Colm McMullan

Software development and football probably aren’t the type of topics you would expect to see on the hallowed pages of Handsome and Pretty, but we can occasionally make exceptions.  Colm McMullan has found a niche to combine his passion for the two – building football apps.  His Stats Zone app was commended by Apple in their “Rewind 2011” list of best apps last year and in The Sunday Times Top 500 App List, one of only thirteen sports apps.

 He’ll happily tell you about software as a craft or that philosophy and Viennese cafés in the 1920s are as important in football as Sky Sports.  You can get in touch with him at colm@totalfootballapps.com.

How and where are you today?

I’m good thanks. I work from home and have just sat down at my desk. It’s a simple IKEA number, accessorised almost exclusively by Apple products.  Even though there’s nobody else here I still put on headphones to help me focus – although I don’t mind being distracted by the sight of the foxes, cats and squirrels that scamper about the garden every now and then.

I’m currently putting finishing touches to some new features for the “http://itunes.apple.com/app/id453744566” Stats Zone app so I’m really looking forward to those being ready to release out into the world.  It’s reasonably popular, so the thought that thousands, probably tens of thousands and if I’m lucky hundreds of thousands of people are going to use what I make has me excited, motivated and much more terrified than I try to let on.

How would you describe the journey that has brought you to this place? And was this the destination you had in mind?

I honestly don’t mean this in a morbid way, but the only definite destination is death and I’m trying to create as great a journey to that as I can.  Thinking of it like that makes me focus on how I want to spend my time. I’ve worked at small (30ish people), medium (100ish) and ridiculously big (90,000+) companies and came to the conclusion that I would prefer not to spend most of my waking hours and days in a job doing things for someone else, especially since I’ve recently got the confidence that I can make a living by doing things I want to do instead.  I’ve been working independently for almost a year now, but getting to a level of that being sustainable in the longer term is the leg of the journey I’m currently focused on.

And in case nobody has told you already, “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc” Steve Job’s Stanford Commencement Address is mandatory viewing. No exceptions.

Do you have a process to ensure you are in the right frame of mind to create?

Developing that kind of process is as much a work in progress as any other project I have. There’s a clear divide for me between the thinking or imagining and the doing. I definitely do my best thinking away from the desk – I go for a walk every morning and typically that’s when I’ll figure out a solution to a problem I’ve been tackling or a new idea will come into my head. I work best doing or acting on those thoughts with a clear structure of what the project is, why I’m doing it and how what I’m doing right now fits into that.

I try to use David Allen’s “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done” Getting Things Done method to help me with that structure and to choose what to actually do or focus on.  Although it initially looks very dry and self-help-evil I strongly recommend checking it out – especially if you love making lists but rarely follow up on them (I did that for years).

But that ‘frame of mind’ piece that you’re asking about is the most difficult. There’s an idea of “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology) Flow which to me is a state of intense focus and concentration that I think I’ve got close to at times, but I haven’t figured out anything like a process to turn it on and off.  I’ll let you know if I do!

 How do you think your background and culture influences your creations?

They’ll be in there somewhere for sure, they’re impossible to ignore but it would be hard for me to pinpoint.  But I hope I’m pretty open minded and what I do is influenced by the best of all the ideas and experiences I’ve come across, whatever the source.

What does beauty mean to you?

A moment of overwhelming positive sensation – and I’ll leave it for you to decide for yourself how many senses we have. I guess we’re now conditioned to immediately think of it in a visual sense but equally important is to be exposed to beautiful sounds, tastes, scents and ideas.  And striving to make something beautiful must be part of any creative work.

If we had interviewed you when you were 11, what would you have told us you wanted to be when you grew up?

Funnily enough we got our first home computer, an Amstrad 286, when I was 11. I was completely obsessed with it – I guess I would have known then that I wanted to do something with computers although I’ve no idea exactly what that would mean.  I do remember that a couple of years later I spent days making a booklet for the 1994 World Cup in the USA (football being my other obsession) with a desktop publishing program.  I printed them out and tried to sell them to people at school, you could fill in the match results and goalscorers and things like that.  16 years later I built an iPhone app based for the 2010 World Cup, again all about match stats and information.  I forgot about that connection at the time and it certainly wasn’t intentional, but I guess my 30 year old and 11 year old self still have a lot in common.

What advice have you received that you want everyone to benefit from?

Just start. You’ll figure it out.

Thanks Colm for those amazing answers. So glad to have you involved. We are sure he’s one to keep an eye out for.

Handsome and Pretty

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