Monday, October 19, 2015

The Lure of the Dead Project


Dead projects can be a constant lure. When you put down a body of code work and call it either defunct or completed, its hard to avoid the feeling there is something more to do. Whether its work you’ve decided was complete, but later come back to in your mind with ideas of new features and improvements, or work you’ve walked away from intentionally or through neglect and feel a guilt to return to that you cannot shake, old projects have a way of pulling your attention back to them. This constant pull can be terrible for concentration and painful for motivation on new work when you feel this desire to sink your time into something you’ve already gotten away from. Maybe you stopped working on that project because there were simply more interesting things to do with your time, or it was moving in a direction that wasn’t as interesting for you. Maybe you just have too many projects going at once and needed to do the responsible thing as an adult and recognize when you and too much on your plate.

There are many reasons you might walk away from a project, and some times its healthy and helpful to identify that reason and be really clear with yourself when a project is truly finished, or just finished for you. It can be helpful to put an explicit “DONE” label on something, even if there are definitions by which it isn’t done, because you need to make yourself stick to those decisions about moving on to other projects.

I’ve tried to do better at this.

I’ve begun a series of posts where I do public post-mortem on my own projects, even if they are ones I hadn’t previously publicized. The goal here is two gold. First, I think its useful inside my own mind to really put together my thoughts at the end of a project and even long after and document what I learned from and through the project. But, secondly, that public announcement of not working on a project might be more valuable than the public declaration you make when you begin a project. I proclaim “I’m done with this. if you see me picking this up again, question my motives and question what I’m neglected to pick this back up."

Some times it just as simple as deleting a project from your machine, even if you keep a back up or a Github page for it. Make it harder to return to. If you really want to close that chapter in your life, maybe take the repository down if it isn’t maintained or if it never had other users anyway. In the most strict response to the urge to return you might find yourself deleting all traces of a project you once held dear.

A lot of these projects are done to scratch some personal itch, so get invested in an existing solution that scratches that same itch, even if it doesn’t quite get it. learn to appreciate tools for being just good enough. Get invested enough that you would be seriously determining to your workflow if you tried to leave that solution for your own half baked versions.

Fight the lure of the dead project, because you let it die for a reason.

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I write here about programming, how to program better, things I think are neat and are related to programming. I might write other things at my personal website.

I am happily employed by the excellent Caktus Group, located in beautiful and friendly Carrboro, NC, where I work with Python, Django, and Javascript.

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