game based on the UNIX game “Robots.”
I worked at Apple after I got out of college and it pretty much served to instill a set of “coding ethics” into me. What I got most out of working there was a strong sense of right and wrong – not only for a variety of technical issues, but for user-centric issues involving the usability of software.
Tell us a little bit about Red Sweater – who is the team made up of, and what motivates you as a company?
For now Red Sweater is just me, with occasional help from contractors for things like graphic design. Two things motivate me the most in my work: the direct feedback loop with customers, and the uncapped potential for growth and change. These things are the most dramatic difference for me between working for myself and being an employee.
I love knowing without a doubt that my work is affecting the lives of people who use my software. And the thrill of working towards ever greater successes gives me a thrill that is probably not unlike the thrill of gambling. Except I am more likely to win!
How often do you personally use the applications you develop, and did you create them to “scratch your own itch”?
I use most of my applications on a regular basis. FastScripts is installed in my menu bar and helps to facilitate a lot of what I consider to be the miraculous productivity I achieve on a good day! On other days, well, I guess I can blame the software.
Some of my stuff was definitely created to scratch my own itch. FlexTime was an example of this where there simply wasn’t (and to be honest, isn’t) anything else like it on the market. It may be an example of something that was a little too personal because I don’t think most people “get” it, but it’s still serving my purposes nicely.
MarsEdit and Black Ink are both sort of special cases in that they are apps that I acquired, but are nonetheless apps that are perfectly suited to me. I’m an avid blogger and have always been a crossword fan. When I had the opportunity to take over development of these apps it just seemed like a no-brainer.
How much time do you spend supporting your apps?
I don’t keep strict measurement of the time I spend on various tasks, but I would estimate that I probably spend 20% or more of my time doing support of one kind or another. This includes email, Twitter, forums, and more aggressive forms of support such as monitoring for mentions of my products on other blogs, etc.
Tell us a little bit about your Mac setup – what hardware and software do you use to get the job done?
Lately I’ve been working a bit more portably because my housing and office setup is less spacious. I do everything on a relatively low-powered MacBook. Is this constraining? A little bit. But I think it goes to show that you don’t need the fanciest Mac or the largest screen to get the job done.
The role of indie software entrepreneur is open to anybody with a decently-powered Mac and some time to invest in themselves.
What’s your take on the recent announcement of the Mac App Store, and do you think it will be a good platform to market your software?
The Mac App Store is still rife with unknowns and I don’t think anybody can say how it’s going to pan out. I think it is very exciting and, barring some ridiculous limitations, I expect Red Sweater’s apps will be present on the App Store from the outset.
I am excited to get my products in the hands of a potentially much larger audience than has had the opportunity to try them thus far.
Which websites, Twitter users, and magazines do you follow in an effort to stay up-to-date with the activities of other developers, and the Apple eco-system in general?
I only get one paper magazine: Macworld. I read it every month, while also secretly hoping that I’ll stumble upon some mention or review of my own stuff. For general Apple community stuff I depend upon a variety of blogs including Daring Fireball, MacUser, Ars Technica, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, and The Loop Insight, and others.
For developer related stuff I follow literally dozens of fellow-developers, most of whom blog less frequently than a regular news-like blog does. I don’t think I’ll endeavor to list them here!
Do you have any interesting updates or apps in the pipeline that you can give us a sneak peak at? Any plans to branch out into iPad development?
I don’t have anything specific to show, but as a general teaser I can say that I’m very interested in both iPad and iPhone development.
Owing to the previously mentioned fact of my business being a one-man operation, it’s taking a while to get my first major product out on the touch devices, but I’m looking forward to making a splash there at some point.
More About Red Sweater
Red Sweater produce a handful of really useful, thoughtful applications for OS X. They are:
- MarsEdit – The best way to write, preview, and publish your blog. It’s compatible with a huge range of blogging platforms, and fits right in alongside all your other native OS X apps.
- BlackInk – Everything you need to download, solve, and print crossword puzzles.
- FlexTime – A versatile timer for your repetitive activities.
- FastScripts – Instant access to your OS X scripts, by keyboard shortcut or menubar.
- Clarion – For all music enthusiasts out there, Clarion is a customizable quiz partner for interval ear training.
A big thanks to Daniel for giving up his time to take part in our interviews, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. If you’re a regular user of MarsEdit, or any of Red Sweater’s other apps, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Interested in reading more about Daniel and Red Sweater? You should take a look at Shawn Blanc’s in-depth interview with Daniel, conducted back in 2008. It’s a fantastic read!