Some make furniture, I make software

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 22, 2023, 4:00 PM | comments: 0

I have long admired the people who can build things with wood. Like, when you see a custom made table, or chair, and you can see the craftsmanship in the details and the finish, and admire how solid it is, that's really satisfying. I've often thought about digging in and learning how to make stuff like that, and start a shop full of saws and things. But when I look at what the people on the Internets do in their videos, they have more gear than I do video gear (and they probably have the video gear too to make the videos!). It's a lot of investment for something that I'm not sure I would stick with.

But the truth is that I really enjoy making software. Professionally, I'm more leading efforts like that, and often getting into the system design aspects without doing the coding. But then in my spare time, I do write code. Obviously there's the forum thing that has been with me for decades, along with the web sites. Then in more recent years, there was stuff that came almost out of necessity, like my own music cloud service, or my word game (that only lasted a year). Last year I made so many improvements to the forum that were a long time in coming, and there were days that I would just get lost in the process of writing code. Those are particularly rewarding because thousands of people exercise that code every single day.

One of the things that has steered me wrong in the last decade and change is that I've often, or mostly, approached new coding ideas as potentially a business. I even made the forums a business, though with no marketing, have only had one customer, and only briefly. That's not to say there wasn't some reward in that, because I found that building a monthly recurring billing system was pretty rewarding. But there are other things that I've had false starts with over the years where I thought, "I could make a buck with this!" That's not entirely surprising, because I accidentally made money with everything I started early in my career. The forums were literally sold for profit, and the sites started to make ad revenue almost at the start. And as the return from ad revenue continues to shrink, naturally I'd like to replace it.

But if I'm being real, making a buck is not really an intrinsic motivator. Like Sally Struthers once said, "Do you want to make more money? Sure we all do!" (Shit am I dating myself.) She's not wrong, but I don't think most people operate in a way where that's the thing itself that brings them joy. I have certainly conflated the making of softwares with making money I suppose because that's how I've made money for most of my life. But when I've actually enjoyed it, it has mostly been when I wasn't making money from it. That might be why I've shifted almost entirely to management.

In my last post, I wrote about messing with code to make lights move, and that's pretty neat. I even said, "I don't imagine that I would write my own lighting control software." But then last night, I took my prototype and rewrote almost all of it into something that better aligns with the way that real control software would work. So now I'm thinking, "Why wouldn't I write my own lighting control software, if only for the fun and challenge of it?" As with all fun things, I will not follow through if I get bored or distracted, but the problems are interesting and I think trying to figure how best to do this could be fun.

After all, some people make furniture, because they're good at it and enjoy it. I make things to, and sometimes all they require is a good laptop.


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