We just released MondoPlayer for Android version 2.0. It is the culmination of countless hours of work and hundreds of decisions.
So you’d imagine we’d all be feeling happy. Actually, shock and awe would be a more apt description!
Releasing an App is an exercise in entomology – bugs! Lots and lots of bugs!
And where there are bugs, there’s debugging, bug fixes and more bug testing! The process of bringing a release to market is always punctuated with weeks of soul destroying debugging.
The process starts with a huge list of issues and slowly whittles down. It’s an exercise in taking two steps forward and one step back. You fix a couple of bugs only to discover a new one. Analogies like watching grass grow or paint dry don’t do justice.
To make matters more interesting, periodically you hit a bug that threatens to kill the whole project. I call these existential bugs!
When you’re pushing the envelop of technology there’s always an element of technological risk. You can plan all you like, but some problems are unforeseeable. A project like MondoPlayer is a little like jumping out of a plane and checking your parachute is working on the way down.
In our prior release of MondoPlayer for Android we found that we were placing too much strain on the resources of some Android devices. We had to find more efficient ways of loading videos and displaying the UI – the User Interface.
Our old user interface used a technique called webview for the UI that was easier to program but caused havoc with the CPU and the memory. The new release is a lot more elegant and a hell of a lot more complicated to write.
At one point a few weeks ago we actually faced the prospect of the whole project being impossible. It would have been a dramatic and memorable occasion, but for the fact that we’d had existential bugs so many times in this project that we’ve grown numb to fear.
On these terrifying occasions the whole team gathers in a virtual war room (we are all spread out across the country – so the war room is virtual) and we all pitch in. It’s actually quite exhilarating if you put aside the thoughts of telling your investors that you’re terribly sorry but the project is a bust.
The team breaks the problem down and we “work the problem”, to borrow a phrase from the movie Apollo 13 (my favorite movie).
By the time a release of this magnitude is ready for distribution to the public, you have a battle weary team and then there’s the realization that for all the testing you’ve done there are over 18,000 unique Android device and Operating System combinations on the market and you’ve really only tested a small slice.
So now we watch our Beta users download the App and we wait to see what happens.
The job of an existential entomologist is never done. 🙂