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Where the inspiration comes from ?

by shadox (Priest)
on Mar 13, 2002 at 19:56 UTC ( #151506=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Hi there, yesterday about 23:45 in front of a beer i was thinking about what give a developer an idea (inspiration )to start a project of his own a project, a project where the principal goal is learn.
Sometimes i have the problem (and maybe some people too) that i read a lot of docs, manuals about a particular module and when i finish, i have no idea what to do to use what i just learn.
I remember a guy in college who used to walk around college with a coffee cup, thinking what to do.
A few beers and some music usually help me to get an idea for a project.
And what about you guys, what do you do when you need inspiration for a new project ?

Failure is not an option - it is a privilege reserved for
those who do not try hard enough.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by cjf (Parson) on Mar 13, 2002 at 20:08 UTC
    A few beers and some music usually help me to get an idea for a project.

    Just don't have too many before starting a project, you wouldn't want to get up the next morning and realize your project was written in python ;-)

    To answer your question, I find that after I complete a boring task for the 15th time, I usually have a fair bit of inspiration to automate the procedure. So I guess you could say laziness is my inspiration :)

    Other than that, I find that looking around CPAN and trying out new modules helps me get ideas for neat projects. Reading questions around here and seeing common problems also makes for a lot of interesting projects as well.

      I have done many projects the long way only to say that they were done automatically. I completely agree that laziness is oftentimes my inspiration. There is a rather interesting Russian anecdote. It goes something like this: "Out of the combination of logic and laziness, come out programmers." :-)

      P.S. Games are also a good source of ideas.

Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by dthacker (Deacon) on Mar 13, 2002 at 20:48 UTC
    At work I look for something that has been bugging me. I always can find a repetitive task that needs automating or a problem area that needs monitoring. I usually try to include some new perl techniques to try. This week I built my first hash of arrays!

    At home I look for projects that help out organizations I volunteer for, like my soccer club.. I've learned the basics of HTML while doing this site, and now I'm working on more advanced techniques. It's been good for both of us.

    If the skill you want to try out is more exotic, then try SourceForge. You may find a project that needs help with the very thing you just read about.

    There are a million people out there who "are thinking about building a whatsit." <sp>I encourage you to be one of the people who actually build one, because that will give you the inspiration for the next, and the next. And some day, one of those whatsits you built may be the very thing I need to finish my thingamajig. And that is a beautiful thing!


    Code On!
      If the skill you want to try out is more exotic, then try SourceForge. You may find a project that needs help with the very thing you just read about.

      Contributing to an existing open source project is definately a great way to improve your programming skills. Browsing through existing projects can also give you an idea of which areas need more projects started (accounting software), and which don't (php content management systems).

      Keep in mind, ever since SourceForge changed its terms of service and privacy statement some people have been encouraging projects to break free from and to make use of other systems. Just something to consider.

Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by tjh (Curate) on Mar 14, 2002 at 00:58 UTC
    For something that fits the 'my project' role, I may, and often have, just reinvented other wheels, mostly cgi, such as shopping carts, discussion forums, implementing OpenSSL for credit card transactions, session management.

    I generally take a completely naive approach and am not embarrassed to 'roll my own' to see how it comes out. More often than not, comparing what I ended up with to other's solutions is extremely humbling... ;(

    Some network monitoring tools got created to monitor a linux box on our home network (used for IP aliasing), mostly to watch the kid's browsing habits (which helped...), automated some site-watchers to message me or my wife of changes on sites we have personal interests in, almost anything can become a project for me.

    Other times I'll just do something simply to have used something from CPAN that intrigued me.

    Unless I have an actual need for a project to fill, simple triviality often gets things going. Some major things have come about while doing these types of projects.

    The plus is that a great deal of my Perl education has come from these things.

Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by fuzzyping (Chaplain) on Mar 14, 2002 at 04:28 UTC
    Well, if it's anything like my recent programming forays, 2/3 of your projects will be borne out of necessity... the remaining 1/3 out of some deep-seated sickness to amuse others at the cost of your own public ridicule.

