Five Minutes With Mike O'Hanlon (hipflask app)
A chat with the creators behind hipflask - a "socially networked gig guide".
Hipflask is an app just about anyone who enjoys doing things that aren't sitting at home and reading books can enjoy. It organises events and gigs coming up around you in a clean, simple, and customisable way, so you can find out quickly/easily what's going on in your neck of the woods, or if you happen to be in a town you know nothing about. We had a chat to one of the brains behind the project - Mike O'Hanlon - to find out a little more about it, which you can download for iPHONE or ANDROID.
First up, we know what hipflask is, but where did the original impetus to build the app come from?
In 2010 myself and Brenton Grove opened a live music venue, The Bird, with the help of a few good mates. Once the pub was open, I became the bookings and promotions guy. A simple, low noise method of seeing what events were happening around town (in other words, a low-spam method to post event details) didn’t really exist so I decided I’d try put a team together to build one.
And how many people/who are the team behind it?
Brooke - Brooke finds cool gigs and people for us to highlight. Brooke is a skateboard master. Honkey nuts fear her. Or maybe it is the other way around, I can’t remember.
Matt - Matt is in charge of all things technical. More importantly, he’s an excellent musician and has an enviable collection of t-shirts.
Ben - Ben is responsible for making sure that we pay our bills. Ben has excellent kebab eating and snapchat skills.
Luke - Luke was hired for his rolling sarcasm and we tolerate his graphic design. He’s made beats for some of my favourite MCs. He’s the sleeper’s sleeper, Mr Luke Pierre.
Michael - Michael is a medical doctor who ran away from the hospital to join our circus. He works from Melbourne now but he’s self taught and is our guy for iOS. Michael is a gent and no that is not a hedge, it is his beard.
Guy - Guy works on our back end and Android development. Guy is a motorcyclist, paramedic and knows things about genetics. Yeah I said back end. Giggidy.
Chris - Chris bats for the other team, which is to say, he knows things about machine learning and A.I. Chris is working on a web version of hipflask that we’re excited about.
In the recent past, we had a couple of legends working with us, Emily, Reid and Richard. Ben pours some of his beer on the footpath for them every time he eats a kebab.
How long has it been in operation for, and what have been some key things you’ve learnt firstly with the app itself?
This version of the app has been around for about a year and a half, but the idea first came up, back in 2011. The main thing that I’ve learnt is that an idea is worth approximately nothing if you don’t have a team that can turn it into reality. There’s a huge focus on founders and entrepreneurs at the moment, and I think we need to look at the world differently if we want to have good lives. The team works really hard and they are all really cool people. Their efforts far outweigh the value of the initial idea and infact, everyone is a part of the conversation that shapes our plans for what new features will make it into the app in the future.
…And and also app development in general over that time?
Woah. Big topic. Developing an app is a big task. If you’re not a programmer (I’m not) it is hard to be alert to the stresses that are banging around in the heads of your team, so it’s important to work with people who you trust. Trusting someone’s core motives means you don’t have to insist that every decision is explained. It’s easy to kill productivity and more importantly, the vibe, if you don’t have trust.
A key question in developing software, is whether to build a team and do it in house our to outsource. If you are outsourcing, do you stay local, or chase the benefits of perhaps working with an Indonesian team? So much of it depends on where you find that one person who you trust, who can manage the task of turning your dream into the product you want it to be.
Developing an app has meant we have to study our own behaviour online and try to understand the behaviour of others. I’ve got to a point where I see a clear difference between healthy and unhealthy use of social media services. Perhaps it’s just me getting older, but I’m more interested in knowing where my friends are going to be, so I can go and meet with them in the flesh and hang out, than I am interested in watching fairy floss videos or trying to make people think that I’m cool.
Through the hipflask app have you been able to grow other ideas for other apps?
Ideas come up and sometimes they get built, but largely, we try to keep focussed on our A-game.
Download your free low-key high-brow underground out-n’-about event finder. *Made in Perth. App store > http://apple.co/12XnhZnAndroid > http://bit.ly/1plwrbPPosted by hipflask on Monday, February 8, 2016
The ginormous beast that is Facebook obviously has a very strong hold on people in terms of how they get information, what benefit is there for people to draw themselves away from it and use your App to get their events info?
Facebook is obviously an entire ecosystem, you can get a lot of utility from it, but it can also suck you in. A one-minute task is often accompanied by 15 minutes of time wasting. As well as giving you more detailed filters to prioritise gigs that match what you are actually looking for, hipflask will never lure you into a timewarp of cat videos. Facebook judges it’s success by how much time you spend on the app. At hipflask, we judge our success by how little time you spend on the app. We want you to open the app, find a gig that interests you, maybe you share it with a friend, then you put your phone in your pocket and stay engaged with the world around you, where the birds, the bees and importantly, all of the honey, resides.
Will hipflask always be a free app? And what are the pros and cons of making your app free?
Yes. The pros of having a free app are that it is much easier to ask someone to download it. The con, is of course, that you have to work out some other way of making the app pay for itself without turning into a can of spam.
What do you want to see the app become in the coming years?
As far as features go, we’ll continue to refine the idea of how we apply filters and sorting functions to list events in an intelligent order.
We want to be the go-to service for information about events that are happening around you and a platform where entertainment options are presented to you in order of their merits, rather than in order of their PR budget. We’re stoked about working with all the existing people in the industry and we see a future where we help connect everything together.
Hipflask is working to try to ensure that the most visible entertainment options, are the best local entertainment options.
We’ve got a big task ahead of us, to stay cool as we grow larger. The evolution of how we all consume information is an exciting thing to watch and to be a part of. More importantly, as a team, we want to stay together and continue to develop here in our home town. Watching the team grow, as individuals as well as in size, is a cool thing.
How does one get their event on hipflask – is it as simple as having it listed on Facebook?
Hmmm… to an extent. If users have given hipflask Facebook permission, they can see all public Facebook events that they and their friends are attending. So listing your event on FB will mean your mates who have hipflask and connected to FB, can see it. If you wanted the entire hipflask community to see your event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We're on the pathway to begin introducing suggested content from our users.