Season 1 Episode 1: Why create side projects? Introducing Developer Hustle

In this episode we introduce Developer Hustle and go into why we do side projects and the value we obtain from them.



Ricardo: Welcome to Season 1 Episode 1 of Developer Hustle the podcast where we talk about developer side projects. The focus of this podcast is basically going to be on tips of managing your time, multiple projects and that work life balance that some people just can’t seem to figure out.

Will: All right, so I guess that leads us to the question of who are we? My name is Will. I work for Linode. I’m a Software Development Manager right now, done many things at Linode but I didn’t start there. I actually started delivering pizzas and then I joined the Army and worked in intelligence for about four years and moved into the private sector working for them and then I ended up at Linode but computers have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve always made things and had projects and that’s kind of what led me to doing this here with Ricardo who is kind of a different tradesman than myself.

Ricardo: I’m Ricardo. I’m a Developer Evangelist at CircleCI. I actually used to be Developer Evangelist at Linode and a Support Engineer. Similar to Will I do have a military background as well. I was in the U.S. Navy doing Cyber Warfare for about seven years. And how I got into this field for myself is basically just doing a bunch of different projects, making websites, kind of doing freelancing and I’ve been doing side projects for as long as I can remember.

Will: So what are we going to talk about today? On this first episode?

Ricardo: For our first episode of Developer Hustle. Today, we’re going to talk about ‘why do side projects in the first place?’ Because if you have a full-time job, you work 9 to 5 perhaps longer you’re going to be tired. If you’re a developer you’re probably tired of coding tired of looking at GitHub tired of looking at Git. Why do more work? What’s the benefits of it? What does it give to you? What does it give to other people? What’s the point? Why I do side projects, like I said I’m a Developer Evangelist and what I’ve noticed is side projects give me a way to kind of vent my creative energy. And as a Developer Evangelist for CircleCI for example, we work with customers who have their own projects and various different languages using various libraries that they have to build on CircleCI and my job is to kind of help them along make sure they know how to use our product and integrate well and sometimes that’s difficult considering that they might be using something like Elm for example which I have absolutely no experience with. So, what side projects have done for me is give me something fun to do at night, something fun to do on the weekends where I can actually use these projects and learn about what our customers pain points are going to be with their projects and help them use CircleCI better. So, side projects for me have actually helped me in my daytime job do a much better job.

Will: I think learning was a pretty big point there and that’s always my thing as you know is learning and I learn all the time and especially for my side projects I think that’s the biggest thing I get out of them. ‘Cause everything I learn there I bring back to Linode and I spread to my team and I always have from support to development all the things I’ve done I try to convey that. I think another part of it for me is the creativity. I’m a creative person or at least I try to be. I make art and I like to think of ideas even if I don’t execute on them all the time. But it’s like an outlet there’s so much work and pace to what we do it’s very fast that I don’t always get that creative outlet in the office sometimes I do for sure ‘cause I like to solve problems and I’m okay at that most of the time. But, when it’s solving my own problems and kind of expressing myself in a way that I’m good at which is using technology it’s a lot more fun I think is a big part of it. Those are the two biggest things for me and I’ve always mentioned them the creativity and the learning because if you’re not learning I don’t really see a point to doing anything honestly you could just watch TV.

Ricardo: Yeah, I agree. So, I know you mentioned creativity. Now, when I think of creativity or at least back in the day for me it was always if you’re a creative person you’re someone who draws or paints and I’ve never been able to do that I don’t know about you but my skill set does not lie in drawing something I can’t draw anything I can’t paint anything. So, I’ve always maybe not considered myself a creative person however, recently as I work on side projects and kind of just let myself run away with ideas I found that this is my form of creativity I can’t paint or draw but I can code something I can put together a website I can make something out of nothing which is really really exciting to me.

Will: Yeah, I think it’s the same discipline or at least a similar discipline. I can’t really freehand draw things and I can’t paint classically but I do mixed media stuff and I make things that look okay. I mean, people don’t hate them so I think it’s similar in how you have to execute and thinking through things without actually being able to touch them at first or use them at first I think that’s kind of where they relate the most.

