Guest Post: Mobile March Madness!

Today’s blog post is a guest article by ND’s own Tom Klimek. Manager of Network Services.  Tom is a big basketball fan, and in his copious spare time … 

bracket_2014It’s an annual rite of passage every spring.  The NCAA announces the field of teams for the tournament and the office pools begin.  I love college sports, particularly football and basketball and while I still partake in March Madness pools, this time of year also brings a fair amount of stress.  Since 2009 a friend and I have been developing apps for college football and March Madness.  It all started with an idea for a college football app, something I could see myself using throughout the season to keep track of schedules, scores, rankings, stadium seating charts, etc..

One day during a game of pick-up basketball at Rec Sports I shared the idea with a friend who liked the idea and offered to help. My first question was “Are you a C programmer “ ? He answered “yes” and I said OK let’s get started. At this point neither one of us have ever used a Mac nor programmed using an object oriented language. We proceeded to purchase a Mac Mini, establish a developer account with Apple, learn the SDK, and refine our idea.  About 7 months later and just in time for the college football season we launched our first app “Gridiron 2009”.  The app was well received and we were even fortunate enough to get featured by Apple for a few weeks to give us added exposure.

bracket_poolNext we were on to college basketball with a similar app and toward the end of the season we decided to create an app for the tournament originally named “Bracket Madness”.  The first version of this simply allowed you to enter a bracket and track you progress along with updates to final scores. The app was very popular selling as much as the college football app all season in one week’s time.

 

app_storeThe following year we decided to add pool functionality to the app. We anticipated that this would make the app more desirable but it also added a lot of complexity. Now in addition to maintaining an app and web site, we added an SQL database and server side scripting, along with scoring the brackets. There was a lot more that could go wrong and nearly no time to recover. It takes over a week to get an app approved even if it is just an update, and the window for sales is just over a week. A bad launch would lead to negative reviews and possibly doom the app. Hence the stress. The name was changed to “Men’s Bracket” after the NCAA claimed that “Bracket Madness” was a derivative of March Madness and over the years we have updated and improved the app, added an iPad version, and a Women’s version.

It is consistently in the top 5 Paid Sports Apps during the tournament and has been the #1 iPad Paid Sports App during the tournament for several years and this year for a brief time it was the #1 iPhone Paid Sports App.

Innovation happens all around us, and we thought it would be nice to feature Tom’s story during March Madness. If you’d like to get in touch with Tom you can email him at tklimek [AT] nd [DOT] edu. Good luck to everyone with your bracket competitions!  Here’s a link to an earlier story about the Gridiron app:

http://ndsmcobserver.com/2011/09/app-developers-achieve-top-rankings/

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