Focusing on the Right Goals

Over the last year, I’ve read quite a bit about bootstrapping smaller web applications and SaaS offerings. While I’ve found the information interesting, I’ve found that it is also hampering my mental ability to execute on my short term goals, primarily running smaller proof of concepts on pieces of technology new to me as learning experiments. I’ve narrowed down the issue to the approach I now have for side projects, and how that definition needs to changes.

Ideally speaking, when I want to learn something new, I’d spend a weekend throwing together a smaller project on how to use that piece of technology, whether it was a new language, a new framework, or toying around with NoSQL databases. I’d say the perfect example of that was when I built WeatherWardrobe, which was an extremely simple web application that let me play around with a use case for Redis as well as set up MixPanel events and see how they work.

Unfortunately, I’ve started to fall into the abyss of thinking that every side project that I do needs to be architected and designed out as if it was a real project. That idea of simply just hacking away at something for fun has evolved into approaching every idea as a business solution that needs to be well thought out with requirements. Based on my experience thus far, when this starts to happen, I never actually get to the point of hacking away, because I’m too busy thinking through the project as a whole or lose interest.

As such, the last year has been quite light on these side projects, which is disappointing to me. I like to pride myself on being very curious and having at least high level knowledge on tools and practices that could come in handy, and recently that has simply devolved into reading blog posts instead of any hands on work. This reflection has led me to having a refined focus the next few months of just hacking away on things to learn. I suppose you could call this “Lean” or “Agile”, in the sense that I’m just going to be building thinking and tweaking as I go instead trying to build a company every week. In any case, it’s going to be fun.