With programming, my main motivation is not being able to find a tool to do something I want. So far...everything has a better tool than I could make in a side project. Programming is a means to an end for me, and outside a script here and there, I have little need for it.
But I enjoy it when I find a reason, and I'm decent at it. This way of seeing programming doesn't really produce side projects in my experience.
I want to write: Scrivener, Evernote. I'll never outdo Literature & Latte or the Evernote crew solo.
I want to make music: Reaper + Serum. The Winamp folks and Steve Duda have it covered.
I want to design: GIMP, Affinity Designer. Serif has all the resources and made a solid piece of software. I'll probably replace GIMP with Affinity Photo in the future.
I want to do a blog: there's so many great options already.
If I were at a company, that company would have needs and problems, and I could write code for that purpose. But personally, every need and problem is taken care of. It's not 1980 anymore. All the low-hanging fruit is taken and most of the broad problems are well-solved.
I have tons of side projects, but they're not code. Software is a means to an end for me, not a hobby.
Side projects that are not code are good too. The fact of having one is a positive thing, beyond their size or nature (as long as they are legal :P)
You are right, generally, a developer is not going to program something like Facebook as a side/personal project. Nor Evernote, GIMP, or WordPress. Those are humongous projects that cannot realistically be achieved by a single person carving some time here and there. Not in a thousand years.
But I disagree with the part about it not being 1980 anymore. It may not be 1980, but it is 2019, and there are plenty of opportunities to do things. Technology is everywhere and there is not a single task or job that doesn't need some type of software/app. And as the world evolves, the needs change. There may not be a need for (re)developing Evernote or Facebook, but someone needs Jilpop or Fredsoom.
I hope there's not a Jilpop or Fredsoom web/application already
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