in chinese it's called 報復性熬夜, which translates to something like "retaliatory staying up late", it's a phenomena happening more in china where people just get stuck scrolling on social media because of the feeling that they want to use or own all of the free time they have left, and then it gets squandered and you hate yourself in the morning.
bill gates used to say that he valued engineers who turn procrastination into an art.
I miss walking to work for those 20 minutes of reflection before and after my shift.
Now I ride motorcycles. That gives me hours to think.
I highly recommend it.
An unexpected side effect is a new small group of friends who don't give a shit about tech, but share an interest in sampling food from faraway restaurants and getting there using as few highways as possible.
Unfortunately, it also makes sunny days unbearable when you're stuck at the office. Never park your bike within sight of your desk.
I miss exactly what you're describing. It's amazing how much solo time on a bike clears my head!
That being said, sometimes I have 20 minute showers because the thinking session is just that good. I have drawn more than a few diagrams on the foggy shower door.
Not a great goal financially, but there's always another job out there. Until there isn't, and at that point we'll either be living in a utopia or the robots will have exterminated us.
I don't really try to do "productive side projects" on weekends; mostly I read books, go outside, play music, spend time with friends and family, etc. But if my 9-5 job doesn't scratch the itch of "using my hard-earned talents for a constructive purpose", then the inexorable approach of Sunday night brings with it a deep feeling of dread: freedom to pursue things I enjoy is coming to an end, mandatory drudgery is fast approaching.
If I could spend the rest of my life having similar days, then it was a good day. That metric allows for more than just productive work.
As musician you grab your instrument and play.
As a writer you pick pen and paper and write.
As a chef you slice your stuff and cook.
Me, starting with an idea:
- Turn on computer. Oh no, updates galore. Ok fine.
- Those updates broke my IDE/dependencies/network driver etc. Let's fix that as well.
- Let's research a gazillion libs to see which one can help with my idea. Ah, none of them. So let's first implement this (for the actual problem) irrelevant, but elaborate base module.
- Meanwhile: more updates.
- Grrr. I should have picked another language. Or no, let's start again with new shiny, because it's better suited (also not BLUB programmer).
- My wife got the updates too. Guess what I have to fix now because I'm into computers.
- Damn, hours passed and I achieved nothing valuable so far. Back to work. Wait what? Work?.
- Screw that, I'm spending the time with my son playing electric guitar.
So, there you have it.
Edit: Corrected typos.
I wish it was that easy. Idea generation; research; plot outlines; character sketches; continuity; deliberate discontinuity; word choice; dialogue flow; action scene planning ...
Editing the first draft is so much easier than writing it.
- Was there ever a moment like "Oh no, I should rewrite my story in german, because I could better express the ideas"?
- Have you ever left your pen on the desk, coming back the other day, just to find out it does not work if you write the letters z and I?
- After fixing said pen, you wife asks you to do the same with hers because she needs to write a notification for the kids?
- Coming back and after finding out what exactly you want to write, seeing that you can't buy paper anymore that works with that stupid pen, so you have to make your own?
Actually I was waiting for a writer to respond this ;-). All the problems you mentioned above are key points relevant to your idea/product. In my view, the things I listed are just annoying, irrelevant distractions.
I wonder if this 2 page free-verse poem work better as half a dozen rhymed couplets?
> Have you ever left your pen on the desk, coming back the other day, just to find out it does not work if you write the letters z and I?
"Where's my favourite pen? Did you steal my pen??" - stares accusingly at the cat.
> After fixing said pen, you wife asks you to do the same with hers because she needs to write a notification for the kids?
"Why did you give the pen to the kid? Is it out of ink because he's been drawing on the walls again?? What do you mean he tried to flush it down the toilet???"
> Coming back and after finding out what exactly you want to write, seeing that you can't buy paper anymore that works with that stupid pen, so you have to make your own?
"Don't you dare wipe down that wall! Yes, I know it's blood. It's my blood! You drop that cloth now!! Dammit - I spent ages getting those end-rhymes right ..."