Ricardo: So, another thing about side projects which I like is I like many people I started off using Windows as my operating system Windows XP. You know, back in the golden age and I came across Linux maybe in 2008 and didn’t start using Linux until 2009 when it ran Ubuntu 9.04 and I fell in love with the whole idea of open-source and I think another reason for me of why I do side projects is that whole open-source community vibe around side projects. I like the idea of creating something and instantly having you know, tens or hundreds or thousands of people being able to see it use it just tell me if they like it or not. Even if it’s bad feedback a lot of the times I still enjoy just to know that someone is seeing something and commenting on it and I think that’s my favorite thing about side projects. I wanna say maybe 95% of my side projects are all public on GitHub open-source projects and are available for anyone to contribute to and help me out or maybe I can help them out.

Will: Yeah, I like that aspect and I definitely support the open-source community. My projects tend to be less open-source they’re more closed than open in most cases and I think a little bit of that is just me trying to [Ricardo: Monetize] not show them my terrible code. No I don’t think it’s moneywise I mean that’s a portion of it for sure I definitely want to make money from things that provide value to people but also I’m not as confident in what I write as it would appear. You know, it’s kind of that imposter syndrome type thing from time to time [Ricardo: Yeah, I hear you] ‘Cause I don’t have a core focus and I’m not exceptional at writing things I just kind of get them done. So, I think that’s a part of it but, I think that the open-source community has contributed far more than umm they will ever be given credit for minus the umm.

Ricardo: Yeah, I would agree with you. I think while I do have most of my projects open-source for that same reason that imposter syndrome for example, I notice that before my first commit I tend to hoard all of the code private for a while you know a lot of the times I say just put it out there do that first commit put it up and let it run but I tend to wait a long time to kind of add polish and make myself feel better before I ever release something and sometimes maybe it’s too long I’m not sure but you know, it’s that same kind of fear of putting something out there and someone seeing it and saying “oh yeah you suck at this.”

Will: Yeah, that’s never happened to me. It’s kind of like it’s kind of an irrational fear.

Ricardo: Yeah, and I think especially with open-source I think a lot of people are pretty nice about things and the more I talk to people and the more I do meet ups and go to events I realize that more and more people have the same exact fear as me you know, so, if that’s the case we really don’t have much to worry about we’re all afraid of what the other person is going to think no one really cares.

Will: Yeah, I mean I think that that is definitely a realistic way to look at it. I went to OSCON in 2013 and sat in on a talk all about it and that was basically the sentiment of the speech was like “you’re good, we’re all here to help each other calm down you’re doing just as well as everyone else even if you don’t think you are.”

Ricardo: So, Will do you have any side projects or if you want to pick one maybe that you want to talk about and share with this episode?

Will: I have many just to give everybody a perspective of some of the stuff that I like to work on right now crypto is super hot and it’s something that I’m heavily invested in not monetarily just with my mind learning and keeping track of and looking for trends and trying to see if I can spot where I can provide value to that community. So, I actually was having a discussion on Facebook with a group of people that I know in person and we kept inviting people, inviting people, inviting people to this Facebook chat which is totally irrational to do because Facebook chat with that many people is just ridiculously disruptive to your day. So, eventually, I said “guys let’s stop let’s move this somewhere else.” I sent them a Slack link and from that the side project of Polyspot was born. Which is basically a place for people to learn a lot of different disciplines you know, everything from tech to art to Bitcoin to everything I mean, it’s whatever you want to make it and I have two other guys that help me out with that and it’s a community of over a hundred people now that just discuss things in Slack all day long track crypto. We have a little site that we started and we’re just throwing around ideas and trying to provide some sort of value to the community that’s learning about all these new things nonstop and it was a total surprise and I talked to those guys everyday it’s been really interesting to see it evolve.

Ricardo: So, real quick I just have to ask. Bitcoin, do you consider it a bubble or not?

