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Where do you get ideas for side projects?

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As developers, we always want to try out new technologies. Unfortunately, most of the time we work on existing projects with little flexibility. Side project is a great way to learn and grow professionally. But one question remains...
Where do you get ideas for your next side project?

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I have a very structured way of learning new languages, I code a semi-advanced system. The same system over and over again. It's a World of Warcraft community site. The requirements usually look like this:

  • Users with authentication
  • Authorization using roles & permissions architecture
  • CMS - Functionality like pages and site-building
  • Comments with real-time notifications
  • Forums with real-time subscriptions per thread
  • Notification functionality
  • API module for talking with Blizzards servers
  • Chat functionality
  • Event and booking functionality
  • Monitoring functionality
  • Error logging
  • Mail system
  • Admin backend

The important thing is to build everything from scratch and with an architecture that makes sense for the language. It works great for me because I know the ins and outs of building such a system and it is quite fun to see where programming language x outperforms language y and so on. And it is easier to re-wire your brain if what you are building is something you are familiar with.

 

Wow! This sounds like a lot of work but very interesting

 

It is, but a lot of work is usually required to get to a comfortable level in any language :)

 

I've always loved the line from Robots movie, "See a need, fill a need". So you can start by trying to solve a problem that you yourself face.

In the past, I've also arranged for meetings with my clients and asked them what are their pain-points in their day to day work. Perhaps they work a lot in tedious spreadsheets which could be automated or made easier through building a simple app.

 

Love the phrase! I used to follow this moto as well but sometimes I really want to play with new tech but I'm not aware of any needs.

 

Then you might want to have a browse around on /r/AppIdeas <-- heaps of cool app ideas that you can get some inspiration from :)

 

I get them from things around me. I'm currently building a side-project I have had in my head for years. I already have another planned. The second is an internal tool I wish I had at my last place of work.

But most importantly, it is seeing a need and filling it

 

Most of the time, ideas just pop up in my head when there are problems that I can see which can be solved by automation.

For example, in my experience at school, we wait for almost 3-5 hours just to get our college fees so I developed a student fee management system.

My other source of idea is freelance websites. There's a lot of posts there asking for developers to build something for them. It's a good place of inspiration for side projects since projects there are connected to the industry/market.

Free website templates or software ui designs was also one of my sources of side project ideas. In my last project, I saw a design for a recruitment website at Facebook so I downloaded a template for it. Now to make the side project more inspiring to develop, I thought of the features of the framework that I used (which is django) which I have no experience of implementing it.

 

Oh my. Everywhere. It's the time I don't find.

From every problem that you encounter as a user (an app that does X or Y) or a developer (a lib to simplify recurring tasks) to abstract things that help you understand concepts (oh let's create a compression algorithm).

Free idea: an app to copy/paste anything securely from a computer to another.

  1. You drop things (text, files, ...) into a box in the app
  2. You pack everything, this gives you a QR-code. Everything is encrypted client-side.
  3. Scan the QR-code with your phone. It contains the content ID and decryption key.
  4. Open the app on another computer and set it to "receive"
  5. Scan the QR-code of the second computer. It contains a public key generated by the client to receive the content of the other QR-code
  6. The phone sends the information through web sockets via the app server to the second computer, all encrypted with the scanned public key.
  7. The second computer now has de decryption key and the content ID, it downloads it, decrypts it and lets the user download it
 

I once developed something similar but less secure.
I called it Firepaste, you could copy-paste from your computer to mobile or vice-versa.

 

I personally like to use producthunt.com/ to keep myself updated on what other developers are working on, eventually I try to connect the dots and formulate a new idea based on what I have seen on producthunt and the requirements from my local surroundings.

 

This is a nice idea! Haven't thought about Product Hunt as a platform to get ideas from...

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Co-Founder The Elegant Monkeys, Co-Maker of Daily and a passionate software developer