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Q&A with Max Seelemann

Co-founder of The Soulmen

I’m the co-founder of The Soulmen, where I do development, manage every-day business and try to keep everyone focused. Our main product is the writing environment Ulysses for Mac and iPad, which you can find here:

What inspired you to become a developer?

I grew into it, there wasn’t much decision there. I got interested in computers during early elementary school and convinced my parents to give me one of their old Macintoshs. I started by drawing scenes with MiniCAD 4, which I then turned into little sequences with Macromedia Director 3. That happened to be scriptable, which I discovered and got a book about it. Then I started doing simple games. From there I never stopped making apps. They got more serious over time, I learned more languages, and together with my co-founder Marcus we did the original Ulysses in 2003. From there on I’d consider myself being a developer – i.e. someone making software more than three people ever used.

What tools do you use to organize your work?

For development we’ve become big fans of the Atlassian stack: JIRA (+Agile) for ticket management and release planning, Stash for code hosting and reviews.

In the pre-launch weeks (the only time of the year when we have firm deadlines), we tend to use Asana to keep track of what remains to be done until when.

Other than that I mostly just use my email inbox: emails that are in my inbox require me acting on something. Inbox zero means nothing to do (which barely happens ;-)).

Everything else is inside my brain, which I hope will serve me well for a couple more years. I’m actually pretty good at remembering stuff that I find interesting, contrary to remembering everything else which I’m extremely horrible at.

What is your ideal work environment?

My current desk/office probably. I’ve two 27” screens, a comfortable chair and can have look outside the window from my spot. Most team members are in the same room so we have very short communication cycles and can drink beer together on occasions.

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Where does your work inspiration come from?

The biggest part of creative work (thinking of things) is done by my partner Marcus, so we’d have to ask him – he’s my primary source. I also look at a lot of other apps, and we get tons of tons of messages from users that ask for something to be added to the apps. We keep track of everything and then review what people wanted, spinning new ideas from there.

Who are the developers you admire most?

Probably all the successful indie companies that are quite similar to ours. From years of experience, I know how incredibly hard it is to ship great software on a sustained basis. To name a few: PanicCultured Code (Things)Pixelmator TeamThe Omni GroupBoinx Software or Bloom Built (Day One). Most of them were around and already well-known when we started, and I absolutely admire that they still are.