Will: I’m not sure honestly, I don’t know if I understand the technology to the degree to make an assumption that it isn’t something that is susceptible to a bubble like John Mcafee believes that there’s no way to bubble it because work is defined by the transactions thus creating a loop that sustains the ecosystem and the price is based on the amount of work that’s needed at a given time times some other crazy theory that John Mcafee has because you know it’s a little out there sometimes but you know, I don’t know if I know the technology enough to say that that’s not the case but, I tend to air with people who are smarter than myself and have done the research and a lot of analysts who are also savvy in technology seem to think that it is susceptible so you know that’s definitely a possibility that I wouldn’t rule out. I think I would be more on that side of it having the possibility to burst than not but only because I don’t know if I can make assumptions about technology like that. I think it’s a bad thing to do based on my experience with technology.

Ricardo: Yeah, I would agree. I think from what I’ve noticed from a lot of blog post articles and even Tweets from various people that I’ve been reading I think the biggest thing that I’ve seen is people who don’t own any Bitcoin seem to say it’s a bubble or people who only have recently gotten to Bitcoin and are recently analyzing it also say it’s a bubble. But, there’s a lot of people that I’ve seen who have been following Bitcoin for a long long time and have been investing in it for quite a while and they don’t think it is and the number one phrase that I hear the number one statement is that if everyone calls it a bubble it’s not a bubble. Usually a bubble is something that no one kind of sees and that’s kind of what makes it a bubble but you know, time will tell.

Will: I just don’t live in that zone making assumptions and I’ve definitely heard what you’re talking about but then I go ahead and I look at the actual markets that are within regulation here in the United States and corrections are a real thing when the markets been bullish for quite some time and we’ve seen things happen like this in those environments so, I would say you have a little bit more on the side of it being something that’s going to burst versus not. But, you know, they’re all assumptions I’m no expert in either side of things.

Ricardo: I agree, so, not being an expert my prediction is things will definitely change in this space it’s still a growing space we’re still learning about it personally I think Bitcoin is going to be fine it’s going to go down I think by a lot especially in 2018 but, I think overall in long term it’s going to be fine I think that maybe a lot of these other cryptocurrencies a lot of these ICO’s that are happening I think that’s kind of ridiculous I’m not sure how much the rest of those currencies are going to survive. But, I think Bitcoin is going to be good. But anyway, we’re kind of getting off topic here. So, for side projects something that I’ve been working on which I’m hoping to add more features to and grow is I created a Chrome extension called Pointless which is supposed to be a little pun. Pointless is a Chrome extension for CircleCI users it’s basically if you use CircleCI to build whatever project you’re using it adds a little bit of features to make your life easier so basically using Chrome’s omnibar you can easily do searches for CircleCI docs either 1.0 or 2.0 docs and it adds on GitHub it adds a button up on the top where you normally would have your watch button the button to star it adds a button to actually follow a project on CircleCI and then next to the project name on GitHub it adds a little colored icon, green if the last build was successful, red if the last build failed. That’s a Chrome extension that I have made and basically it was to scratch my own itch I was tired of going onto GitHub viewing a project and then wanting to go to CircleCI to continue viewing that project and see what the bill status is and see how the other branches are doing and have to manually type in the URL or go find it somewhere. So, Pointless was built basically to scratch my own itch. It now has about 60 users in the Chrome store and that’s something that was a side project it helped me at my job it helped other CircleCI customers as well. And you know it was just something fun to build that I was excited to do and I haven’t built a Chrome extension before that.

Will: Yeah, it seems really useful especially if you’re using CircleCI heavily like you have a workflow and something that you’re interacting with on a daily basis it seems like it would really streamline what you’re doing.

Ricardo: Exactly, and speaking of learning things I haven’t done kind of like a JavaScript project in a while so this was my way of kind of diving back into JavaScript seeing what’s new and how it’s changed in the last ten years which is when I started working on JavaScript and a little fun fact that I’ve learned was nowadays Firefox extensions are basically they’re trying to support the same API as Chrome so there’s actually not much difference you need to do for modern extensions to get it to work on both Google Chrome and Firefox which ironically, my extension doesn’t work on Firefox right now but perhaps I should probably do that.

Will: I don’t know what the last extension I wrote was for which browser I can’t remember but I know that it was different than what you described so, maybe I should check it out see how it’s changed.

Ricardo: I think in Firefox Mozilla’s march to compete against Chrome they’ve been doing a lot of changes first was the whole version number change where there’s a new major version of Firefox every two weeks or something like that now and another thing was their extension’s API.

