What Am I Doing?

Over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of projects that I’ve wanted to pursue – some large and some small. I’ve started some but finished very few. I’ve even taken on multiple at once at times1. I decided for the purposes of these posts (and just to ensure that I work on something rather than simply juggling ideas with little to no real progress) that I needed to pick just one project to work on. One project that would keep that creative part of my mind working. One project that I could write about to work on how I express my ideas in prose. One project that I can pick up when I’m scrolling through Netflix and nothing feels good enough.

The problem was I had no idea how to choose just one.

Process of Elimination

First, I needed to narrow it down to what type of thing I even wanted to do.

I Could Make Music

I grew up playing a lot of music. While in junior high and high school, I played the euphonium in my school band and played bass guitar in my small church’s worship band. I often find that I miss making music, and have thought about picking up an instrument again.

I definitely think this could be fun, but picking up an instrument in any meaningful way is quite a slog. I still want to – and I still might – but it wouldn’t be very interesting to report back on. And I want writing about my progress to be part of what keeps me going

I Could Build A Thing

I also love the idea of making something physical. I spent a bit of time in the garage helping out with woodworking projects, and worked on a number of electronics and robotics projects while studying Electrical Engineering in college.

However, this is out because I simply don’t have the space to work on this type of project in the way I’d want to. My apartment is too small, and to get access to some of the equipment I’d need I would have to visit some sort of maker space. I’m trying to have as few hurdles as possible so I don’t have any excuse to not do something.

I Could Build An App

The final category I considered was building a software application. This one isn’t as exciting in some ways, because I currently write iPhone apps for my day job. However, I love the opportunity to “own” a smaller software project from beginning to end. I also like the idea of working with different tools, patterns, and open-source projects than those I get to use at work.

In the end, I decided that this was what I was going to do. I have all of the materials I need to work on a project like this, and there is virtually no boundary between me and actually doing this other than finding time and my own seemingly never ending laziness. I can pick it up at almost any time from almost any place.

What App?

Once I decided to build an app, I set up a few simple criteria that this project needed to meet and picked from a list of ideas that I’d been jotting down over the years2.

  1. It needs to be something that I would personally use3.
  2. It needs to have a tiny MVP (a link to explain MVP?) so I can feel like I’m making good progress early.
  3. It needs to be big enough and broad enough that I can change or adapt at any time – that I could experiment with whatever feature or technique feels right on any given day.
  4. It needs to use no backend or use an already existing API for the backend so that I can build with zero server cost.

With these in mind, I decided to build… a TV show tracking iPhone app. Not very exciting I know. In fact, almost everyone I’ve mentioned this idea to in person falls asleep halfway through me talking about it. But! It’s a type of app that I like to use. It’s a category with dozens of options already in the App Store. And most importantly, it’s a category where I don’t particularly love any of the apps I’ve used. This gives me plenty of opportunity to experiment with different ideas.

I’m planning to use Trakt.tv for the backend (they provide an API for tracking and managing episodes of TV shows a user has seen). This is a service that a number of the apps in the App Store use. This will allow me to use my real account in my app, and, perhaps most importantly, gives me a fallback with no data loss if I drop out of this project at any time.

What’s Next?

I have no idea what types of things I’ll be writing as I build this. Or how frequently. Or anything really. But hopefully I end up with something fun and learn something along the way. We’ll see. I guess I just have to start building.

  1. I sketched a custom speaker cabinet I wanted to build, but never signed up for time at a maker space. I had all the equipment to control the lights in my house with voice in my Amazon shopping cart, but decided to watch Stranger Things instead. I bought the best cookbook I could find, but never made it past the introduction. And I was totally learning to play the trombone six months ago.
  2. To be honest, none of my ideas here have been truly groundbreaking. Most of them, in fact, have already been built in some form or another. Knowing this was one of the things I often told myself that prevented me from actually working on anything. This time, I decided to ignore that voice and just go for it.
  3. I think the best app idea I ever had was a time tracking app for contractors I was going to call Time Shark. The app icon was going to be some mishmash of a clock and a shark fin. I thought I’d struck gold here, but this is just not something I’d be likely to use. And when I noticed that timeshark.com was already purchased, I completely dropped this one.