Journalist develops 'Push' open source mobile app for small news organizations

Developer and journalist Christopher Guess set out to solve some of the bigger mobile distribution problems of small, online publications.

October 28, 2017 by Wendy Cohen


By Brett Dickerson, Oklahoma City Free Press

Developer and journalist Christopher Guess set out to solve some of the bigger mobile distribution problems of small, online publications.

From an intense experience working with small, online, developing news publications in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Guess could see that traditional mobile apps simply did not serve the small startup publication's needs.

The outcome of those experiences was a "push" open-source mobile app platform.

His big concept, and the subject of a fellowship this year at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, is to provide an open-source mobile app platform that has the same advantages that WordPress has as a content management system.

WordpPress doesn't provide a finished product, but it shortens the route to developing one by providing an extensive framework the publishers can modify for the outcome desired.

Guess was blunt about the problems with some of the large, free social media avenues of distributing content.

"If social media platforms are not directly charging, then they are costing you in other ways," Guess said.

The problem

He says the current mobile app development arch is very similar to the early days of website development, where each new site was custom built from a blank page with JavaScript and HTML.

That hard-coding experience made web development very expensive and time-consuming for both the developer and the client. Once WordPress provided a platform, then development was shortened and far less expensive. Developing a website became more an issue of design and then inserting content.

He pointed out that current mobile app development is like the early days of web development.

Web developers would perfect chunks of code that they knew would work and then reuse them on new projects. Mobile app developers are doing the same thing.

Guess says that the Push platform makes mobile app development far less expensive than the typical $30,000 – $50,000 price tag; shortens the development time from six months to a couple of weeks; and is far less confusing for everyone.

He says the key problem with web apps is that the reader needs to be connected to the web to access them.

Guess says the app provides:

• Current headlines

• Most recent stories

• The ability to sort stories by categories

• Offline caching of stories

• Search through entire CMS history

• Sharing of articles on social media

• Analytic tracking

• The ability to receive push notifications that direct user to stories and solicit in-app donations

The path for content will be from the CMS to the Push server, then out to either the native iPhone or the native Android apps.

I asked Guess after the presentation why he has made this open-source instead of proprietary where he could make much more money.

"I'm a real bleeding heart," he said. "I want to fight the good fight and help these small publications any way I can."

Brett Dickerson is Publisher of the Oklahoma City Free Press.

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