Liam Mcferrin is a mobile dev who released his first app, CUBER, to the Play Store just a month ago. Like so many in our developer community, he’s concerned about the finer details of app marketing, Android device fragmentation, and getting his official rating certifications sorted out.
He’s also 11 years old.
As soon as our dev relations guy told me he in was contact with Liam, I knew I had to find a way to talk to him myself. We set up a Skype interview to quench my curiosity; here’s the best of what I managed to pick from Liam’s super active brain.
When Liam (and his mom) picked up on the other end of the line, the first thing that was obvious was Liam’s choice of attire: a white tee emblazoned with “ALL DAY I DREAM ABOUT SUCCESS,” accompanied by a huge grin. The guy knows how to make a killer first impression.
Appszoom: Hi Liam! What inspired you to try making your first mobile app?
Liam Mcferrin: Well, when I was around 10-ish, I got really into tech and started loving it. I saw all these revolutionary things happening. Steve Jobs is one of my great mentors.
Google Headquarters has this practice called Genius Hour: for one hour a day you have to work on a project of your choosing, as long as it’s related to Google. So we had Genius Hour in my fourth grade class every Wednesday. I knew I wanted mine to be independent – I work better by myself. When I found this game creator called Flowlab, I thought, this is perfect.
For the last two years I’ve been working hard on it. I finished the game in Genius Hour, but then I couldn’t couldn’t get it on the App Store. It was just too much money, and I had already paid for the dev account on the Play Store – and then the guy that made Flowlab (who I know personally, by the way) added Android capability. So I put it on the Play Store instead.
AZ: What tools do you use when developing? You’ve mentioned Flowlab.
LM: Yes. Flowlab is an online game creator that uses 8-bit graphics. It’s for young developers, or anyone who’s ever thought “I just wanna make a game for fun.” In 5th grade, all my friends heard about this site that I had been using, and they started making games too. It’s web browser based, and you can share what you create. When we had time in the library in school, I would go into Flowlab and work on my game. I could basically do it from anywhere, including on vacation!
It works with basic building blocks, but it can get really complex. You drag structural blocks around, then add movement commands, like run and jump.
When I got stuck, I wrote to the CEO of the company – he wrote back, and we’ve sort of been friends ever since.
AZ: We think it’s SUPER cool that you’ve gotten started developing apps so young. What advice do you have for other kids out there who might be thinking of trying to program their first mobile app?
LM: If you get frustrated, don’t walk away from the computer and be like “I’m done.” That just lowers your self-esteem; you have to know deep inside that you can do this. Don’t give up, keep striving, persevere.
If you run into an error, go talk to someone. Don’t get crazy. Always ask for help – I found it very very important that I asked for help. When I lived in Seattle, there were lots of code kids whose parents worked in Microsoft that I could ask, and we got to work together.
AZ: What was the hardest part of developing an app?
LM: The hardest part was figuring out what the game should be about. I didn’t even know whether it should be long or short. I knew I loved Pac-man and all that retro-stuff, I knew I loved 8-bit graphics, so that was a start.
AZ: #TeamAndroid or #TeamiPhone?
LM: At the time I was working on CUBER, I really wanted an iPhone. The 5s had just come out. But then I decided to release for Android instead, and I was gonna go with the LG G4, but I’ve just learned that the iPhone 6s is out…
Right now, I’m in Android and I have an Android tablet – but all my stuff will go over to my iPhone if I switch. I work with both platforms, though.
I like Android for the endless possibilities of customization and such, but I like iPhone for the sleek design and the faster processing power.
As a dev… well, I printed out the Apple requirements to get on the App Store. It’s just so much stuff! In comparison, the Google Play Store requirements are basically freedom.
AZ: What are your favorite apps from other devs?
AZ: If you could develop anything, what would your dream app look like?
LM: I had an idea for a social media app where all you would do is text someone – pretty simple, right? Not really. The text would go through multiple servers that could hold up to, say, 5000 people, so if you were at something like a convention or a movie premiere or something, your geolocation could give you a suggestion to connect to the network. It would be such a good way to communicate within giant groups.
There was an app like that that kids were using in schools called Jott. I would make it long distance, though – I would probably need to invent a whole different kind of communication for it.
AZ: What’s coming up next for you as a mobile developer?
LM: I wanna make another game – the experience was so much fun. That’s not what I wanna do when I grow up, though – I wanna be a tech entrepreneur, I wanna be the next Steve Jobs. But my backup job is to be a lawyer.
Say hi to Liam on Twitter at @capliammc.