The Struggle of One Man and an App That Nobody Has Bothered to Design Yet

By Reader Richard Beech on at

I look down at my phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, it's big enough to draw attention from my fellow commuters on the DLR -- the East London railway system inspired by the Simpsons episode 'Marge v.s. the Monorail'. "Is that a phone or a tablet?" the commuters ask, silently, in their heads. "It's neither," I say, silently, in my head.

I'm trying to concentrate, and once again, I find myself in the position of holding my phone, and scrolling through my apps aimlessly. Scrolling, scrolling... scrolling.

It's totally automatic -- I'm just looking to kill time, I'm always looking to kill time. My only other option is doing something *shudders* productive.

But despite a brief flirtation with apps that aren't called Twitter or Facebook, I've fallen back into the same old routine of checking apps that are definitely called Twitter and Facebook.

Even worse, it's actually part of my job to sit on Facebook and Twitter all day and share my content with the unsuspecting, unwilling, and usually unthankful world.

I tried the mobile gaming thing. It didn't work out, we weren't compatible. There's something about mobile phone gaming that just reminds you of your own mortality -- like looking at a Francis Bacon painting, or having to go to the shop because you ran out of £3 chardonnay. The precious minutes are ticking away, and you shouldn't spend them playing Candy Crush Saga. Arguably you shouldn't spend them reading this column either, but you are, so hold on in there. Thanks.

So what do I want? I don't really know. All I know is that I have a phone that could send a monkey to the moon (maybe), and I, like most people, use it entirely for sending emails and checking social media.

I can't use Tinder because my girlfriend would get really quite upset, but I would like to apply this sort of interactive, shallow, prompt-and-response based experience to something like viral news content.

An app that, upon opening, loads up just the first three sentences of a random story, from a selection of websites known for producing entertaining, engaging content, and then gives the reader the option to decide if they like the story and want to load the rest of it, or if they don't like the story and want to move on.

We'd be making snap decisions about the kind of content we want to read; it'd be instant and arguably quite shallow...like Tinder.

Content which is being given the green light and loaded in full by more people would be prioritised over content people are rejecting, and the relatively slow cycle of virality via social media would be replaced by something far more instant.

Content would be penalised if people didn't scroll all the way to the end, and the algorithm would be all like "hey, people only read 40 per cent of you, pal, BACK OF THE LINE."

In short, you wouldn't have to wait for your lazy, no good, chumpleton friends to share great content on Twitter or Facebook: The content would come to you.

I know at the moment you're probably seeing similarities between this idea and sites like UpWorthy and Digg, but trust me -- this is WAY better*.

*Not necessarily true

I currently can't find anything like this, other than some of the better RSS apps like Feedly, and there's obviously Flipboard, which seems intent on showing me 'quality' content all the time. I don't want quality; I want people's heads stuck in bins, I want photos of Olympians' faces warping under the pressure of science, I want STUFF.

If this app does exist, and believe me, I have looked for two and half minutes on the Google Play Store, so I'm fairly sure it doesn't, please tell me about it now. You'll save me what will otherwise be completely wasted time learning a valuable new skill.

Yes I'm going to try and develop this thing myself, and I'm going to try and teach myself the necessary skills to do it.

I'm not coming into this completely cold, thankfully -- I have some experience with web dev, but I know that iOS development in particular is really, really tough, probably way too difficult for someone like myself who makes a living out of typing words in an order which it has been agreed by the entire population is the right order for the words to take on a certain meaning when they are placed in that particular order.

I guess my point, and honestly, there has been a point to all this, is that if you want to make the absolute most of your super expensive smartphone, maybe, just maybe, you have to be able to customise it to such an extent that you can actually build apps for it.

How often do you think of an amazing idea for an app, and tell your friends about it, who in turn tell you it's a great idea, only to do nothing about it because of the insurmountable mountain of coding and man hours in your way?

Great products and great apps are often born out of frustration with the current modus operandi of a particular industry. My industry has always been online content, as well as producing it -- I actually love consuming it like a spinster consumes cakes and Haagen-Dazs.

I don't like the fact that when I go on Twitter or Facebook to see if anyone I know has shared any interesting links, I also get caught up in the terrifying, deafening noise of people's personal lives, photos of their kids, memes about owning a pet, you know the sort of stuff.

The chances are, you could make a great app born out of a simple everyday frustration in your life. And, you should do it. Do it now. Do it. Go on. Why aren't you doing it yet? DO IT.

Richard Beech is a digital journalist and a totally un-self-proclaimed social media manager with an unhealthy obsession for buying music gadgets and never using them. Follow him on Twitter here.

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