The Daily Oat Interviews: Ponu

Ponu Logo

 

Ever wanted to have your news, entertainment, comics, music, and other miscellaneous pony-related things in one convenient, easy-to-use, aesthetically pleasing interface? Kinetiqa, the creator and maintainer of Ponu, agrees with this! To those who don’t have Ponu yet, it is currently available on the Android, and a webapp version ready to be tested here will probably end up becoming part of the iOS market once it is ready. Ponu is also looking for a few helpers, especially those with iOS devices, to help spread the app to more platforms, as Kinetiqa is the only person who works on the app on a consistent basis. The full interview with Kinetiqa is after the break!

Scoota: All right, to start things off, let me formally introduce myself: I am Scootareader, writer for The Daily Oat and user of your app. And you are?

Kinetiqa: I’m Kinetiqa, 2nd year university student living in Vancouver BC, and the creator of the Ponu app.

Scoota: All right! So, from what we’ve established, you have created Ponu, an app that gets news from the common news sites and puts them all into the same convenient interface for users. What are your reasons for starting Ponu?

Kinetiqa: Ponu really started as just a fun side project that I worked on between final exams. I actually started getting involved (obsessed?) in MLP only about a year ago but as I went deeper into the fandom, I found all these great sites and really started discovering all the mind-blowing creations that fans made in their spare time. It seemed like every week I found a new fan-made game or professional quality comic, so an idea started forming. What if I could create an app that would keep me up to date with all these great things?
At the time, I was already extensively using Pulse, which is this really popular news aggregator service, and I thought, why not pulsenewsreader_screen1ponify it? Combined with the long pony hiatus, these factors helped make ideas and designs for the app fall nicely into place and Ponu was born.

Scoota: Interesting… so, you saw the contributions being made to the community, and wanted to make your own doing what you knew you could do?

Kinetiqa: Exactly! I remember reading a comment on a fan site that said, “These ponies drive me to create.” As much as I like to joke about it, the phrase is so true. As a computer science student, I’m more or less expected to work on side projects in my spare time, so Ponu was a fantastic opportunity to combine the best of two worlds. I have worked on a variety of apps and websites before but, as they say, putting ponies into an app just made it incredibly more exciting to build. I guess it’s sort of like a cutie mark – many people contribute to this fandom in their own special way and for me, building an app was just my way of contributing.

Scoota: All right, that about does it… next question: What is your hope for users of the Ponu app?

Kinetiqa: My hope is for users of this app to feel closer to the MLP community. The fandom consists of a vast variety of people from all over the world and if people are like me, they don’t always have the time to constantly check their favorite pony sites everyday. By aggregating articles from all over the MLP community on to the phone, I hope fans everywhere will become better informed, and more part of this ever growing community.

Scoota: So, you aim to let people keep on the go and still keep up on their pony news.

Ponu DevicesKinetiqa: Absolutely! Having ponies everywhere is essentially the ultimate goal.

Scoota: Sounds like the world we all aim to have someday! Next question: Are you aiming to support any additional news sites with your app soon?

Kinetiqa: I love to think that Ponu grows with the community, so yes! We are constantly searching for new news or pony-related sites to add to our feed, and we put a great deal of emphasis on the uniqueness of the site’s content—i.e. Equestria Gaming news—as well as how easily we can adapt our news aggregator. Our upcoming additions include EQBeats as well as several MLP comic sites to improve the selections in those categories. Keep those suggestions coming!

Scoota: That sounds quite optimistic; I know I’ll appreciate the greater music and comic diversity! Are there any new developments in the works for Ponu?

We are excited to announce that we are currently developing a webapp version of Ponu which we hope to package into native apps for iOS, Windows 7/8, and possibly a variety of other platforms. The webapp is undergoing alpha testing, but as a community based app, we wanted to give users the chance to test out the current version on their phones, tablets, or computers at http://secondarytask.com/ponu/app/.
We are also going to be pushing out an update to our central Android app which includes some small performance tweaks and new color themes.

Scoota: So, no massive overhauls of the UI or intermittent app malfunctions we should be expecting?

Kinetiqa: Not at the moment or the near future. At this point, Ponu is a becoming a mature app which we hope to continue to support with minor updates to improve the current quality.

Scoota: Perfect! How rapidly do you see use of this app growing? Are your expectations high for the future?

Kinetiqa: Having really made this app for fun, I’m astounded by the support it’s received so far. Not surprisingly, we have seen a rapid rise in users in the US but I hope to see more users abroad, especially in Canada in the future! As well, I hope users will continue to embrace the app especially now as we slowly migrate to other platforms.

