Barrie Dener found herself with a lot of time on her hands when her doctor prescribed bed rest after a medical procedure. Instead of relaxing and watching movies, the 50-year-old software consultant decided to spend her time wisely.
“At first it sounded like a good idea. I thought, ‘Bed rest? Awesome! A vacation.’ By the second or third day, it gets really old. I got bored,” Dener said.
Dener makes her living teaching nurses and doctors how to use medical records software. She’s also done tech support professionally. That made her more familiar with computers than an average 50-year-old.
“I had always wanted to create an app,” she said. “You’re always hearing about apps and I thought I’d love to make one.”
By that second or third day in bed, she set up her laptop and started coding. What she ended up making was the “New Paltz App” — a mobile application available for iPhone, Android and iPad. It functions a bit like a living phone book.
“It just seemed like the obvious thing to do,” she said.
New Paltz App breaks down what’s going on locally by categories. Say you’re new to town, want to find wine for a party you’re going to — well, as they say, “there’s an app for that.”
Because Dener’s application works using GPS positioning, it lists the businesses the user is the closest to. It gives information about where to find food, medical care, places of worship, live music and transportation.
She also sees it as a way to help boost local businesses.
“I just feel like in the economy that we’re in right now, I have a good job but I don’t feel like jobs are what they used to be. You can’t count on having them. Jobs aren’t as stable as they used to be. And business is really important to our town,” she said.
One thing that’s surprised Dener so far is how quickly college students have taken to the app. She set up a booth at SUNY New Paltz freshman welcome event, which introduces undergrads to local businesses. She was excited to tell them about her app.
“And kids were coming up to the table saying, ‘Oh yeah. I already have that on my phone.’ What do you mean you have it on your phone? How did you hear of it?” she said. “They say to me, ‘As soon as I knew I was going to school in New Paltz, I looked to see what apps there were.’”
Despite being an app developer, Dener is still amazed by how smartphones have infiltrated the lives of teens and twentysomethings.
“It’s good to see people actually using it. It’s really kind of fun for me,” she said.
For Dener, who makes a living explaining and troubleshooting software she didn’t write, creating something of her own was freeing.
“It’s been really enjoyable to me in the way that writing something is enjoyable. I can make it look like I want it to look. I can make it as friendly and inclusive; I can pull in all of the things that I can think of that I would want at my fingertips on my phone,” she said. “And I use it. It’s on my phone. It’s in my pocket.”
As someone who works from home, Dener also found that becoming a gatekeeper of information — having to know information to relay it to others — got her more involved in the town that she loves.
“It’s been more social for me,” she explained. “It’s great for New Paltz.”
So far 8,894 people have visited the application’s website, there have been 1,483 downloads and smartphone users have made 254 “direct calls” from the application.
Because New Paltz App is on phones, any telephone number associated with a business can be dialed right away by pressing on that number in the application.
Dener doesn’t have all the businesses and organizations listed in her application, but she’d like to expand her listings. If you’re a business owner who’d like their shop to appear on the New Paltz App, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For people who’d like to learn more about it, search for “New Paltz App” on the iPhone or Android marketplaces. You can also find them on Facebook.