Reading should be considered a side project when you work full time executing.
Almost every interviewer asks you to talk about yourself.
(I've taken "Show HN" out of the title now.)
Then it's Friday night and you think how great it is that the weekend is here to get stuff done. Saturday arrives and if you're a home owner like me it's full of house and yard work (which in itself is fine, just time consuming).
So what you have left is Sunday. Relax in the morning with a cup of coffee and watch a relaxing show with the wife. The rest of the day is ahead, and based on how relatable this article is you know where that goes. Welcome to Sunday night and the cycle continues.
1. Your point: don’t give your most productive time to someone who uses you as a resource.
2. Try to structure your schedule so that you can best utilize your most effective energy without it being solely devoted to the obligations outside of being a profit center for someone else.
Sunday is what you make of it. Get the hell out of the house and you're less likely to sit on your ass scrolling all the endless scrolls. It helps if you forgot to charge your phone last night so you have barely enough battery for stuff you actually need, too.
These little adventures give me time to relax, reflect, do some exercise and explore my city. It's thoroughly satisfying.
Call me a Hedonist but the point of life is to enjoy it. If you spend your time with people who make you happy your weekend is a success at minimum.
I wish I had friends.
A few days ago, someone offered to buy the domain. Not for much money, but still, it's a kick in the pants.
I'm going to build that thing. Probably take me a few weeks, it'll scratch the itch, and it might even be useful. I've spent a couple hours fleshing out some user interaction and it looks like it'll be fun.
What else are rainy days for?
- Really? I... I did forty hours of my actual job this week. I, also...
Well, okay. Forty is the minimum, okay?
Now, you know it's up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Or... well, like Brian, for example, has three side projects, okay. And a terrific smile.
- Okay. So you... you want me to work more?
Companies can get software engineers anywhere, okay? They look to side projects for the atmosphere and the attitude. Okay? That's what side projects are about. It's about fun.
- Yeah. Okay. So more then, yeah?
Look, we want you to express yourself, okay? Now if you feel that the bare minimum is enough, then okay. But some people choose to work on side projects and we encourage that, okay? You do want to express yourself, don't you?
- Yeah, yeah.
Okay. Great. Great. That's all I ask.
But wanted to mention that its so cool that offices no longer look like that, at least where I live.
It used to be similar, even worse as a post soviet country. But it’s now so soo much better.
I haven’t seen most of the puns and sarcastic observations from that movie in quite a while.
Now we have different problems of course, but it all seems a bit more sensible now, as if we as a society have grown up a bit.
You wrap your infra/core functionality into an os project, and keep the businessy things in the private repo.
You get to work on it during your work hours. It inevitably ends up much better documented and tested code than the usual company developed tooling. And you get to keep it when you leave.
No need to spend time on it at home if you don’t want to.
And the company benefits as well as it now has much better internal codebase, people might consider maintaining it even after they’ve left the company, and it acts like a pr/recruitment hook.
The flip side of this (and I don't think it's what your advocating for, btw), is companies like Gatsby who's entire product is "open source", and when they have a deficiency in it they ask/expect you to submit PR to fix it, but then will immediately turn around and sell that on to others.
No thanks, im not going to write code and give it to you, to fix your broken product, for you to make money off it.
I know some companies are famously leave-water-at-home-we-drink-koolaid-here cough! (apple) cough!
If you make it a very nice looking OS project, most of the time they are either on board or don't care too much.
But I really check for this at the interview stage, and they must have a really good reason not to, compensated accordingly.
Didn't Apple start doing OS as well though? I think there are a bunch of projects from them already.
They have opened swift, but that's sort of a funnel anyway.
The real problem is folks who work there say it's really hard to open source stuff as an employee.
Btw did anyone ever say a side project had to be coding? Maybe you like to paint, or do dances on Tiktok, or read mystery thrillers.