Will: I have to check it out ‘cause it was definitely more complex than what you’re describing the last time I made an extension but that was probably like two years ago.

Ricardo: Two years ago shouldn’t be that long but yeah you should definitely check it out. The Chrome API calls on Firefox would actually use Chrome’s namespace and as far as I know it’s Google Chrome for extensions they use a manifest.json file as the main config. File for everything that’s different that’s one of the major things that’s going to be different and then certain icon sizes or whatever you might have to change but the general code of what you’re going to do is going to be exactly the same.

Will: I made like six albums in my life. Like hip-hop albums.

Ricardo: Wait, wait, you’ve made hip-hop albums?

Will: Yeah, a bunch.

Ricardo: Okay wait, so, we’re talking about side projects is this a side project?

Will: This is, I haven’t made an album in ten years.

Ricardo: Holy crap.

Will: But I’ve made like six. I’m really good at freestyling. I’m not like one of those people that just says that and I think that kind of gives me an advantage in these types of situations because yes, I’m still doing like umm and all that stuff but the topical stuff and answering the questions it’s not super difficult for me to verbally get it out of my mouth most of the time. Which I think is the hard part racing you brain to your mouth when you’re talking about stuff.

Ricardo: Yeah, the speed between the two isn’t always great.

Will: Just practice rapping in your car with instrumentals from Spotify and you’ll get better at doing it ‘cause it’s not easy this stuff is hard you know, you have to practice it like everything else.

Ricardo: Yeah, whenever every time I watch Eminem’s 8 Mile movie. I’m ready to be a freestyle rapper but it never works out.

Will: It doesn’t work for most people though. I think one of my albums is on DatPiff actually. This is like my secret thing nobody knows in technology.

Ricardo: Yeah, I didn’t know.

Will: Actually, you know who does know? Stan Schwertly and Dave Eaton know.

Ricardo: Ah, the old school support guys.

Will: They found out like Google return results on like page four at some point for somebody or I don’t know and then they told me they wanted to go and then they took me out and they were like “we know you rap you have to rap for us now.” And I was like “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” It was a whole thing. They basically got me drunk and exposed me.

Ricardo: That sounds so wrong.

Will: Not in the wrong way you’re thinking of in the right way that is appropriate for this conversation.

Ricardo: I don’t know if there’s a right way there.

Will: All right, so, that gives you a little bit of a perspective about who we are, what we do, how we feel about doing side projects in general and we want to tell you where this podcast is going because this is super loose right now so we’re gonna kind of talk about some topics that maybe we will talk about in the future. Things like should side projects have social media accounts or should you use your personal account? I’ve never had that debate before but I usually make ‘em. Should I make them? I don’t know. We’re going to discuss it in detail. Why should we do projects in the first place? Which we touched on a little bit here but we’re going to go more in depth in the future and maybe we can get somebody to join us I don’t know. I have no idea yet. We’re going to touch on how we manage our time and how those approaches differ, why they differ. There are many philosophies on handling your time outside of work and I think we can talk about that for multiple hours if we really had to. And also things like tools and how we use them in our day to day tools are always a hot button discussion around the office and at home even with my wife. So, I think that would be a good discussion too. How are we going to get feedback from everybody Ricardo?

Ricardo: Sure, so, if you have any kind of feedback for us if you have questions for us or maybe you have topic ideas that we can talk about for future episodes you can contact us at and @developerhustle on Twitter and

Will: Yeah, please send us questions or topics you want us to talk about or whatever just send it our way and you’ll probably get answer.

Ricardo: And I want to thank the one two people who are probably listening to this. This is our very first episode of Developer Hustle we are very excited about this and as you might notice we are so passionate about side projects that we’ve actually started a new side project called Developer Hustle just to talk about our side projects and to help people maybe get into the whole idea of making side projects or getting better at it.

Will: Yeah, it’s like the meta of side project projecting the side project for the side project for people who do side projects.

Ricardo: Exactly.

Will: Yeah seriously, thank you for listening if you’re one of the two or one people listening.

Ricardo: Exactly and this is Ricardo, Will, Developer Hustle Season 1 Episode 1.

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