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Big Omaha – Ninth Division delivers with third rendition of iOs apps

The Big Omaha 2011 iPhone app includes speaker bios, conference schedule and photos. Screenshots from ninthdivision.com.

An ill-timed bout with illness couldn’t stop the Omaha-based team from Ninth Division from delivering the Big Omaha iPhone and iPad apps this year. And if Ninth Division’s Andy Peters and Hasani Hunter have their way, not much should stop them from continuing to churn out Big Omaha apps for the foreseeable future. (Peters, left, and Hunter at Big Omaha 2010. Photo by Malone & Company.)

“We hope to do them,” Peters said of the apps, “until there’s no more Big Omaha conferences.”

As an in-kind sponsor, Ninth Division has developed Big Omaha apps since the conference began three years ago, but this year brought a unique set of challenges for Peters and Hunter. For one, Peters missed significant development time due to illness. Plus, Ninth Division, never content to offer the same old app, endeavored to make substantial changes to its Big Omaha offerings for the third year in a row.

“We make a custom app every year,” Peters said. “It’s not something that, you know, we just hit an easy button … It’s something we try to put a lot of time into every year and try to make it as best as we can with what time we have.”

Added Hunter: “In 2010 it was different (from 2009), and not slightly — it was vastly different. So we figured with 2011 that we would continue that trend and, you know, try to push ourselves so that we don’t give people the same boring old app year after year.”

Primary among the team’s objectives this year was delivering a better experience for iPad users.

“(Last year’s) Big Omaha app ran on iPads, but the experience sucked,” Hunter wrote in a blog post about the development process. “It was embarrassing to say the least and we wanted to make it up to the 2011 attendees.”

Ninth Division produced a Big Omaha iPad app for the first time this year. Screenshot from ninthdivision.com.

So, taking a few cues from an HBO iPad app that caught his eye, Hunter spent four days developing a native iPad app for Big Omaha. The iPhone app, which used some of the code from the iPad app, took about seven hours for Hunter to develop.

For Hunter and Peters, the goals in developing the Big Omaha apps are many and varied. As conference attendees themselves, they hope to contribute something that augments the conference experience.

“I’m an attendee, so I’m as excited as any other attendee to go and see these wonderful speakers speak and be part of the whole experience,” Hunter said. “So I definitely want a tool in place that helps enhance that experience even in the slightest.”

Plus, in improving Big Omaha for conference-goers, Hunter and Peters have found they can improve business prospects for themselves.

“We joke about it a little bit, but it’s pretty true: you know, this is like our marketing budget,” Peters said.

“It gets the name out in a very, you know, kind of bootstrap, kind of pragmatic way. But it also shows you can use it. You know, it’s not just, ‘Hey, Ninth Division’s cool, check them out.’ It’s ‘Hey, look at they app they made for us.’ ”

For an in-depth recap of Ninth Division’s work on this year’s apps and its Big Omaha apps from the last two years, read Hunter’s recap on the Ninth Division blog: “Big Omaha 2011 iOs app

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