A lot has been made of the shrug emoticon and that’s because it’s the best emoticon in existence. Now, one enterprising Bushwick developer has made an app that adds ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ to your keyboard, a la emojis.
It’s called :shrug: and it’s the work of Mike Keller. Keller is a bit mysterious. There’s very little online about him and it was difficult to stay in touch because his email got shut off somehow at one point. He’s a developer but also in a hardcore band in Brooklyn that describes itself as “music for troubled weirdos” and “whatevercore.” We finally caught up with Keller long enough to ask him some questions about his amazing app.
But first, :shrug: has the best customer reviews of any I’ve seen anywhere for anything:
TB: Why’d you make the app?
MK: I was at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in 2014, where they made the announcement to support keyboard extensions and it just hit me, like a bolt of indifferent lightning. I wrote it in my app dream journal and proceeded to forget about it for several months. Then one early weekend morning, I needed to respond to a friend’s text with symbolic disregard but was sick of the google+copy+paste dance of the past, so I took a 4-or-so-hour detour to usher in the future of unicode expression.
How much do you love the shrug emoticon?
It’s a look and a gesticulation. It is the swiss army knife of emoticons. You can say so much with so little (9 characters, to be exact). It is, perhaps the Blue Steel of text.
Were you surprised no one else had made this previously?
It was probably just an oversight. Like, every other developer probably just assumed this was one of those bundled apps you can’t delete so you just throw it in your Junk folder on your last page of home screen.
Actually, I assume this probably exists in some form or another (it comes from Kaomoji, the ancient Japanese art of folding text characters into beautiful works of table-flip art). But sometimes less is more. Every other app like it probably also has 25 ways to render an ASCII cat, which absolutely no one needs.
What else do you do?
I work as a full time iOS developer for a tech company with a real product and an office with snacks and stuff. In my off time I make silly apps that usually only I want to use, but occasionally get inexplicably popular for a minute. I also play in an punk band and tinker with electronics.
Tell me about Meek Apps?
I started learning Objective-C in a van while I was in a full-time touring band. In between tours, I worked as a mover and started putting out apps freelance and for myself (my first app was a simple calculator for movers to calculate their daily wages). Eventually, one of my own apps got really popular and I was able to do the app thing full time. That had its own set of challenges though (e.g. lawyers) so now Meek Apps is really just my outlet for toy apps I do on the side. The company is named after my band (meek is murder).
Where are you in Brooklyn and why or why not do you find Brooklyn a good place for tech?
I live in Bushwick/East Williamsburg, which is land of milk and honey and free WiFi. At one point I was going to this one cafe so much that the owner thought I needed a job. I knew the cafe was always pretty slow so I took the minimum wage role and learned how to make latte art. I would write code between serving cold brew and I drank 14 cups of coffee per day.