BURST OFFICE – BOSTON, MA

I had the pleasure of sitting down with the EVP and Chief Technology Officer at Burst, Jay Ramadorai. Jay, who has been with Burst for over three years, took me behind the scenes of the development of this incredible mobile platform, and shared his thoughts on where Burst and mobile app technology is heading.

Do you have any prior development or coding experience?

Yes. In total, 25 years of technology experience before joining Burst.   For the past 10 years I was responsible for building teams within companies that built both internet and mobile products.  Before that, I did a number of of internet and database projects for big companies.

What language/programming tools did you use to develop Burst?

Burst is built on a stack of multiple open-source technologies, and hosted on Amazon’s web services.  We use Simple Storage Service (S3) to store media, and have a relational store for the customer data.  Additionally, we use Java to write the business logic, and expose it through a RESTful API.  We have specialized stacks for media handling – transcoding, computer vision and machine learning – and have many servers in each layer with load balancers in front. The apps are developed using Objective C and Java.

Did you have to learn any new technology in order to make Burst work?

We, as a team, had to learn two new types of technology to make Burst work – video and mobile.  The mobile side wasn’t too difficult since we had some experience with this.  However, deep video internals were something that we had yet to experience.

We had to understand the different flavors of video on different devices, and what it takes to do transcode them to various other standard formats.  In order to do effects on multiple platforms, we really had to dig deep into the internals of video. We had to learn how to make video play nice with different client and server technologies.  We had deal with the vagaries of poor and changing connectivity on the mobile device while handling large volumes of network traffic. We now have a lot of cutting edge technology around video; a lot of other companies haven’t yet learned how to do the things that we have mastered.

Additionally, we have a unique computer vision complex that allows us to auto group videos based on similarities between videos.  For example, you don’t need meta-tags to find a certain video, instead you can search according to a similar color within a video or a transition that can be found across various videos.

Likewise, we have a montage feature that is available to Burst users, which is based upon the smart stack technology that we developed.  The montage is a highlight reel of a bubble, based upon a number of factors including a cool feature we have that is called “Wow markers”, which allows creators and viewers to mark points or portions of a video they think are Wow!

We learned a lot while building Burst.

 What was the most challenging aspect of developing Burst?

Along with learning video internals, one of the more challenging aspects was learning how to handle large video files on a mobile device. Typically, a mobile device does not have a solid persistent connection to the network.  We had to refine the technology to get video off the phone and into the cloud over an erratic network.  And, additionally, we have to keep updating this process as technology changes, to stay at the top performance level.

Do you have any recommendations/advice for people that want to create their own app?

The most challenging aspect is not the technical development, but finding the right product/market fit quickly, and then the strategy of getting it out into the market without busting the bank.  Young developers often think that, if they know or learn the technology, they could just build the next Instagram.  However, what they need to understand is that it’s not just about developing the app.  They will need to quickly and cost effectively learn what the market is telling them and then adapt their app to fit the market.  It is often the product market fit that makes the app, not the technology. The technology however can break the app, if it is not built right.

In your opinion, where is app development going?

There are a couple of major trends  going on with App development – thinner apps and wearables.  HTML5 and javascript frameworks have come on strong on mobile, and more and more developers will develop quicker, lighter and ultimately more functional apps on the mobile web, than natively. Native apps however will dominate the wearables space. Prime examples are mobile watches and Google glass.  We, as a population, are shifting towards incorporating connectivity into everything that we use.  We enjoy being “plugged-in” and expect to be able to access the Internet from not only wherever we are but on whatever we are using, whether it be watches, glasses, or even clothes, shoes or appliances.  I suspect that app development on smartphones will become a small part of developing apps for the Internet of Everything.

What motivated you to learn how to build apps?

In 2008 I had just finished building the core of Vocalocity and was ready to start something new.  At this point, the Android and the iPhone app ecosystems were being launched, and it seemed clear to me that this would be a platform that would enable small but powerful and hvery useful computers to be placed in everyone’s pocket.  Mobile app development emerged from this and I saw it as the perfect opportunity to become involved in this revolution.  I firmly believe that mobile apps help complete a solution in our technological world, but I do not believe that they are the entire solution. Above all, I think mobile apps put the power of the Cloud at your fingertips.

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