ShowYou—The iPad Social Video Browser That’s Taking On TV
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consuming and commenting on video, not curating it. (That said, ShowYou may turn out to be a better tool for following VodPod curators than VodPod itself.)
Persinger, who’s Remixation’s chief technology officer and resident programming genius, says building ShowYou required throwing out everything he knew about the Ruby programming language underlying VodPod. In its place he had to learn Objective C, the language in which Apple’s PC and mobile operating systems are written. That was “like going back in a time machine about 15 or 20 years,” he says. “The whole Apple platform is basically NeXTSTEP from NeXT [the enterprise computing company Steve Jobs built during his years of exile from Apple, 1985-1996], and they’ve done a ton of work on it, but it’s fundamentally still 20-year-old technology.”
Yet there’s an important reason to write in Objective C, Persinger says. “I think Apple’s view is that the devices are constrained, there is not a lot of memory or storage space, and they are not that fast. So they would rather have you build a great app that works within those constraints than give you some super-easy programming environment in which you can create any crummy app,” he says. The downside? “It was a painful learning curve. I was banging my head against the wall for six weeks. Their whole thing is to make it easy for the end user and put the onus on the developer.”
The hardest part of building ShowYou wasn’t the Airplay integration, Persinger says, or even the cloud-based commenting and sharing system, which relies on a variation of Google’s MapReduce distributed computing algorithm to provide every user with a personalized video list reflecting the real-time activities of the people they follow. No, the hardest part was the 2D scrolling grid for the iPad version. “You’re looking at probably the fourth or fifth version we built,” Persinger told me in March. “We kept rebuilding it because it’s this huge canvas, and the question is when should you download the next set of thumbnails without interrupting the UI as you’re panning around. It was a lot of work.”
But the work paid off—the panning is smooth and seamless. While the placement of individual videos may seem random, they’re actually organized by popularity and time, with the most popular and most recent videos your friends have shared appearing in the upper left corner. As you pan down or to the right you’ll see older videos, and discover videos from people you aren’t following.
There’s also an alternative view in ShowYou, the “feed,” that shows just … Next Page »