The ethical way to find an App Developer to work for free?

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So I've been sitting on an idea I had for an iOS app for the past year or so, and I keep getting the urge to do something about it, but I'm not sure how best to approach developers based on my rather amateur and possibly unethical proposition.

I have next to no programming knowledge, and judging from what I've read in basic C books, by the time I could get myself to the level required, I don't even know if iOS will still exist, heck, I don't know if I'd even exist myself.

However, I do have a pretty strong concept, it's not the most groundbreaking app idea in the world, but I think it's useful. I can handle the design and graphics just fine, but I need a coder. I can't see the app being difficult for a relatively experienced programmer to write, in fact I would think it's pretty straightforward.

The thing is, I kinda want to do this as a sort of hobby. I don't want to quit my job, or rest my life savings on it, or rely on any kind of outcome for financial success, I would just like to get the app out there, and see what happens.

So, for that reason, I don't want to spend money on it up front. The model I had in mind is that both the developer and myself would work on it in our own time, with no strict deadlines, just 'when it's done'... and then I'd cover any ADC costs, and split any profits straight down the middle for the life of the App.

I've asked around my friends/colleagues and haven't had luck finding anyone, so before I head to the dev forums and get laughed out of there, I thought I'd ask some of you guys which way you'd think would be a decent approach to finding someone.

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  • ambershee
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    ambershee polycounter lvl 11
    Rule number one!

    Don't say this:
    TeeJay wrote: »
    I have next to no programming knowledge, and judging from what I've read in basic C books, by the time I could get myself to the level required, I don't even know if iOS will still exist, heck, I don't know if I'd even exist myself.

    Then follow it with this:
    TeeJay wrote: »
    I can't see the app being difficult for a relatively experienced programmer to write, in fact I would think it's pretty straightforward.


    Let's be honest here - unless you know anything about programming for your target platform, you are not in a position to say whether or not what you want to do for said target platform is difficult (or even possible) to achieve.

    Knowing is half the battle - because that's also how you're going to know if you and your programmer are on a mutually beneficial deal. The likelihood is you're going to have to pay for it up front; because an idea is effectively worthless without the execution. The benefit of that is that you can pocket the sales when your programmer is satisfied that they have been paid. Otherwise, you are going to have to strike a royalty deal - and it needs to be good. Firstly the programmer needs to be sold on the idea enough, and your ability to market it, to believe it's going to sell. When it comes down to it, your royalty split has a likelihood of not being 50/50 unless there is a lot of graphical work to be done (such as in a game). Think reasonably; how much of the application is graphical work versus engineering work. If the bulk of it is engineering work, then expect to pay a higher royalty to the engineer.

    If you've had little luck with friends, then this already suggests that rule number one perhaps does not apply in this situation - and that the project indeed is not as straightforward as you think it is - otherwise you're falling down where the engineer needs to be sold on the idea; which is never good when you're developing software.
  • System
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    System admin
    Good points, thanks Ambershee.

    I should clarify, I do know a little about how programming works, but I certainly can't write code. I suppose what I meant by 'relatively straightforward' is that it's basically an interface/menu driven app with no 3D, no custom engine needed, just a simple UI and some API calls (existing 3rd party API's).

    I guess I didn't factor the whole royalty split based on the amount of work from each party required. I suppose it slipped my mind because I'm seeing this as a 'bit of fun' whereas any dev I get to work on it will be looking at it from a different position.
  • ZacD
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    ZacD greentooth
    I'd make a proof of concept (even flash would work) or video demo of the actual gameplay and mechanics, post it on a few sites letting people know you are looking for a programmer partner.
  • Bibendum
    I thought I'd ask some of you guys which way you'd think would be a decent approach to finding someone.
    Be very flirty, send them topless photos of yourself, maybe one of your bulging crotch. I hear chat roulette is a good place to look for people.

    Honestly your only real approach is to make friends with somebody and ask them for help, or recruit your friends. Seeing as how that already failed your project is probably dead in the water. More than likely due to one or all of these reasons:

    1) Your idea is garbage, or you didn't bother telling them about the idea and expected them to blindly commit to some vague thing you promissed was easy
    2) You have no real work integrity, people don't want to anchor themselves to a project they don't think the other person is going to follow through with on their end
    3) It's simply too much work to get paid nothing up front.
  • Ged
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    Ged polycounter lvl 10
    We make apps at my work and often find that the easy bit is making the basic gameplay happen and that can sometimes be done in a week or two but actually polishing it all to a good standard and getting in the ui and functionality people expect of apps now days can take a month or 2. Personally I wouldnt expect anyone to make an app for free unless they are a good friend or the app is such a great idea that you can pitch it well and they want in.
  • System
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    System admin
    ZacD wrote: »
    I'd make a proof of concept (even flash would work) or video demo of the actual gameplay and mechanics, post it on a few sites letting people know you are looking for a programmer partner.

    I don't know Flash, but I've got all the 'screens' mocked up in a PSD and then design docs to show navigation, interaction etc. I don't really want to just go dropping large amounts of info about it publicly for obvious reasons.


    Bibendum wrote: »

    1) Your idea is garbage, or you didn't bother telling them about the idea and expected them to blindly commit to some vague thing you promissed was easy

    I'm happy to divulge as much info as necessary, I actually made some progress on it last year with a friend of a friend, we had a contract drawn up and got a very basic prototype up but he wasn't experienced in using 3rd party API's and kinda lost interest.

    The idea may not be mind-blowingly fantastic, but I don't think it's garbage. It's certainly a lot better than some of the genuine garbage on the App Store.

