Aniruddha Loya is the author of Build Customized Apps with Amazon Honeycode; we got the chance to sit down with him and find out more about his experience of writing with Packt.
Q: What are your specialist tech areas?
Aniruddha: Honeycode, scalable distributed systems and services,
Q: How did you become an author for Packt? Tell us about your journey. What was your motivation for writing this book?
Aniruddha: I was reached out to by Acquisition Editor at Packt looking for someone with experience with Honeycode. I was already working on identifying newer opportunities in the market to gather some new experiences as well as build further on the current and this opportunity to write the book on Honeycode came up as both – new experience of being an author and writing a book while being able to bank on the learnings and experience I had gathered as part of the team that launched Honeycode.
Q: What kind of research did you do, and how long did you spend researching before beginning the book?
Aniruddha: Having worked on Honeycode myself, the research was primarily about defining the high-level outline of the book and took about a week to finalize.
Q: Did you face any challenges during the writing process? How did you overcome them?
Aniruddha: The biggest challenge was finding the time to write. When committing I was working on finding my next adventure outside of Honeycode team and it ended up being outside of Amazon too. I had to request deadline extensions for a few times, negotiate with my family to take out some time from that bucket as well as burning some midnight oil on a few weekends.
The other was to maintain a consistent voice and flow through the chapters as these were written during a span of more than 10 months. I had to often open an older draft to see how I had structured some sections. Also, the technical review first by the Packt team and then by my reviewer also made me go through the same chapter a few times and stay in sync with my previous deliverables.
Q: What’s your take on the technologies discussed in the book? Where do you see these technologies heading in the future?
Aniruddha: I believe in the future of no-code / low-code platforms like Honeycode. Building a mobile or a web application has many moving parts and not everyone can build one for themselves and this is true even for those with technical background. The other aspect is privacy, when you use an app build by anyone but yourself, you do not know how is your data being used. With apps build using these platforms, the data resides in some storage service offered by these platform providers and they are for large cases not mining it. Moreover, since the apps are diverse, so is the data and therefore, not as meaningful for them to mine compared to when you are using an app for a singular well-defined purpose.
The future of these platforms depends on realizing the true audience and catering to them. One of the examples I often quote to people is to look at the three offerings from Microsoft – we have Excel, then Access and then SQL Server. At the core of it one can generalize all to be a database with varying levels of restrictions on how the data is stored and accessed. And it is that varying level of restrictions or the lack of it makes Excel the easiest to use for everyone while SQL Server being built for the professionals, provides more controls, restrictions and scale. Access has served two purposes – support the middle tier applications that required a database but not the full scale version or as a stepping stone for migrating to one of the full blown databases. I see these low-code platform to be the Excels and at most the Access(es), and believe they should stay such.
And therefore, the biggest risk I see for these platforms is the desire to make it a platform for all skill levels and use cases by continuing to increase features and complexity. Typically, complexity increases with every new feature added to the system and typically the ease of use (here it refers to being able to build apps easily) goes down with it. There is a fine balance between the needed set of features and ease of use and each platform has to discover that.
Q: Why should readers choose this book over others already on the market? How would you differentiate your book from its competition?
Aniruddha: This to my knowledge is the first publication on Honeycode and covers the topics with Citizen developers as the primary audience. It provides a framework for them to understand the concepts of building apps without necessarily understanding the details of databases and data modeling, method invocations, parameter passing, and such.
Q: What are the key takeaways you want readers to come away with from the book?
Aniruddha: By the end of this book, readers with or without tech background would have built and deployed more than five mobile and web applications by themselves and will find themselves confident to continue building more. And more importantly, these are not just some test applications but can also be shared with friends and colleagues who they wish to collaborate with.
Q. What advice would you give to readers learning tech? Do you have any top tips?
Aniruddha: Learning tech is lot about fundamentals – knowing algorithms, datastructures, databases, and such is essential. However, learning low-code/ no-code has a much lower bar – it requires some visual skills coupled with logic and a basic understanding of organizing data, and can therefore serve as a good starting ground for early results and the boost of motivation one sometimes requires.
Q. Can you share any blogs, websites and forums to help readers gain a holistic view of the tech they are learning?
Aniruddha: Amazon Honeycode Community
Q. How would you describe your author journey with Packt? Would you recommend Packt to aspiring authors?
Aniruddha: Packt team made the whole journey of starting to completing the book very methodical and structured, enabling me to structure my thoughts as well as the book. As a first-time author I had absolutely no clue where to begin writing and what to write, and was stumped by the very first request to provide the outline of the book. It took me sometime to organize my thoughts and prepare an outline but once it was there, rest of the pieces automatically started to fall in place. The different styles, editorial feedback and gentle reminders to keep pushing, all helped me to bring this book to the finish line. Now, I only have one data point but Packt team was of great support to me as a first-time author and I’d certainly recommend them to any aspiring author.
Q. What are your favorite tech journals? How do you keep yourself up to date on tech?
Aniruddha: I typically set up different subscriptions and keep tuning them or shifting to others when they become redundant or stop carrying the useful content in favor of promotions and click-baits. When I need to lookup information on latest topics, I tend to visit TechCrunch, The Hacker News and occasionally articles on HBS, WSJ, Wired and Bloomberg. I have also tried tuning to podcasts but those have been a few hits and lot more misses.
Q. How did you organize, plan, and prioritize your work and write the book?
Aniruddha: In all honesty, planning and prioritizing the book was the most difficult part of the journey. I had to borrow time from my family, couple of hours at a time to keep chugging along. I’ve done a lot of writing sitting behind the driver’s seat in a parking lot when taking my son to his classes and waiting there. I wrote while travelling and on one occasion in the parking lot of a cineplex baby-sitting my youngest while the older one enjoyed the movie with his mother. The key however was to focus on one chapter at a time and try to stick to the deadlines as much as possible.
Q. What is that one writing tip that you found most crucial and would like to share with aspiring authors?
Aniruddha: A well thought through outline is the best help you can give to yourself.