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Stories Behind the Apps

Stories Behind the Apps: RunPee


RunPee, now there is a unique app name! It tells people the best time to run and pee during a movie without missing the best parts. At least that's the meat and potatoes of it. But the app also lets you know if there's anything extra after the end credits, and if so what. It also gives a synopsis of the first three minutes of a movie. I'm adding more and more ancillary features all the time, like integration with RottenTomatoes and IMDb.com.

runpee-31Who is on the team and what are the roles? I created the app and do all the design and development work. Getting the Peetimes is a team effort. There's my mother, who mostly does kids movies, my sister, who does horror films, and myself, who sees the action movies. We also have a professional movie reviewer in Hollywood, Shanee Edwards, who gets Peetimes for the blockbuster movies so that people who go to the opening shows will be taken care of. My mother, sister and I have to wait in line and buy tickets just like everyone else.

How is RunPee different from similar apps or competitors?  We pretty much have the market cornered on telling people the best time to run and pee during movies. It's not likely that anyone's going to compete with us because honestly, getting the data is a LOT of work. We see over 150 movies every year. 

Could you talk a bit about the app UI and icon? The RunPee app presents a unique challenge. Namely, it's an app that's meant to be used during movies – a big no-no. I've put a lot of thought and effort into making it easy to use without disturbing other people in the theater. Obviously the design uses a black background to cut down on light pollution. Most importantly there's a built in Timer that will vibrate the phone when there's a Peetime.

RunPee_twitter-iconThe app icon is actually undergoing a bit of a rebrand – see attached. It's still the same font but the thing that was lacking was some context that tied in with movies. I came up with the idea of including a movie "clapper" that I think works well. Everyone knows that it's related to moves and it marks the beginning of a scene. In this case the beginning of a Peetime.

What tools and/or communities assisted you in creating the app? The app for Android and iOS is built using Adobe AIR. I've been a Flash/AIR developer for the past 15 years so it just made since to go with what I know. In fact, I originally created the RunPee.com website primarily as an exercise to improve my MySQL skills. I never expected the app to take off the way it has.

I'm hugely indebted to the Actionscript/Flex/AIR community. There's been countless times that I've been stuck on something and someone in the community always comes forward and helps me out. 

What lessons did you learn in the process? Where to start? I've learned so much, mostly from doing so many things wrong. :-). I think the main thing I've learned is to really embrace feedback – both negative and positive. RunPee fans have been instrumental in pointing out things that the app doesn't do or could do better. Everything from suggestions on adding information about the post credit scenes to letting me know when there's a bug. 

What went right and wrong with the app release? I've been pretty lucky overall and haven't had many fires to put out. But every time something goes wrong it's an opportunity to make the app better. For instance the host for the RunPee database – MediaTemple – was down for a few hours last month. (Note: overall I'm super pleased with their responsiveness and update.) That got me to thinking that it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a backup server. This would never work for a website but for the RunPee app it's a fairly simple update. When the app starts it checks the remote server for new data. If MediaTemple is down for some reason then the request returns an error. In that case I simply request data from the backup server that on Site5.com. The chances that both are down at the same time is remote. It's things like that that give me peace of mind.


What was the team doing before RunPeeI worked for Microsoft XBox prototyping for new features on the XBox dashboard. That was a great experience. After a few years I decided to become a freelance developer. At the time I had zero experience with database driven apps – this was back when XML was the cool thing. I build the original RunPee.com website as a Flex app tied to a PHP/MySQL backend. Those 4 months were a great period of learning and helped set a foundation for my freelance work.

What are some of your favorite apps? Personally, I don't know how I'd live without Google Maps/Navigation. Besides that I've recently begun integrating Google Voice more and more into my daily activities. I just love saying, "Remind me the next time I'm at WalMart to get shower curtain rings." I think we all take things like that for granted but it's really fantastic when you step back and think that phones can do things like that now.

Head over to the App Store or Google Play to download RunPee.

Hey you app devs!  Wanna be featured like our friends at RunPee? Be sure to check out

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