An interview with Anders Kierulf of SmartGo Inc.

On December 18, 2012

Welcome to our brand new section! Have you always wondered what your fellow developers think about development? Do you wonder who is behind that neat game? Do you want to know what are the tools of the trade? We are here to help!

Our first interview is with Anders Kierulf, sole developer at SmartGo Inc. We have reviewed his awesome SmartGo Kifu, one of the leading go apps for iPad and iPhone.

Who!? Anders Kierulf has been working on Go software for over 20 years, with an interlude as a development lead on PowerPoint. He won the US Othello Championship in 1992, and happened to invent SGF, the file format commonly used to store Go (and some other board games) game records.

What’s on iPhone: When did you start to develop iOS apps? What was the main drive you had back then?

Anders Kierulf: I was working on the Mac version of SmartGo in March 2008 when Apple announced the iOS SDK. I started work on a version of SmartGo for the iPhone that day, as I knew I wanted a collection of problems and pro games in my pocket, and figured other Go players would too.

W: What is your software product that makes you proudest?

A: I’d say SmartGo Books. To get the maximum benefit from most Go books, you’d like to have a Go board next to you and play through the sequences; in practice, you rarely do. Being able to play through the moves in the figures really helps. And getting the interactive feedback in problem books is a game changer.

I’m happy to have gotten all the main publishers of English-language Go books onboard, and the current selection of 48 books is way more than I expected to offer at this time. And more good books are in the works.

W:W: How come you jumped into iOS development before getting a Mac OS version of SmartGo?

A: I thought the iOS version would just be a quick detour before going back to the Mac version. Thanks to the success of the iOS version, I took more time to push that one forward. Then shortly after I got started on the Mac version again Apple released the iPad, again preempting Mac work. And all the while I keep learing more about iOS and OS X, so my plans for the Mac version keep evolving too.

W: Are you a solo developer or do you have a team? What is your development methodology?

A: Solo. I’m licensing the game and problem collections, and I have help converting the books to SmartGo Books format, but I’m responsible for all the development.

No formal development methodology. All the foundation code is written in C++, which is shared among the different platforms; the user interface code is in Objective-C.

W: If you met your younger self for 5 minutes what iOS development tip would you share?

A: Make the iPad version universal from the beginning. I expected the iPad and iPhone versions to diverge over time, but I’ve managed to keep them very close, and SmartGo Kifu is now universal.

W: And following the previous question, what learning resource would you give your past self?

A: Go to WWDC. I didn’t go until last year, and will definitely try to go again this year.

W: Do you have a day job aside from iOS development?

A: No, SmartGo is what I do.

W: And what are your hobbies? We’ve heard some odd rumours about running and juggling… Care to elaborate?

A: Joggling = juggling while running. The rhythm of juggling three balls matches the rhythm of moving your arms while running, so it’s much easier than it looks. It’s better exercise, but most importantly, it makes running a lot more fun.

I also play Ultimate Frisbee, another way to make running more fun. Getting enough exercise is crucial in this kind of job.

W: Anything else you’d like to share with fellow developers and readers?

A: If you enjoy strategy games, learn to play Go. The rules are simple, the strategy is complex — there’s a reason this game has been played for thousands of years.

Are you a developer? Are you interested in being featured here? Drop us an email at [email protected] and we’ll see what we can do!