Ian Jennings believes in the power of building things.
“I think it’s really important to build something, for the money or not for the money, especially while in college,” Jennings said.
Jennings has been building hacks for a long time. In July, he released Monocle, a Reddit app for Google Glass that was among the first third-party apps available in the Glassware store.
“I’m a huge Reddit addict, and I was really interested in Glass. At the time I came up with the idea, there were only, like, 20 apps in the Glass store. I wanted to be able to make the Reddit app for a new platform,” Jennings said.
A former Information Technology and Informatics major, Jennings graduated from Rutgers in 2012 and now works full-time as a developer at PubNub, a data stream network that allows developers to build realtime applications. He was one of three developers behind Hacker League, a student-built platform for organizing hackathons that he sold to the Intel-owned Mashery last year.
Jennings’s approach to Reddit is reflected in the app’s name. Monocle is a reference to the popular “like a sir” meme, which is all about being fancy and refined.
Reddit, which describes itself as “the front page of the Internet,” is notorious for being an easy way to turn a minute into an hour. The virtually endless feed of memes and links makes it hard to stop browsing.
But while having a Reddit feed directly in front of your eyes might sound like the best way to spend more time “Redditing” than ever, it turns out that isn’t exactly the case with Monocle.
Monocle sends an update only once an hour. Instead of watching a constant stream of new cat “GIFs” blasted to your Glass, you receive more sporadic updates.
Jennings said this serves a distinct purpose.
“This is for the people who are missing out on the most popular stuff,” he said.
Jennings’s inspiration for building Monocle is a great example of the hacker philosophy and community that’s so strong at Rutgers.
Hackers don’t make apps, websites or services like Hacker League for the money, at least not at first. They make things because they want to because they’re interested in what they’re making or because they want to solve a problem.
“Building stuff for experience and exposure is cool,” Jennings said.
Owing to that, Jennings does everything he can to work on side projects that interest him, even while working full time. He does admit it’s more difficult to keep building things while having a full-time job, though.
Jennings is now building something to make that easier. His current side project is a developer-focused version of About.me, a website that lets users create a simple but informative “about me” page.
Real-world experience is very important for aspiring developers, Jennings said. He credits Mote.io, a remote control for a web browser that he built as a personal project, for getting him his job at PubNub.
He advises students to work on personal projects while still in school.
“As a student, it’s great to build your portfolio while you have the time. Portfolios are really important — having a showcase is one of the most important things you can do as a student developer,” Jennings said.