    2) You have no real work integrity, people don't want to anchor themselves to a project they don't think the other person is going to follow through with on their end

    I've done a lot of the work on my end, which admittedly isn't a massive amount. I've got all the graphics placeholders done, as well as design documents etc. And I definitely want to see it finished!
    3) It's simply too much work to get paid nothing up front.
    [/QUOTE]

    Quite possible, and most likely the case.
    Ged wrote: »
    We make apps at my work and often find that the easy bit is making the basic gameplay happen and can sometimes be done in a week or two but actually polishing it all to a good standard and getting in the ui and functionality people expect of apps now days can take a month or 2.

    Yeah, I think the basic structure of the app could be done pretty quickly, certainly by someone who's built an iOS app before. I'm not expecting it to happen in 5 minutes, quite the contrary. As I said, I'm treating this as a 'side-project' and working on it in my spare time, so I'm happy to have a developer do the same, if it takes 6 months then so be it. If it takes 4 weeks, then even better. I'd just like to see it ship at some point.
  • gilesruscoe
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    gilesruscoe polycounter lvl 6
    There is a lot of dev's out there in the reverse situations. They are working on an app and can do all the programming but have no artistic skills to make it look nice. I'm pretty sure if you offered an art-for-code exchange on various forums you'd get the attention of a few fairly decent programmers.
  • glynnsmith
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    glynnsmith polycounter lvl 11
    One thing to note is there's an annual developer license you'll need to purchase, which goes for $99. You need it when you're ready to put the app/game on any device, which is usually pretty early as you'll want to be testing as soon as you can.

    I've teamed up with a really good developer, and we've worked on apps and games together. We got together whilst he was making the transition from web development to iOS apps, then we moved over to games, so we've learned together and have a really good developing relationship.

    I think your best bet is to try and find someone that's got some coding experience, but has just started to work on iOS stuff.

    You could try one of the many iOS app tools that're available, but I can't say I've got any experience with them. You could also try an online course specifically targetted to iOS app development. http://teamtreehouse.com/ are pretty reputable, and is run by world-reknowned guys.

    Good luck with it :)
  • System
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    System admin
    Thanks guys.

    Gilesruscoe - Ah good point. Do you know of any decent iOS/dev forums? My idea isn't a game, rather an app, so I don't know of any active boards that I could post on.

    GlynnSmith - Thanks!

    Yeah my original partner was getting started but he lost interest and got stuck too I think. I've considered learning to code too but I'm not sure my mind works in the right way to program! I read through an intro to C book, and it was all going well until arrays and switches, at which point I just couldn't get my head around it.
  • System
  • Bibendum
    Quite possible, and most likely the case.
    You might consider doing some small upfront payment + royalties in that case. Something you could reasonably pay that would ensure people felt like they were at least getting something for their time even if the project fails.

    Regarding work trade, personally I have the typical economic viewpoint that labor=money so if you're trading labor you may as well just pay unless you think you can get a better return.

    Your app idea doesn't look bad but it seems a bit esoteric.
  • osman
    Unfortunately, you have less to offer than you need( if you don't want to pay ) Just being able to do the art and having the idea is rarely enough. But what you COULD do is, find someone who would like to do the project WITH you, not FOR you. That would mean that you have to share the revenue/rights etc. Not sure how comfortable you are with that. But it's a possibility.

    I personally was in the same position some years ago, but I actually decided to learn C# and just do it myself. Now I have a very good friend who's working with me, and together we have some cool contract work lined up, which we use to fund our own games. But even though we have some cash coming in, it's still VERY hard to find affordable artists without underpaying them. And I'm a polycounter myself so I feel bad about asking too little, and thus I have not done so yet. I will once I think I can afford to pay a fair price.

    I see so many awesome stuff in the low poly thread for example, that could turn into some fun iOS projects, but it's so damn hard to start working together with people without upfront payment. I can't wait till I can really afford it.

    But yeah, what I'm trying to say is; it's nearly impossible without pay, only if it's a friend/colleague you know very well. Good luck!
  • Dudestein
    Kickstarter seems to be the current popular way to get the funding you need to execute on an idea. If you can make a cool demo video to get people excited about it, you may be able to get the capital you need to pay a programmer.
  • System
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    System admin
    Thanks guys, much appreciated.

    Osman- yeah I'm totally happy with a revenue sharing model. I guess I was basing my 50/50 on the fact that although the art side is peanuts compared to the coding, it was my idea and concept.

    Dustin- Hmm that's a good idea. I'm not sure I really qualify though. Isn't Kickstarter for really awesome, unique stuff? I don't know enough about it really, other than since the whole Double Fine thing everybody and their Aunt have been pitching their games there (not that that is a bad thing).

    I suppose I'm just not ambitious enough or willing to risk too much on it. I kinda see it like 'do it in my spare time, if it makes a few bucks, great, if it makes a thousand bucks, awesome, if it sells 1 copy, no great loss'. Whereas as soon as capital investment is involved, sales become more important and pressure is increased to ship on deadline. Maybe that's what it needs but I don't really have the desire to attack it from that angle.

    With that said, maybe self-learning to program is the best route. I will have to look further into it.

    Thanks again for the feedback.
  • Dudestein
    Yeah, it sounds like you want it to be easy and convenient and free to do, just so you can get an idea out of your system. Developing software and games is none of those things.
  • Ben Apuna
    It all comes down to how much you are willing to sacrifice to see this happen. You'll need to give up time or money. Unless you have the charisma of a cult leader you won't be able to convince anyone to work for free.

    How many times in your life will you have an idea yet not be able to implement it? How much is that lack of creative freedom worth to you?

    My advice is learn to code. Start here: http://www.udacity.com/

    If you're looking for an art for code trade you could try TIGSource.
  • eld
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    eld polycounter lvl 11
    Either pay the money up front to hire an actual programmer,

    Or find a programmer friend and split revenues 50/50.
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