React Native and Chill: A tale of stupid made fast

Charles Lowell

January 16, 2017

The instant she told me, I knew with the feeling of faith that it was true. "Charles," she said gravely "You've got to build something stupid, and you've got to do it really soon."

Of course! Something stupid. Why didn't I think of that.

It was so obvious why not: I was too busy thinking about biznazz; too busy thinking about sales; too busy thinking about accounting. Too busy thinking about things like office furniture and hiring practices.

These are all things that are well and proper to think about... necessary even. They are the things that every voice I trust in my life admonishes me to concentrate on exclusively, my own loudest among them.

But listen too much to these voices and they'll have you piling the work-cart high with sundry projects and tasks. Now you spend every waking moment watching it teeter back and forth making sure it doesn't dump over and lose everything. Where is the inspiration in that?

Nope, time to set that cart down and do something stupid.

Luckily, fortune favors the stupid, and if you've set your mind to finding something idiotic to do, you're bound to succeed (based on the abundance of stupid things to do in the universe).

For me it happened the very next day.

A dumb idea

As a statement of fact rather than complaint, the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 has been a preternaturally stressful time. I know that this is what the internet has been droning on about lately, but in my case it's really true! I seriously don't remember a time in my life that was any trickier to navigate or that has required such sustained mental concentration.

Of course I have several coping mechanisms on hand, including Rye Whiskey, but one of the simplest and most effective ones that has come to my aid on more occasions that I can count is The Chillest Monkey. For me, I need only glance at his picture for a few moments before experiencing a physical sensation of relaxation.

His detached gaze sees through the edifice of anxieties I've built and twisted around myself. The low-frequency waves of tranquility emanating from his placid countenance dissolve and disippate it like a grease stain before a flow of warm detergent.

I was sharing this personal treasure with my co-workers when Rob exclaimed something to the effect of "We need to put this on the Apple TV!"

"Yes!" I thought. "Yes! we do!" We should have the power to behold the Chillest Monkey on an whim! And why stop with the TV? Shouldn't he be on the Watch and the iPhone as well?

I could almost feel the relief. "ZOMG!" I thought, "My life would be demonstrably better if this were the case."

Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid

The timing was fortititous: Apple TV support for React Native had just landed on master only a few short weeks ago. Clearly this was a sign from God that the moment to act was now. And indeed, with powerful allies like Robert Deluca, and Amazon Prime Now, how could I possibly fail?

So after building react-native from master to get tvOS support, and spending an afternoon with Rob hacking to make the chillest monkey layout properly on the Apple TV screen..... and yet a few more hours fiddling with XCode to install onto a physical device that Amazon had delivered just minutes before, the mountain was summited. His face expanded in animation to almost six feet across as the app opened up onto the projection screen. The feeling of tranquil gratification was palpable.

Gif demo of the Chillest Monkey Apple TV app

It's so comforting for me to know now that he's there; to know that all I have to do is pick up the Apple TV remote and conjure him with a gesture. But what kind of citizen of humanity would I be if I hoarded his boundless beneficence to myself?

The Chillest Monkey should be for anyone, and anybody that wants to include him in their apps and share his bounty with their users should be empowered to do so. That's why I created an extension that allows you to do just that: embed this most chill of primates into any application, on any device that React Native supports.

Hard made easy

I glossed over a lot of the yaks that needed to be shaved in order to achive the end result (and there were many). I learned about tvOS. I learned a lot about React Native and how to package components to share them between applications, but learning was never the point. And it didn't feel anything remotely like study. If anything, the sensation throughout was one of lightening my load, even as I was in the act of lugging a yard full of knowledge onto the ship.

And how about that?!? You trade in your worries and in exchange you receive new insights and skills. Now that seems like a good transaction if I ever heard of one... an arbitrage of the spirit you might say. Now remind me why I don't do this more often?

I don't think I'll need reminding of it in the future though. I also hope that whether it's using the Chillest Monkey in your own apps or something different altogether, you do something silly soon; something for which the payoff is dubious, but the downside doesn't exist.

I did, and it felt stupendous.

I’m Charles Lowell (@cowboyd on twitter), and I build UI for a living at The Frontside. If you enjoyed this, I’d love to hear from you.

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