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Summary:

Twelve-year-old Ethan Duggan got to miss a couple of days of school to promote his new app, LazyHusband, at SXSW. He learned to code using Codecademy, Google and some mentors from VegasTech.

Ethan Duggan
photo: Rick Duggan

Ethan Duggan got the idea for his app one afternoon when he was playing video games after school. “My mom comes home and she has a bunch of dresses, like twenty,” he recalled. “She goes into her room, tries the dresses on, comes back to me, and says ‘How do I look?’ I say she looks great. Then I realized, I have a phone.” Thus LazyHusband — available now, at $0.99, for iOS and Android — was born.

Ethan and I met in the press room of the Austin Convention Center. He was accompanied by his dad, Rick Duggan — a systems director at Zappos — and his mom, Marni Klein. With only a little bit of prompting from his parents, Ethan walked me through the app, which comes with a series of phrases like “No, you don’t look fat.” Users can record their own voices saying the phrases and can add new ones, then play them back in any awkward or boring dress-trying-on situation. LazyKid and LazyWife apps are coming soon. The LazyKid app will include phrases like “Yes, I’ve done my homework,” “I love you,” and, Ethan’s favorite, “one second.”

Ethan’s also working on other apps. Soon he’ll release Bargument, which pulls up fake Wikipedia pages to prove “false facts” to people. (The idea is to use it to trick drunk people in a bar.) “My example is that there are 30,000 seagulls in Africa,” he said.

Ethan spent four months learning to code through Codecademy, then began programming his app. He also got a bunch of help from the Las Vegas tech community. “Geoff Saunders [the cofounder of user authentication app LaunchKey] got me a two-hour crash course in CSS,” Ethan said. “From that, I learned the basics.” George Moncrief, the tech director at Raster Media, helped him learn PhoneGap. “Pretty much a lot of people, like ten people, have helped me from VegasTech,” Ethan said.

I asked Ethan what he thought of SXSW (which he got to miss a couple of days of school to attend). He described his experience as “a blessing and a curse at the same time. The good thing is, I get promoted, I get to talk to a lot of cool people, I get to get a lot of connection and stuff. The curse is that I have to do a lo-o-t of walking.”

His tip for other first-time SXSW attendees: “Bring your back backpack one-third full. You will leave with it completely packed.”

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  1. That is really…really dumb.

  2. While I am pleased for the young man I worry that there are politicians out there who will thing that this can be some sort of norm.

  3. Very smart kid! Good luck him with future apps too!
    I wonder if you saw ibuildapp.com? They offer to built mobile customized apps. I also tried to pick up some coding and watched few courses of HTML and Python-tutorials so my coding skills were very basic. They also have huge online community with tons of design and templates. I mean nowadays coding is a commodity in some sense, so if you need something simple and fast there are tons of tools like ibuilapp.

  4. Paul what exactly is preventing this from being some sort of norm? Kids should learn actual usable skills they can use in a job during their schooling once they hit a certain age. Mentors in those fields helping out, teaching courses on stuff like this etc would go a lot further than learning geometry and creative writing.

    1. A1. Not everyone’s Dad works at Zappos
      A2. I don’t deny that kids should acquire useable skills for work but hey let’s here it for geometry; I think you will find that an understanding of such helps an understanding of life … Margaret Thatcher was convinced of the merits of the Higgs Boson in one side of paper see http://vixra.org/abs/1209.0081
      A3 (reprise on A1) Such stories as these raise expectations amongst the governing classes that programming et al is simple enough for a 12 yr old (the young man’s head start will be omitted downstream). I am not sure if it was the input of Eric Schmidt that has led to the collapse in the UK Comp Sci teacher uptake (http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6320900) but to agree with you a lot of “mentors .. stuff” is required; otherwise many teachers would have come forward for retraining.

      So in summary I was waving the flag for let’s not get too excited as this, unless education improves beyond all recognition, will not be the norm despite the best efforts of all concerned.

  5. Well done to the kid, good luck for future apps too!

  6. Good luck for the young guy, great success! A finished & shipped product at the age of 12 – great :-)
    Regards

  7. Not sure what to say. But one thing is for sure, he’s got an opportunity.

  8. hardly worthy of a story…

  9. Ganesh Baloo Monday, March 18, 2013

    if some one can tell me what were the tools Ethan used to build his Lazy Husband app, I’d be grateful. Mail me at lambodara@rediffmail.com.
    Thanks,
    Looking forward to hearing from you,
    With best regards,
    Ganesh

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