make something

Anyone who has spent any time around me knows that I’m something of a dreamer. I think big, and if I get an idea I tend to overthink it to the point where even the thought of starting is completely demotivating. As a result, something I’ve been thinking about and working on for over ten years has perhaps a thousand lines of code over several rewrites to show for it.

Two articles I’ve read this week have both challenged me and inspired me to produce something. The first is a blog post by Tom Critchlow describing how he built booklist sharing site in four weeks with no prior programming experience. This is a hugely impressive feat and shows just how much the web has changed in the last few years. It used to be that sites like Geocities existed to make it easy for newcomers to build a website. Now with web frameworks Django and Ruby on Rails and easy-to-use infrastructure like App Engine its easy for newcomers to build a webb application. I’ve been following Pamela Fox’s efforts to bring the Girl Develop It program to Australia. Although its goals are different (bring more women into IT) its recent success reinforces the point: its now easy for people with no prior experience to get into web application development.

The second article is from is from the ever-insightful Rands in Repose on how the recently-released Instagram is so awesome because of everything it doesn’t do. I’m not entirely sure of the timespan involved, but the story goes that they’ve built an amazing mobile photo sharing application and it only took them eight weeks. They did this by remaining completely focused on the core feature set and not allowing any distractions in. Conceptually what they’re doing has been done several times before, but by remaining focused they’ve collected huge amounts of users and standa good chance of beating out the competition.

I found both these stories rather inspiring. I’ve have my great idea, and I have more experience than many of the people doing these amazing things. It should be easy for me to do all manner of amazing and interesting things, but get mired in details. However I’m now resolved. I’ve spent much of the day distilling all my plans and dreams and thoughts into one very simple concept and I’m going to have a crack at building something soon. I’m making a huge effort to not overthink it - of course I have some ideas for where it could go, but I’m keeping these as high-level next steps, and not thinking too much about the details.

Unfortunately I don’t think I’m going to have much time in the next few weeks to do much, but I’ll be taking a proper holiday for four weeks after Christmas and I’d really like to have something to show for it after that.

And no, I’m not telling you the idea yet. Its probably not that amazing or exciting to most people, but its been mine for years and years and not willing to share it until I have something to show for it :)