Scoota: I see… do you have much representation from countries outside the US so far?

Kinetiqa: Outside the US, there’s a lot of countries that have about a 3-4% representation of users in our app. Your can really see the diversity of fans as we have traffic coming everywhere from Russia to the UK to Australia. Surprisingly, Poland sits at number two, representing about 4.5% of our app traffic, but still well behind the US at over 60% of our app traffic.

Scoota: Hmm… definitely a goal to improve upon! There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of US viewers, but overseas viewers are a welcome addition as well. Next question: What is the biggest advantage of using an app like Ponu over something like the Equestria Daily app?

EqD AppKinetiqa: Well quite simply, Ponu gives users choice. Ponu aggregates a wide range of contents from across the MLP community, not just from Equestria Daily as their app does. Ultimately, while Equestria Daily is a great site, they can’t cover all everything that’s happening in the community. Ponu allows users to quickly browse through articles from a variety of sources, broken down into a variety of categories, and users can click through the actual sites to read more. Some of the best content I’ve seen comes from smaller sites!

Scoota: Like us! Right? That’s what you meant?

Kinetiqa: I was just going to say that. Your articles are really fun to read!

Scoota: Well, glad to know we have another reader!
All right, this next question comes from personal experience, and it’s one of those little things that I feel can just be improved in some way. Are there any fixes in the works to stop multi-posting of the same article from different sites?

Kinetiqa: I’m glad you brought that up. In fact, the next update for the Android app will ensure that most of these bugs will be fixed. Indeed, this issue comes up more and more as we add new sites to our feed, as big news tends to be reported in a lot of places! We’re also going to adjust our aggregator to check similarity of the articles and keep those of the better quality and/or published first.

Scoota: Glad to hear it! Sounds like you guys really are actively improving your app. And speaking of others… if you’re allowed to tell us, how many people do you currently have working on Ponu? And are you looking for any assistance in further developing Ponu?

Kinetiqa: I am the only one that works full-time on the app. We do however have a few others that have contributed at times to the app either as testers or developers of certain pieces of the app! We would absolutely welcome assistance in further developing Ponu – especially if anyone has iOS or Windows Phone experience as we are lacking skill (and phones) in those areas.

Scoota: So, assistance is welcome! What would be the best way to contact you for those who are interested in helping with further developing the app?

Kinetiqa: By all means, email us at ponunews@gmail.com.
Even if you’re not a developer, we welcome any kind of feedback or indicate to us that you want to be a tester for our app!

Scoota: Brilliant! So, for those who are interested in helping, as well as the curiosity of those reading: How is Ponu built? Do you use a Software Developer Kit or code it from scratch?

The webapp seems to work great on Google Chrome!

The webapp seems to work great on Google Chrome!

Kinetiqa: Ponu was handcrafted from scratch. For those techie people, the design initially started in Photoshop which we eventually moved to the Android development environment in Eclipse – like all Android apps, it is written in Java. Our news aggregator server on the other hand is written in PHP. For our upcoming webapp, that’s basically a website using the jQuery Mobile framework with iScroll4 for certain features, and we plan to use PhoneGap to package them into native apps.

Scoota: So ideally, people with experience in these languages and development environments are desired, but you’ll really take help from anyone who has the resources to do so?

Kinetiqa: Well, I think our Android app is pretty much stable so there won’t be a whole lot of things to work on. But absolutely, get in touch, come up with new ideas, and we’ll see where we can go with it. We don’t bite! And again, if you’d just like to be tester or add your two cents or whatnot, you’re more than welcome to do so!

Scoota: Great! We’ll make sure our news-ponies know that that’s an avenue if they ever tire of newsroom work… provided they can escape the news slave pits. Final question of the evening: If you could impart some words of wisdom to our readers this evening, who would you tell them best pony is?

Picture courtesy of http://jennieoo.deviantart.com/

Picture courtesy of http://jennieoo.deviantart.com/

Kinetiqa: YES! I’ve been waiting for this question all night.
LYRA HEARTSTRINGS. By far. Without a doubt. No question. No arguing. Best pony. Ever. Although, you must disregard the Rainbow Dash background I have plastered across my desktop right now.

Scoota: Ah, sounds like you may have some misgivings about who is best pony.

Kinetiqa: Actually, I went through phases of best pony. It was Fluttershy first, then Spike—he counts as a pony, okay?—then Lyra.

Scootareader: But ultimately, you will fall to Scootaloo as best pony, right?

Kinetiqa: We shall see. It’ll probably happen when Scootaloo gets her cutie mark.

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