Micro Monday Special: An Interview With Martin Hartl

This week, in addition to our regular microcast, we have a special interview I did via email with @hartlco, Martin Hartl. - Jean

Hi Martin! Why don’t you tell the Micro.blog community a little bit about yourself?

I’m 26 years old, and I work as an iOS developer for a football (aka soccer 😉) startup in Berlin, Germany. I grew up in a tiny village in northern Bavaria and moved to Berlin after graduating from university.

I’m the developer of Icro, a 3rd party iOS App for Micro.blog, which was recently released on the App Store.

When I’m not working or building side-projects, my girlfriend and I like to travel a lot. Our last notable vacation was a 2 weeks road trip through Romania’s Transylvania region. Other than that, I love to cook at home, especially pizza! I like cars and driving, even though I never owned a car myself.

What other apps have you developed?

The first app I developed, Clickery, is still available in the App Store. It’s a very, very basic tally counter. Later I released Noteness. It’s a diary app for multiple sclerosis patients to keep track of their medication and symptoms. The user-base is tiny but it’s very rewarding working on something that actually makes peoples lives easier. Every time I update the app for the next iPhone or iOS versions, all the users are excited and happy. I should probably put more effort into it in the future, as very obvious and basic features are still missing.

The last app I released before Icro was Mentio. It is a small wish-list app for the App Store that includes the iTunes Store and iBooks. I built it around the time iOS 7 was released and I used it as a playground for all the new iOS-related technologies that were introduced. Besides working on apps, I also try to contribute to the open source community as much as I can.

How did you get interested in app development and iOS app development in particular?

While growing up, I was always exposed to computers. Almost every minute of my spare time I was either playing games, messing around with Microsoft Office or browsing the web. Back then, the only operating systems I knew were Windows and unstable Linux distributions. Around 2004, I got an iPod Mini and I quickly realized that there is all whole other computer world out there. I loved the design and the user interface, as it was such a contrast to everything I knew before. That’s how my interest in Apple started.

At that time, I didn’t consider becoming a programmer. In my head, working with computers was my hobby and not a thing I would do for a living. This changed when the original iPhone was released, and especially later when the App Store was introduced. Suddenly I was exposed to so many great apps and I knew that that was something I want to do as well. I started learning Objective-C and the iPhone SDK, studied computer science, and began building apps.

What motivated you to develop Icro?

Icro started out as a learning project. I wanted to try out new ways to architect an iOS app, focusing on communication with backend APIs. At my day job, I work on a large codebase. This makes it harder to try and experiment with new ideas and approaches sometimes. For me, it was obvious I would use the Micro.blog APIs for this experiment, as they are transparent and open. After seeing how quickly I was progressing with the development of Icro, I decided to polish it and release it publicly. Third party apps were the reason I enjoyed Twitter and App.net, and I hope Icro will help to make Micro.blog more enjoyable for others as well.

What do you want to do next with Icro?

There are many big features still missing. At the moment I’m working on a small update to fix some bugs and Dynamic Type. This enables users to choose the text size inside Icro using the system settings.

For the next bigger update, I’m focusing on image upload for Micro.blog-hosted and self-hosted sites. Favoriting posts should come with this update.

There is also WWDC coming up soon. This might influence the possible list of new features as well. In the future, I would love to work on a Mac app again. Maybe Icro will be the perfect opportunity for this as well.

How did you hear about Micro.blog?

I‘m a long-time listener of the Core Intuition podcast by Daniel Jalkut and Manton Reece. I think I started listening around the time when App.net gained some popularity in the Apple community. The moment Manton revealed Micro.blog and launched the Kickstarter campaign, I was immediately intrigued and backed the project.

Did you have a blog or blogs before Micro.blog?

Yes, I started my very first blog back in 2006. It was supposed to be a site in German focusing on the Mac and the iPod. I believe it did not have a single reader, as there are no traces of this site in the internet archive. After this, I had several different blogs, Tumblr sites, and general websites but all of them were inactive after a few months. I started my current site back in 2014. Even on this blog, there are long stretches without content. I noticed writing long-form posts is not something that I really enjoy. My site became way more active the moment I started microblogging!

What do you like to blog about or to share via Micro.blog?

In general, I enjoy sharing small thoughts and updates on my site and Micro.blog. I post everything that comes to my head and I consider worth sharing. I also like to link to new products/apps or nice posts I come across. I still use Instagram, but every new picture I post there will be published on my Micro.blog first. I also plan to import my whole Instagram archive to my site.

What do you like about Micro.blog?

For me, the single most important part about Micro.blog is the community. It is very welcoming to everyone and focuses on positive aspects. The negativity and hate happening on Twitter are slowly driving me away from that site. Micro.blog feels like the exact opposite to this.

The support and positive feedback I get from the community for developing Icro is incredible. That is something I never experienced before. I think the open and transparent way Micro.blog is run is a big part of guiding the community to stay friendly and inclusive.

If you were to produce a microcast, what would be the subject?

I never really thought about starting a microcast but I think I would enjoy doing something related to cooking. Talking about new recipes I tried, new techniques, equipment, eating out. I think there would be a lot to talk about, I’m just not sure if someone would be interested in listening.

On a completely different topic: do you have any pets?

At the moment I don’t have any pets but I’m a huge dog fan. In my childhood, we had two dogs and I loved it. I’m that kind of person that stares at dogs in the park and always wants to pet them. I think sooner or later we will get a dog for ourselves but at the moment we still focus too much on traveling. This would be way harder to do with a dog and I also would not want to give him/her away while we are on vacation.

Thanks, Martin, for taking the time to do this interview, and thanks for creating Icro!

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