Interview with Chris Burnett from Digital Scientists


iphone developer chris burnett from digital scientistsDigital Scientist Chris Burnett is an iPhone developer with a little bit of a green streak. He recently answered our questionaire about his experience developing Mission Zero for the iPhone and iPod touch.

When did you start developing apps for the iPhone? Did you have previous experience as a developer?

Technically, about two months before the release of v1.0 of I first picked up Cocoa around four years ago but just to play around with. Overall, have been coding in one form or another for a little over ten years. I have written apps in many different languages for various platforms.

I got my start in programming writing synthesis apps for the Mac in SmallTalk for SuperCollider. Since then, I have written mainly web apps. First, in PHP and then Ruby, which is my language of choice at the moment. The website (which is the engine for the iPhone app) is an example of one of the latest sites that I have worked on.

What / how many apps have you made so far?

Two, officially. v1.0 and v1.5. I have several others in various states of completeness scattered on my hard drive.

What type of apps/games/software inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?

Simple applications inspire me. Any apps that can simply and elegantly solve a problem or perform a basic function are the ones I end up using the most. Sure, there are apps that require a certain amount of complexity in their use, but those are generally the exception, not the rule. For client apps, I pretty much listen to what problems they need solved. Then, I try to figure out how to best solve those problems with the technologies available to me as a developer, without overcomplicating the solution I provide. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine.

How do you settle on the price point for your apps?

It depends on the client's needs. With the Mission Zero iPhone app, we weren't looking to make revenue, but rather, offer a mobile extension of the site, which is a free resource for sustainability-related news. It only makes sense that the accompanying application would be free.

What has been the best thing about designing for the iPhone?

The framework by far. Cocoa and Obj-C have their quirkiness just like anything else, but it's such a relief coming from the platform nightmares in the web world. Once you get a feel for Cocoa, everything generally just works. This isn't without its exceptions, but there is absolutely no iPhone equivalent of Internet Explorer 6 support.

What has been the biggest challenge about designing for the iPhone?

I suppose for someone approaching the framework for the first time, it can seem a bit daunting just getting started. However, Cocoa's web community is full of wonderfully brilliant and helpful people. #iphonedev on freenode was a great resource whenever I was stuck on an issue I couldn't find documents for.

Is your company venture backed or privately held?

Privately held.  My company, Digital scientists, is a digital marketing agency, specializing in web design and iPhone application development in the Atlanta area.

Do you have any other apps in the works?

I have a few in mind and one actually in development, but it's a secret.

What apps do you have on your iPhone?

Lounge is my new favorite app. Other than that, I have iReddit, Public Radio,, Peeps, iSSH, and the Boxee Remote.

What do you like to do when you're not coding for the iPhone?

Lots of things, but mostly traveling and making music.

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