You need a passion project!
Arden de Raaij Sep 15 '17
Okay NEED is a big word, but isn't it awesome to combine two things you love and make something out of it on your own terms? I assume you already love coding, add something else you love and voila: Passion project.
Now I know I'm preaching to the choir for a lot of you, and some of you might've even made your passion project into your main income (I'd dare to say that's the point where you need a new passion project). But in the past years it has surprised me how many developers I came across who never even thought of applying their skills to make something fun for themselves.
Especially (future) developers coming straight out of university or code-bootcamp often don't realise what kind of awesome powers they can wield yet. A lot of them are 'waiting' for a job, client or nextbigthing™ idea to motivate them to sharpen their swords.
I always advice fresh developers to start working on something they can put their heart and mind into. Working on a product without any external pressure can be a true eye-opener and an amazing way to develop skills while creating something you love.
"What should I make?"
You're a developer damnit, you can make anything you put your mind to!
To be fair, thinking of a nice project can be challenging in the beginning; I dare to say that it's a kind of mindset you need to get into. But once you're into that mindset, there's no going back and you'll probably be thinking up new ideas for the rest of your life!
You enjoy coding, creating something out of nothing and solving problems, right? Just combine that with something else you love and you're good to go.
Do you love dancing? Make something dedicated to your favourite dance styles or dancers.
Do you love books? Make a pretty booklist app.
Do you love some obscure 70's videogame? Let the world know!
Even in the unlikely case your only passion is coding, you could go all meta and make a dev.to ;). I could go on for hours but I think you get my point.
And as it's YOUR product, it doesn't really matter if something similar already exists. It's all about your own take on the subject. Better yet, you can get in touch with other people who have the same passion and ask what they think of your ideas. You might get some valuable new contacts out of it as well!
"Ain't nobody got time for that!"
I understand. When I was working a 9-5 I found it very hard to focus on coding things in my spare time after coding at the office for a full day. Lord knows I tried though. I've got a whole folder with unfinished ideas that I may or may not pick-up one day. But that's alright too!
If you feel that you don't have time for a passion project because you have a fulfilling career and want to spend your free time in another way, that's great! But if the idea of a passion project keeps tugging at your sleeve even though you don't have enough time for it, you might want to evaluate if whatever you're doing as a day-job is as fulfilling as you'd like it to be. That might be a subject for another blogpost though.
Also, your project doesn't have to be all-consuming. It can be something small which you don't have to spend more than a few hours a week/month on.
"So, what are your passion projects and what did you gain from them?"
Why thank you for asking! I'll list a few, together with some that never made it out of my localhost.
In my previous blogpost I already shared my cfye.com project which is in hibernation at the moment as my partner is in India working on a community bicycle / transportation project, and I just relocated to Lisbon after 7+ months of extensive chilling in exotic locations (they call it traveling and apparently it's a 'skill' you can put on your resume nowadays). But a quick and incomplete summary of what I learned and gained from that project:
- Community creation and management
- Development (HTML/css/JS/WordPress)
- Writing and interviewing
- Organising art exhibitions
- Collecting/Framing/Showcasing/Selling artwork
- Some ethics about working on the web
- A SOTD Awwward
- Artist management (It's like herding cats, still fun though)
- Impressing potential clients and employees.
- Getting to know some amazing and famous photographers and artists, and even becoming good friends with some of them
- Enough inspiration for a lifetime
Now please don't be discouraged by how big that project became. When we started this thing it was nothing but a fun project next to our study!
Not everything has to be as big as that cfye.com project though. As I just mentioned I recently came back from a long travel and I've got tons of pictures, stories, videos and geolocations. I'm trying to combine the huge pile of data most travelers collect nowadays into a showcase app based on Mapbox. I use React for this, as I've always wanted to learn React, and this seems like the perfect idea. I'm not sure if this will ever get off the drawing-board, but it already taught me loads about React, Maps/GeoJSON and web animations.
A rapid prototyping / static site generator which basically combines my love for coding with my love for tooling.
Some projects that never made it out of my
- Bookquot.es: A collection of strong quotes/passages from my favourite books, animated with Greensock. I might be still paying for that domain.
- Booklistapp: A pretty looking app for listing all the books I've read and want to read, based on the goodreads api. Stranded because the Goodreads api sucks.
- ThingsIlike: An app where I can easily collect all the things I like; URLS, photos, artworks, books, tutorials, videos. Stranded because it was a fuckload of work.
And the list goes on. Even though these projects aren't going anywhere, I've learned from them and enjoyed working on them. Not a single one makes me feel I've wasted my time.
Share your ideas / projects
To conclude, I couldn't imagine NOT having a project on the side where I can put my heart and mind into and in my opinion, everyone can gain from working on something they love without external pressure.
I'd love to hear your opinion on passion/side projects, if you have/had one and what you gained from working on it.
Thank you for reading!