Ricardo Alcocer – Build Native Cross-Platform Apps with Appcelerator.

I sat down with Ricardo Alcocer to talk about his book, “Build Native Cross-Platform Apps with Appcelerator.” The book is currently available in Amazon(kindle, hardcopy), with the option of purchasing a signed copy through his webpage http://buildmobileapps.io/. This book is interesting because there are not that many Puerto Ricans that have published such a technical book as Ricardo has.

Ricardo began his technical writing career in 1997, in 2009 published epsl, in 2010 started doing appcelerator training. In 2012, he joined Appcelerator to work as Lead Developer Evangelist and his career expanded from there. During his tenure, Ricardo wrote the first copy of the book and after some creative differences with his original publisher, ended up publishing the book through his own company, JB Orion.

As mentioned above, Ricardo has signed books available for purchase. Signed technical books are relatively uncommon, however Ricardo is an internationally renowned educator in the Appcelerator eco-system. Ricardo told me a great story about he set up fixed shipping for the first set of books and the first 5 orders were in Korea, Brussels, Japan, Italy and Spain. The original shipping was set for $8 and he had to basically take the hit. He added the option to do a flat fee internationally to correct this the signed book is a total of $60. He explained how the signature meant something to the readers and that it was a humbling experience, since it was an unexpected event from the sale of the book.

 

This is not a common scenario for technical books, I asked how it feels. Ricardo replied ,letting me know that he is one of the lucky ones, and proceed to tell me that the book took 2 complete years (minus 3 days) to finish. During the writing of the book he got to the point that he just wanted to get to the finish line. He made an Event in Puerto Rico last summer that 150 attended and more people asked for signed books. He ended by reiterating that is a humbling experience and that he takes his hat off to everyone for the experience.

Appcelerator the platform that the book is written on is  a cross development platform for mobile. It solves the problem that developers don’t know how to build native apps in both Iphone and Android. One of the advantages of it is a reduction in price for example; with normal development techniques you could end up paying around 15k(based on complexity) for Iphone app and 15k for Android using Appcelerator you could save the cost of one of them since it should be the same code for both. Additionally is targeted to people that were originally web developers. If you know javascript you can build a native app. The interesting thing is that you don’t use HTML but the API they provide and learning this platform is what is tackled on the book.

The book scope takes you thru a series of mobile apps starting with a simple mp3 player. The first version is written in about 40 lines of code so you get pretty quickly to having a cross platform application. While the example is simple and on chapter two, it could be easily used to do a museum guide or a list of music that is on a list.  The book takes you from web developer to app publisher in both mobile stores.

My next question was about the total cost of getting started. For the book the cheapest one is the kindle version which currently retails for $29.99. For Appcelerator there is an open source version and one that is by subscription that you pay the moment you ship and app. You can see the plans here http://www.appcelerator.com/pricing/

 

We moved on to talking about the impact that making the book had on his life. Since the book took two years of development there were different phases. At the beginning with the publisher he had a development editor and had to work on it 2 or 3 hours a day. Ricardo would wake up at 4:00 have a cup of coffee work on it till 8:00am then head to work. It was easier for him since it would give him a fixed amount of work time per day and allow free nights. He remarked that “looking back it was tough”. There were vacations that were canceled, family visits that he would be awake writing while everyone was sleeping and there were plans for the day that he had to carry after writing. Once he took over and decided to self-publish it got even more complicated. It was not just doing the writing, but the entire business side and permits required. He had set a deadline so he was clear on when he had to complete it. To navigate it all Ricardo bought “Legal Aspects of Self-publishing” a book that he believes helped him a lot. He commented that the last part of the project was incredibly intense. Even though he already published it, the book is still getting translated to other languages. Since he got a bit tired from the original process he is taking it a bit easier and trying to not compromise his free time.

 

I asked him about lessons learned. The response was the following: The biggest lessons from the process was that the book managed to get me more organized and systematic about how I do developer education. Since I was focused on teaching on the book for so many years. now I can put the hat of how should I teach on everything that I do. The second editor was a mentor to him and they are still in touch. One of the disadvantages of doing self-publishing is that not a lot of speaker positions have happened unless they were organic from developer groups.

The last thing we talked was about what happened with Manning (original publisher). They have a program that is called MEAP were you get an audience by chapter(archive of the original book). They measure the performance based on how this groups are preordering. What happened was that they told him they were not going to publish at the point that the book was written and in editing.  When he left he had to move the book from Word to LaTex which gave it a lot better formatting. He mentioned that while LaTex is great it has a super high learning curve. So he had to spend an extra month figuring what he wanted to do with LaTex and then start to format the entire book. He basically wrote a template “MVP” and then added all the content to be able to get it all complete. The big advantage is that he can deal with LaTex using the same tools that he uses for software engineering. Right now the last thing he is going to do with the book is moving it to Portuguese this year.

 

The book has been a success and if you are in the space and want to learn how to create mobile apps cross platform I highly recommend taking a look at it.