In other words, your side project is just more, unpaid work?
More reasonable would be an industry non-compete or technology NDA which are more specifically about you not taking company secrets and making money from the company's efforts.
Also, doing a view source it's funny that "minimal CSS" is sort of like my "minimal python", which includes at least 10 lines of magic preamble devoted to import and argparse that I sprinkle in every script I write.
Australia has a very accomodating approach towards personal income tax deductions. I can deduct any work or business related expenses. If the expense was also for personal purposes, I can still claim the portion used for work. For example, if I buy a Macbook and use it for working 40 hours a week, and then 10 hours of personal use, I can deduct 80% of the cost from my income.
As I'm working from home, all my office furniture is tax deductible, as well as my power and internet bills.
Then because I'm a software developer, any software or hardware that I use while I'm working is also deductible; keyboards, monitors, cables, etc. I can even deduct the cost of a new backpack if I use it to carry my laptop!
It was actually this:
(Please get the reference or this just sounds weird out of context)
... and the only prescription
... is MORE BLING!!!!!!
- Build what you're interested in, not what other people on the social feeds are doing.
- Things that were built for fun can end up making money. So why not aim to build for fun first!
- Build pointless things! (like this). They're great to express yourself and they're much easier to finish and release (less pressure).
- You don't need to finish anything!! But if you really want to finish that side-project, try a pointless project to boost your morale.
- Divide and conquer - Large side-projects can be overwhelming. Divide that MMO game into smaller projects which are easier to finish.
Maybe this is all pretty evident to most people... but it doesn't hurt to see it written explicitly.
Happy Sunday! :)
I have managed to keep up some of my hobbies and relationships during isolation, but it is certainly much more difficult when I don't feel engaged or valued at work.
Either it’s because I personally experienced the Great Recession, the launch of social media and the iPhone, and my worldview expanded greatly as one does in undergrad all at once, or it really is a new phenomenon that your employer has no loyalty to you, so one must rely on their own. With social media, these themes are just further perpetuated and there’s a pressure to start companies.
I’ve already worked my ass off at my day job, and just want my hobbies to not turn into side projects or “side hustles”. I don’t intend on starting companies based on them.
Agreed with you until this point. At least the junk TV I know also involves (be it consciously or not) comparing yourself, this time with celebrities instead of acquaintances.
Mostly though it just takes time to build a life, and a you, that you love enough that you win most of those comparisons to celebrities. Think about how most celebs are basically slaves in various ways: slaves to public opinion, to the Hollywood social hierarchy, to the crappy contracts under which most of them are laboring, and especially to the fear of not being famous/loved/accepted tomorrow, of being replaced by one of the thousands of others who (maybe just as tragically) would jump at the chance to have that person's shitty contract and precarious perch on the ladder of fame. Slaves to the empty holes in their souls that they have been filling with the quest for fame probably their whole lives. Ah, but to the extent that you spend time on social media, seeking approval from strangers, you are (or your avatar is) kind of a micro-celebrity and would tend to be plagued by all those same problems! So yeah, that ruins it. All the more reason to get the hell off of there, ideally permanently!
>Cats have done the seemingly impossible: They’ve integrated themselves into the modern high-tech world without giving themselves up. They are still in charge. There is no worry that some stealthy meme crafted by algorithms and paid for by a creepy, hidden oligarch has taken over your cat. No one has taken over your cat; not you, not anyone.
Your writing here is now in the quote collection along with a number of other HN comments over the years. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)
In fact, it's useful to consider that many, if not most people do the job that they do not because they enjoy it or find it fulfilling, but because if they don't, they and/or their family will starve in the street.
If you have a job/career that's intellectually stimulating and personally satisfying, you already have it much better than a whole lot of other people.
And if that's the case for you, celebrate that!
While it may seem like if you aren't spending every waking moment focused on being able to write the most beautiful or performant code, or trying to found the next unicorn, that you're wasting your life.
And depending on who you are, that may be enough.
