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Local reporter develops his own social media app

A technology reporter for The Baltimore Sun has released a social media app for home improvement and “do it yourself” enthusiasts, a venture he hopes will help him better understand mobile app industry.

PHOTO CREDIT: Special to The Daily Record/David Hobby

Gus G. Sentementes’ iPhone app, NestPix, which was released April 17, gives users the ability to take pictures of their home improvement projects and share them with the NestPix Community, as well as through Facebook, Twitter and email.

Sentementes said he spent about five months developing the app with the help of the Baltimore-based design company Wellmade Design Co. LLC, and Austin, Texas-based iOS developer Rebel Vine Studios. That’s a typical time frame for apps with picture sharing and social media integration, according to Mobile App Strategist Chris Cordeiro of Austin-based mobile developer Appiction.

The app is a product of Happy Olive Media LLC, which Sentementes founded. The company and the app are not connected to The Baltimore Sun.

“I thought it would be a really good learning experience to go through this in the first person,” Sentementes said. “As a journalist covering technology, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have done this.”

Sentementes said he used an out-of-state developer to avoid conflicts of interest with Baltimore developers he may later want to cover for The Sun.

Sentementes said he had the idea for the app last year, when he was doing some work on his home and wanted an easy way to keep track of his various projects, but couldn’t find a suitable app or service.

“After weeks and weeks of sort of turning the idea over in my head, I started saying, ‘Hey, why don’t I try and build it?’” Sentementes said.

Sentementes said he still wants to further develop the app as a tool for homeowners to track their projects, hoping it could be a records system for homes analogous to what Carfax Inc. is for cars.

Sentementes said he chose the iOS platform because the data he looked at suggested it was the best platform for monetization, and because he thinks the app would be great for the iPad. Sentementes said he plans to release an iPad version of the app in the next six months.

The app is free and doesn’t have advertisements, but users can purchase extra project folders at 99 cents for a three-pack, and $1.99 for a seven-pack.

However, Sentementes said that could change as he continues to experiment with revenue models in response to data he gathers on the app through analytic tools and feedback.

Technology consultant Chetan Sharma, of Issaquah, Wash.-based Chetan Sharma Consulting, said that’s exactly the right approach to forming a business model around a mobile app.

“You need to be in a continuous cycle of reiteration based on analytics and what the users are telling you,” Sharma said.

Sentementes also plans to blog on about his experiences with the app.

“I’m hoping I can write about doing something like this without necessarily being able to program an app,” Sentementes said. “I think there’s a real interest from people who want to know how to do something like this, and I have first-hand experience.”

Sentementes said he has no intentions of giving up journalism to be a full-time app entrepreneur, but admits if NestPix were to go the way of Instagram, which was sold to Facebook last month for around $1 billion, “I think I would give my two-weeks-notice.”