    Nevertheless, it's funny how even the silly projects pick up their own steam and direction once the ball gets rolling. I'm currently working on a "Lunch Forum" portal to allow co-workers to collaborate on meal selections and even receive suggestions based on a Perl Monk-ish type XP system. I can only imagine where this might lead to. :-P

    Back on topic... regardless of the project, as long as it's something that will keep you interested, it's bound to hone your skills. And assuming the Monks stay by your side, all is well.

Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by gothic_mallard (Pilgrim) on Mar 14, 2002 at 09:38 UTC
    I tend to go down the line of "re-inventing" as well - the last one I did was to build an email module from scratch (basically my own version of Mail::Sender or similar) using Net::Telnet.

    Okay.. so it was a pointless exercise in a way (I could have done it a lot easier using Net::SMTP [which I'm now doing to optimise it and learn a little more about Net::SMTP along the way!) but I fancied learning a bit about Net::Telnet and it was a simple solution as I already had something to compare my finished module to.

    It may have been reinventing the wheel for sure, but sometimes it's good to get down to first principals (or close) so that you end up with a good understanding of why something works as well as simply how to do something - I feel that makes a distinction between being a good programmer and being a plain code-monkey.

    It's a little pointless doing something just because you copied the code out of some book or blindly using a module without really knowing why it works. I'm not saying everyone should build everything from scratch everytime you sit down to program - there would be no sense in that - but when it comes to learning something new, well, it just makes more sense to actually understand it as opposed to simply learing a modules' method/sub list parrot fashion. (Also makes it easier to fix bugs in the future when you can understand why something is going wrong!).

    Just MHO anyhow.... now to wait for the next project inspiration ;-)
Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by ellem (Hermit) on Mar 14, 2002 at 15:35 UTC
    I have two personal anecdotes here:

    First I read a lot. A lot of technical books, ORA and New Riders (for the Win stuff) dominate my bookshelf. When I was a kid in the early 80s I knew every idiotic "D&D" rule there was because I read those books (they weren't really "books" then) and learned everything about the game I could.

    This rarely creates inspiration for me. In fact shortly after trudging through DNS and BIND I found myself thinking, "What the heck am I going to do with this information?"

    Ulitmately I builta FreeBSD Box to host DNS in my house. (No really.) Well the point of this anecdote is I made a situation where I could use my new knowledge. BUT I was able leverage knowledge I had garnered before to do this. So reading a lot is/was good.

    Second: When I got stumped as a Sys Admin, either with Lotus Notes or Perl I did this... I got on a train. Within a few minutes of riding a train the answer came to me. It got to the point where my boss actually considered buying a train seat for my office. (No really.) So by getting _away_ from the problem I was often able to "figure it out."

    Beer and music are probably _not_ your friends for this endevour. I like beer and music as much as the next guy, believe me. There are many times I'd like to pull a Guinness and crank KoRn to destructive levels (oh wait that's just to get rid of the sales people) but I don't think that this will help you code. In fact, take this challenge: While you're sober go to and randomly pick a script. Write it sober. It is irrelevant whether it works or not when you are done. Now do the same after a few pints and crank up the weird part of "Whole 'Lotta Love" and try it again. Report your results!
    There's more than one way to do it, just don't use my way.
Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by redsquirrel (Hermit) on Mar 13, 2002 at 20:18 UTC
Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by Chainsaw (Friar) on Mar 14, 2002 at 14:51 UTC
    I don't know why but I remember that conversation and the beers. And my answare will be the same.

    When I cannot think in any good project, I usually do two or three things:
  • Play some music, harder than usually, and I become a self-world, where no one can disturb me, and where I can think with peace.
  • Light up a cigar and drink with some friends. (noy always work. but it's relaxing).