But I guarantee you, that when you're lying on your deathbed, you won't be thinking about how many patches you submitted to open source projects, how optimized your code is, or how numerous and helpful your StackExchange posts were.
It might surprise you to know that a very large number of people's primary interests/focus have absolutely nothing to do with how they support themselves.
In fact, there's a whole big world out there that has absolutely nothing to do with technology.
I'm not trying to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't do, but as someone whose identity was strongly tied to my career for decades, while it was certainly worth it in many respects, my world could have been much richer and fuller if I'd taken the time to metaphorically stop and smell the roses.
So if you feel like you need to be "always on" and permanently focused on the next professional challenge/opportunity, maybe you could step back once in a while and consider not just what's good for you professionally, or will make you more competitive in the marketplace, but what gives you joy as a person.
For a lot of us, that's building technology. And that's a good thing.
But technology isn't the entire universe, and if you limit your focus and interests really narrowly, you're going to miss out on the beauty and the worthy challenges in the wider world.
Even more, having those non-work related interests/experiences can, give one a broader perspective on your professional life that makes you better and more useful/productive/engaged in your professional life.
I suggest taking Bill Shatner's advice as a metaphor. Or don't. It's your life and that's (as it's always been) up to you.
It's yet another ( unfinished ) template using my TypeScript fav stack.
I managed to make AcccountsJS work in nextjs API which was an awesome feeling after weeks of struggling with it lol. at the end I managed to provide my TypeORM connection in a differeent way using conneecctionManager instead of createConnection, which didn't work nicely with Next's HMR
Now I need to get the fontend apollo parts...
Anyway just in case someeone is interested: https://github.com/agustif/sunday/
AccountsJS Boilerplate template with TypeScript, NextJS, Apollo and GraphQL.
Also under the hood TypeORM and Postgres for the ORM and DB.
Working on the frontend now, gonna use bumbag.style for UI frontend.
I just try to work as hard as possible every day and hope it benefits others in the end, somehow.
There are some lessons that might be worth sharing, though, so maybe I should talk about it anyway. When I was much younger, a sharp programmer in #gamedev on Afternet – a sort of guru figure named Washu – was talking with me, which is to say I was rambling to him in the way teenagers do about hopes, dreams, life, all the ways you want to change the world, etc. I was saying things like, "If only I didn't have to work. I would do so much. It feels like my potential is being drained."
He replied, "If you're not productive at work, you won't be productive outside of work."
That always stayed with me, partly because it made me mad. Who does he think he is? He doesn't know me or my situation at all. And yet, over the last decade-and-change, it's been an inescapable truth. I left that job a couple years later with $15k in the bank, exhausted, and thoroughly not looking forward to the next one. So I sat down, finally free of job, and started to change the world...
... by playing dota. All day, every day.
Now, I wouldn't trade those days for anything. It was necessary soul-searching, and it prepared me for this last year, where I was able to be productive. But you must understand: unless you're disciplined, you need to focus on simply being happy at work, before you can be happy outside of work.
There's a very good chance that you're making yourself unhappier than you need to be, because instead of simply choosing to be happy (which is often, but not always, a choice), you are choosing to be unhappy (by dreading that alarm).
The flipside is, once you're ready, you really can do so much more, when you get to focus for multiple days on problems of your choosing. Or multiple weeks.
I don't know if anyone needed to hear that, but... just remember, you can choose your mindset, even though you can't choose your emotions. Mindset != emotion, and emotions tend to follow mindset in the long run.
I think there are two reasons to say fuck Sunday, one is dreading the work day that's coming up because it stresses you out and you hate it. Which I think is what you're talking about.
And the other, which I feel the website is talking about, is dreading the fact that the weekend is over and you haven't done any of the things you wanted to use the weekend for, such as working on your personal projects, hitting the gym, getting that cabinet in order, finally putting a budget together, etc. Which comes to you with a feeling of guilt and having wasted the weekend and your time.
