Durham student takes a selfie every day for over a year and makes an app so you can too

You can track every wrinkle

Hild Bede third year Jack Schofield got much attention when a video showing all the selfies he’d taken for over a year was viewed 82,000 times on The Student Bible. The video was made with Face the Day, an app the 21-year-old made to let people track how their appearance changes over time.

We had a chat with Jack about the process of making Face the Day, getting it on the app store, and how he manages to run it whilst doing his Electronic Engineering degree.

How did you come up with the idea for the app?

“In a way, we are all already documenting our aging. Every tagged photo on Facebook, Instagram or your social media of choice, is building up a digital profile of your growth.

“I have always loved the idea that my kids, grandkids, or any number of future generations would be able to know so much more about their ancestors’ lives than we can today, and Face the Day came out of the idea of wanting to document that more completely.

“Something about the thought of a great great grandchild that might never have even met me being able to watch my life unfold from age of 19 and onwards really gripped me.”

How do you want people to use the app?

“The obvious way to use Face the Day is to take daily photos so that you can see how you age with time, but what I’m really excited about is seeing what innovative projects people get up to which are completely uncharted.

“You can have as many projects as you want with Face the Day so while taking daily selfies you could also, for example, take a daily photo of your garden making a video of it blooming into life as spring comes around.

“Other projects that I reckon would be seriously interesting to watch would be the healing of an injury or wound, the life (or death) of one of those cacti that everyone seems to buy in freshers week, or seeing someone from the start to the end of an intensive new fitness regime.”

How do you handle your work and running an app?
“Poorly. When you have the choice between cracking on with a problem sheet or cracking on with something you actually enjoy doing, the problem sheets are always going to take a back seat.

“Much like a painting, an app is never really finished, you just get to a point where you say to yourself, ‘that’ll do, I’m not ashamed to have my name stuck to that.’

“To keep the two going side by side just requires discipline to pull myself away from development, or any number of the other distractions that Durham provides.”

How did you raise the money for the app and have time to do this fundraising whilst studying?

“If you write the code yourself, it’s really not that expensive to develop an app. For iOS apps all you need is a developer’s license and Xcode which is Apple’s developer environment and is a free macOS app.

“The real barriers to building an app are time and expertise, not money. If you were to get an app built for you, that’s when the costs start racking up. If I had just been paid minimum wage per hour of work I’ve put into Face the Day I reckon I would be owed around £2k.”

How did you actually go about getting it made into an app and into the app store?

“Despite all Apple’s sins, they really do have a sleek user experience. The process of uploading an app to the App Store is really very simple. First you archive your code in Xcode, upload the binary to the App Store, then get together all your screenshots, app description and app icon, and finally click submit for review.

“Half a week later your phone buzzes and you get a notification saying ‘The status for your app, Face the Day, is now Ready for Sale.’ And wow is that an exciting moment.

“I got that email half way through an embarrassingly empty lecture and so regrettably spent the next forty minutes managing the social media storm that I tried to brew up.”

What’s your next plan? Do you have any other app ideas or ideas on how to expand this app out?

“There are plenty of features I’m planning on adding into Face the Day, one of the ones I’m most excited about is a theme tune written by Joanne Wilson.

“The beauty of the music I’m adding is that I own all the rights to it, and therefore there will be no copyright claims on it. Other things I’m working on are backwards compatibility for iOS 9 and below, a much neater and smoother user interface and a better notification system.

“In terms of other apps, I plan to knuckle down and get a degree sorted first, but I’m definitely looking to continue developing.”

What advice would you have for other students who want to do something similar to you?

“The absolute best way to learn how to make apps is to try and make one. From my experience, someone’s ability to code is directly proportional to their ability to google effectively.

“Set yourself the aim of building a really simple app like flappy bird, then every single problem you have, just take a few minutes to google it.

“Once you’ve committed yourself to that project the only other advice I can give is to persevere. It won’t be fun for the first few weeks. You will have typed the exact same thing as the annoyingly talented twelve-year-old on the YouTube video you’re following and it will work for her and not for you. But a year or two later, if you keep running the race, keep fighting the good fight, then you will have a new thoroughly worthwhile skill under your belt.”

If only there were a really good way to document your progression…

You can download Face the Day here.