    God help me always to see the other face of the coin. And prevent me from accusing of betrayal those who don't think just as I do.
Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by nikita (Initiate) on Mar 14, 2002 at 16:03 UTC
    There was a Sunday's New York Times article about that topic two weeks ago. It said that you often need to take a break from what you doing no matter how important a job. While this might seems waste of time to some, what you're actually doing is allowing your self to absorb the information you've just learned. Ideas come from all places. Archamedes came up with some of his ideas in the bath tub. As for inspiration, most people set little or big goals for themselves if they feel like their work is going no where. I, for example, am going through with graduate school with the intention of buying a Porsche. Don't get me wrong I love what I'm doing (computer science). I also have days where I sit at night thinking what the hell I've been doing all these years and is what I'm doing making me happy.

    nikita ruziv

      As an aside, Isaac Asimov would sometimes bring up the story of Archimedes, crying Eureka after solving the density of solids problem via water displacement, when he was trying to explain what he would do when he got stuck. Basically, Asimov would claim that to get past a rut he would watch a totally and completely brainless movie. Yeah, the kind that has no plot and just action. A Schwarzeneggar or Steven Segal movie would fit this bill. Anyway, after seeing a mindless movie and NOT thinking of his problem he would miraculously find the solution to his problem afterwards, as if his subconscious mind was solving the problem in the background. So his claim was that when you're under crunch time and need to solve a problem immediately and you're having trouble coming up with a solution is the exact time that you need to take a break to let your mind figure things out even though its counter-intuitive to do something like that.

      For myself, I will step away and do something totally unrelated or mindless or even think while walking to change my perspective on some problem.

      Your Mileage May Vary.


      "The doktor is in."

        brilliant or not, Asimov is first and foremost a human man. he has insights and vices particular to his disposition and might not fit another particular human man or woman. i had dinner with he, his wife and daughter at a fine French restaurant at a conference where he was to be the guest speaker. most men get the best inspiration from that intersection beyond time and space. each person has a threshold intersection, for some it might be the power of nature and for many it is the extended nothing of a perfect organism. live well play well come up with great ideas!
Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by marlowe (Beadle) on Mar 15, 2002 at 05:33 UTC

    I find my inspiration comes from two very distinct sources:

    1) a desire to help friends

    2) a refusal to believe something can't be done

    The first one is self-explanatory. I listen to friends and co-workers' needs, I wish I had something to do this or that. Then I run with it. I find by making their lives easier, it makes mine easier. My coding skills improve and they are more willing to help me through various stumbling points

    The second one is a simple matter of pride. I love a challenge. If someone says something can't be done, I immediately look for a way to do it. You would be suprised how many extra ideas pop into your head when you are setting out to do the impossible.

    I find mediation helps me focus my inspirations into functioning projects. Allowing ideas to flow without outside interference leads you in directions you could never imagine.

    When faced with the impossible, act like you can't fail. When going after Moby Dick, bring along the tartar sauce.

Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by Anonymous Monk on Mar 14, 2002 at 16:54 UTC
    Well... Sometimes it's just the walk, sometimes somebody asks me to do something (then it's not mine), but in most cases it's reengineering - i like to have things done my way :-)
    I know that my way is the ugly one (many people did the same thing other - better way), but i like it as long as it fits my needs. Last time i needed to read several different (and growing) files... None of CPAN modules did what i wanted... One was slow as a snail, second only told me which files i'm able to read from, etc... so i wrote my simple (IMHO) code, which isn't so kind as those modules from CPAN, but it's ok - it works, even with strict!

    I've just realized, that my "dream" is an OS written only with Perl ;-) but by that time i follow the KISS rule. Keep it simple, stupid ;-) so i automate more and more things... And just between, there is something i can call "an inspiration" :-)

    Good luck!
Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by yung_tw (Pilgrim) on Mar 14, 2002 at 21:59 UTC
    What happens when you don't get inspiration from anywhere? hehe.. that happens to me quite often, well.. normally what I do is just get outside and take some air, sometimes go to the country club and play some tennis, or just to chill or play some pool. Talking to my girl and playing music helps me too.
Re: Where the inspiration comes from ?
by Anonymous Monk on Mar 14, 2002 at 19:42 UTC

         Inspiration comes from Love.

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