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Side Projects that Ship

Posted by on Jun 19, 2014 in The Podcast

I went to a talk at Refresh PDX talk last night about something very near and dear to my heart – side projects. I would guess any designer or developer has a number of side projects in the works or at least in mind at any given time. I think I buy a new domain a week with new ideas that never actually get past the initial wireframe state.

Like my idea to create a site that has every terrible parallaxing animation in it going at the same time (wtfparallax.com). Or my idea to create a site that explains how code works (thatsnothowtheinternetworks.com). Or like my idea to create an HTML5 game about… well, pretty much everything.

Tyler talked about how to schedule our time, staying motivated, working with collaborators, giving up perfection and staying focused on a single goal. What struck a chord most with me was having BOTH a project goal (I want X to do Y), AND a guiding personal motivation (I want to do this to learn X, I want to do this because I love Y). I tend to have one or the other, but I see now why having both is so important to keep you moving forward, especially get to the lame/hard parts of any project.

The Podcast is my one successful side project. Okay, I did submit a film for Filmed by Bike once, which was awful, but I did ship the damn thing.

So why is the podcast successful? A few things, all of which align with Tyler’s most important list:

  1. Collaboration. Me and Joel work really well together, and we already knew that. We also have different and complimentary strengths.
  2. We have similar personal goals with the show: Learning about our industry and having fun. I think we have also added meeting amazingly smart people.
  3. We had a similar project goal: Actually Freaking Do Something. Now our goal is to simply keep publishing every other week. It’s not about making something perfect, it’s just about making something.
  4. We have similar long term goals: getting more people to listen
  5. We keep each other accountable. When one person’s interest wanes, the other person picks up the slack.

It’s also different from what we do day in and day out. Rather then getting home from 8 hours of coding and plopping right down in front of my computer again, I get to go over to Joel’s house and talk to people and have a good time. Sure, we’re discussing work, but it’s not actual work. It’s fun. I have a hard time being in front of a screen for so long, as much as I love what I do.

As much as I have a million code-based side projects I’d like to work on, I’ll probably save those for the winter. That’s another key to successfully working on side projects: knowing yourself. Know that your interest will ebb and flow, and that’s okay.