revolution. It was used in all sorts of computers including the now famous Apple computers, the BBC Micro, the Atari 2600 and the Commodore 64. Yet it started as a side project who thought they could produce a better and cheaper design than what their company was planning to.
printer interfaces and serial ports and I wrote a Basic and all this application software, I wrote demos, and I did all this moonlighting, all in a year ...” Steve Wozniak, interviewed for the “Founders at Work” book by Jessica Livingston Speaking of Apple Computer ... the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, was working for HP at the time and saw this as a side project - in fact he was so proud that he could keep doing it as a side project that it took a while to convince him to quit his job and work exclusively with Apple. Fast forward a few years - the world wide web itself was the result of a side project that probably went much further than the original aspirations of its creator. Here’s what Tim Berners-Lee said in an interview when asked about his work on the WWW while he was at CERN.
building a vacuum control system or a vacuum control state visualization program or something. So yes. Enquire [a predecessor system to the WWW] was a side project, done out of fun, to play a little bit with being able to store random associations ...” Sir Timothy Berners-Lee I can’t guarantee that your side project will get you all rich and famous - but it’s worth a try. In any case - my only claim to fame is a mention of my name in the Evening Standard.
real-life situations. People learn best when they participate in activities that are perceived to be useful in real life and are culturally relevant. Learning How children learn - Stella Vosniadou (UNESCO International Bureau of Education) My main motivation is very simple: Learning There’s plenty of evidence out there that you learn best when you’ve got something to apply your learning to.
rush and buy a book like that. Find a project you want to work on instead, try to start working on it, and decide what you need to learn as you go along. I can guarantee you’ll learn much more than just following along the examples in a book, because you’ll have a personal interest in the outcome. But what if you really don’t know where to start?
you with your side project. There’s the old image of people spending lonely hours in their garden shed tinkering along in their side projects. I think this is doesn’t have to be the case. I’ve found that turning your side project into a team endeavour makes it much more likely that you’ll end up completing it.
- and I’m no exception. Sometimes we think we have this fantastic idea, and by doing it all by ourselves we deserve more credit than if we were to share it with other people. However, ideas are nothing without execution. So rather than having your ideas fade behind closed doors - try to share them and see where they get to.
a lot of us might think of turning to people who have similar skills to us, somebody who we think might understand more about what we’re after. That’s ﬁne if all you want is more ﬁrepower to help you with a speciﬁc task ...
and it’s part of a network of spaces where people come to tinker with stuff, share tools and ideas and, quite frequently, ﬁnd other people to start side projects with. A lot of their projects tend to have a physical element to them, but I think there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a space and meet up with people to work projects that are purely online. Well, the only reason is that nobody seems to have invented such a space.
it secret, there’s usually an urge to start talking about your side project to everyone you know. That’s a good thing - it means when you’re on the brink of abandoning something, a friend will come back and say “Hey Alex, what happened with this app you said you were working on?” and that can help you keep you going. Or they might ﬁnd out and forward to you something that’s of interest to your side project, which ends up being very helpful.
which I’m also guilty of not doing very well, is documentation. By which I mean keeping a record of where you are with your project, what you’ve done so far, and what you’d like to do next. Actually the word ‘documentation’ sounds a bit onerous.
a logbook instead? (maybe not so tiny like this one, but you get the point) What’s the beneﬁt of all that? Most side projects tend to take a long time, with a lot of breaks in-between. And it’s much easier to come back after a break if you’ve documented where you’ve left your project. Or, it’s much easier for someone else to pick it up.
have been somehow inspired or helped by other people’s side projects. So get your documentation out there, put it online, make a video, post some photos, whatever might help not just you but someone else to continue your side project.
successful in order to be published? Not at all. What you think might be an insigniﬁcant amount of progress might spark somebody else’s imagination. And publishing your failures might mean that other people can be steered away from failing in the same way.
that somebody else has the same or similar side project to yours? That’s one of the things that often makes me wonder if it’s worth going ahead, when “it’s been done before”, when “somebody else has been there ﬁrst”. Then I remember what led me to having all these side projects in the ﬁrst place: LEARNING And I know that whatever I make won’t just be a copy of somebody else’s project, it will be my project. Oh well, I guess that explains how I ended up having so many side projects.
to learn • Find a partner in crime • Shout about your projects • Keep track of where you are • Don’t get disappointed easily • SUCCESS!* *Your project will either ﬁnish, get abandoned, or morph into something else I’ll leave you with my summary 5 rules for successful side projects