I love side projects. It’s fun to dive into an idea, make it happen, then share it with the world. I also love the term side project because it sets reachable expectations. It also means there is room for more than one. Yet, there is not unlimited room. At some point a side project needs to move on, away from its creators care.
The majority of a side project’s life is spent in either maintenance or decline. All the fun of a project is in the early half of the lifecycle. That’s where the creative energy is bursting, propelling through to MVP (remember when to buy the domain name). Sometimes that activity carries on through the improvements part of the cycle. Rarely, you can extend that section, if you really have a lot of interest.
Most commonly, side projects enter maintenance or decline. No matter which it is, they don’t have the same vigor as the earlier stages. Maintenance and decline take time or energy (usually both) from the new projects you want to build.
Compare APIs with my Newest Side Project
Ever since I left ProgrammableWeb, I’ve wanted to dive deep into just the subset of public APIs that every developer needs to know. These are the APIs that fulfill a purpose beyond supporting an application or service. The API is the service.
EveryDeveloper launched in early March, gaining a lot of interest. I’ve been keeping the fire stoked (improvements stage) since, exploring related topics on its blog and on Medium.
Making Room for More Side Projects
I have written about several side projects on this blog over the years. One that got a lot of attention was a site to help find WiFi in coffee shops and other public spaces. WifiPDX launched in 2004, when there were only 54 spots in Portland to find WiFi. Now, of course, it’s practically ubiquitous.
Though I relaunched in 2012 that was basically the last time I made any improvements to the site.
I did little maintenance over the last four years, but not for lack of need. Spam listings and reviews littered every page. The design wasn’t responsive, which made it very difficult to use on mobile devices (which is now likely the primary use case). Most importantly, I’m no longer interested in taking it on as a project.
To make room for EveryDeveloper, and whatever else I may do next, wifipdx.com now has a simple epitaph on the home page. And all pages redirect to it.
This side project has completed the entire lifecycle. The prospect of making this decision was sad, but making it was exhilarating. I felt the energy release, no longer held by WifiPDX’s needs.
After 12 years, it’s time to make room for something else.
What do you need to let go?