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tl;dr: I’m starting a full-time job today doing iOS development at rev.com. I’m not moving out to California. I’ll still be talking at conferences and possibly doing more books.


Perfect Timing

I’ve been working independently since 2002. A lot of that time, I’ve had long-term engagements, like with O’Reilly and Sun editing java.net, which was practically a full-time job for four years, just bolstered with book-writing so it wasn’t my only job (since that matters to the IRS). Since switching to iOS in 2008, most of my work has been shorter-term, though there have been some gigs that lasted six months or more, which was nice and steady.

That said, things have slowed in the last 18 months. In case you haven’t kept up with my take on how things are going for iOS indie developers and consultants:

iOS consulting market, circa 2014 (picture of the Ball Pit from DashCon 2014

State of the iOS consulting market, circa 2014

So, I’ve been looking around since Spring for something that can keep me more consistently busy, provided I don’t have to move and the work is interesting. I had an interview with a major video streaming service that didn’t work out because they wouldn’t take a remote worker, and another with a promising music streaming service that decided to launch Android first (yes, it really does happen).

Then I got contacted by a company in San Francisco that had seen my blog…


Since Everything I Watch Has Subtitles Anyways…

Rev.com is a company based on setting up a marketplace and a collaboration system for specific services that can be delivered by remote workers. Among the services they already offer are translation, transcription, and captioning.

A bunch of things interest me about this. Let’s start, as I often do, with an anime reference:

Captioned scene from Rumbling Hearts

Notice the captions on this scene. This is from Rumbling Hearts, which I bought off iTunes back in 2007 or so.

Thing is, it didn’t have captions when I bought it. And the iTunes files on my Mac Pro don’t have captions. It only has captions when streamed from the cloud to an iOS device, including Apple TV. Meaning the captions were added years after the fact, in a sidecar file.

And that matters because, increasingly, captions matter. In the US, the FCC is expanding its captioning requirements. Interestingly, streaming programming that comes from TV must also be captioned for streaming. Inevitably, as viewing moves primarily to IP-based delivery, we’re going to expect most or all the video we watch online to be captioned, not just for the deaf, but for the convenience of watching TV at night without waking the kids (as many have observed, making stuff more accessible generally makes it more valuable for everyone). Streaming Media‘s Jan Ozer has a nice article on captioning/subtitling IP video in the latest issue, also pointing out that getting your video’s audio track converted to text can be a real boost for SEO.

And who’s going to do all that captioning? Automated techniques always seem like they’re five years away from viability. It’s a job that’s going to need people, and lots of them. Are they all going to be in offices at the big media companies? How are the little guys going to get their stuff captioned?

Here’s a better idea. Anyone with a computer, headphones, and (hopefully) a foot control can caption stuff. All they need to do is watch the video and type the words. Heck, I actually used to do transcription every now and then as a fill-in job at CNN way back; sitting in a cubicle with a VTR, a terminal, and a foot control. In 2014, you don’t need to be at CNN Center in Atlanta to caption CNN’s stuff.

So what Rev offers is two-fold. To the video producer, they offer captioning at a set rate per minute. Send in your video, get back timed captions.

The other side of the deal is that they offer work-at-home types a place to get work. Sign up, get assignments, work with their tools, turn it around, get paid. Everyone wins.


“Day before yesterday I saw a rabbit, and yesterday a deer, and today, you.”

And, true to their mission of supporting remote workers, Rev is fine with remote workers developing these tools and marketplaces. Many of their developers are distributed all around the country. In fact, the CTO who contacted me lives in Austin, not San Francisco where the home office is. The remote workers come in to the home office periodically, but they’re not on a relocation deadline.

Meanwhile, as I’ve watched a lot of my friends accept permanent positions in the Bay Area, they’ve all come up against a painful truth:

In the Bay Area, this house would cost $3 million, and would be a one-hour drive to work

In the Bay Area, this house would cost $3 million, and would be a one-hour drive (each way) to work

A friend of mine recently DM’ed me to say he’d turned down a job with Apple. Key to the decision: the fact that any house they’d want to live in as a family with two children was double to triple the price of their current home, and 45 minutes minimum from work.

My house in Grand Rapids is about 5,000 sq. ft., on a little more than 1/3 acre. We back up to woods that provide us regular visits from wildlife like rabbits, squirrels, turkeys, turtles, deer, and more. The wildest life in San Francisco is those idiots who protest at the Google Bus stops. The public schools here are excellent. We have one of the top 30 must-see museums in the world, Meijer Gardens, a mile and a half down the street (and they also have a great summer concert series). The Apple Store is closer to me now than any of the Atlanta locations were when I lived down there (I’ve actually biked to it). And a 45-minute drive to work? I don’t think I can find two points in the Grand Rapids metro area that are 45 minutes apart. Drive 45 minutes east and I’d practically be in Lansing; 45 minutes west and I’d be in Lake Michigan. Also, we are officially Beer City, USA. Oh, and this week is ArtPrize.

I’m sorry, Bay Area, you don’t begin to compete with Grand Rapids. I’m not leaving.

Thank goodness I don’t have to. New gig stays connected with a daily video standup meeting — I got a glimpse of it during my interviews in SF and saw at least six remote employees on screen — along with the usual tools of remote collaboration: git, Basecamp, etc. Why lose great potential employees to the miseries of Bay Area relocation? Rev has figured out they don’t have to.

So, that’s the parts of the job I can talk about publicly. Obviously, there’s more. I wouldn’t have taken this if it didn’t pose some interesting development challenges, in the kinds of things that I find compelling. Check back in a year and see what we’ve shipped.

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