You can obviously have both feelings at ounce, but I think you can also only suffer from one of these. I for example enjoy my work, but I have that latter feeling which is that none of my other goals are being worked on and met.
The other aspect I wanted to share, if it helps at all, is... it’s truly fine to waste your weekend, or to be unproductive and do nothing. There’s so much stigma attached to that, and almost every system in a capitalistic society would have you believe it’s a terrible sin or that you’re less of a person.
But I get that your point is more along the lines of “I just wish I had time for everything I wanted to do.” For whatever it’s worth, the feeling doesn’t go away. I feel guilty about not being as focused as I could have been yesterday, for example, and it’s hard to shake the idea that 24 hours are simply too few.
I should probably stop here, since the obvious reply is “yeah, that sure sounds like an awful problem to have, with all that time available to you. /s” which is entirely valid.
But! You can get it for yourself, depending on what you can exchange for it. In truth, my laptop’s internal keyboard has been dead for four years or so. I just bring an external everywhere, since it’s $500 to fix.
Unfortunately parents don’t have the luxury of simply choosing to save up money and then take a year off work, because the cost of family often scales with time. So, those of you who have children and still manage to do a lot of other things: you’re real heroes in my eyes. Fuck Sunday!
It looks like when the reason for doing it is not to solve your own or anybody else's problem, your focus becomes more and more about technology, competition, process, etc.
Otoh when you're alleviating the pain, your focus is always to get it done as quickly as possible no matter how many corners you need to cut.
So yes it's time to take a step back and figure out what your goals are and if they align with whatever it is you're doing with your time.
I haven't been able to participate in a session yet, but I have used some of the prompts to create a few "for fun" sites of my own: https://sundaysites.justus.ws/
It's fun to make things just for the sake of making them.
Do we ask lawyers what free cases they take over the weekend?
Doctors about the diagnoses they make for fun on Saturdays?
Teachers about their open source lesson plans?
I'm sure many of the above DO these things.
Worst yet its often phrased in the interview as "do you have any hobbies?"
Yeah - I do, I spent the weekend figuring out how to replace parts on my car. Why wasn't I writing the next Linux? Because I get enough screen time at work.
You know what I do at home "just for the hell of it"? I play with my kids.
So, you have kids, great! Spend time with them, enjoy your life. Presumably you're a software engineer so you're making more money than the vast majority of the world. Enjoy that, but do you feel entitled to go as far in your career as someone who dedicates more of their life to their career? Should those people be punished by being displaced by someone like you who presumably has less expertise due to spending less time on your career? I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, but I'm struggling to understand why our current system should change to cater to your lifestyle choices of having kids.
If the general solution to career advancement is just to work more hours, we'll be a bunch of unhealthy, overworked burnouts.
Where's that expectation that you have to be best of the best coming from?
(Not to mention, the expectation to be seen and treated as the best of the best, without putting in the work.)
Sure you can put more hours into something to get better and improve your performance.
But why should you spent more hours on your free time? Some employers grant a free "afternoon" every-week for employees side projects. Guess what more side projects, less burnout...
Source: The company that support PostgreSQL for my workplace do that. Which we were doing the same.
People are going to have kids regardless. So, the question we're really asking is, should we structure things so that people have time to raise those kids that they are already going to have. I haven't reviewed the literature, but I'd guess kids who have their parents present in their life have better outcomes.
I am aware of hiring decisions between several candidates that hinged on their side projects (or lack thereof).
some workers like to spend time coding off-clock: that's fine.
some employers prefer those workers: that's fine too.
I'm not interested in being one of those workers, and quite happy to avoid those employers. I have no trouble finding workplaces that respect my time.
I think what we want to limit is employers pressuring people into side-projects as a form of unpaid overtime. Other than that, I'm not sure if I see the problem here - but I guess I'm a part of it too.
As a 20-something year old with no kids, I certainly do not feel any more entitled to "go far in my career" than anyone else, just because im dead inside and write code on the weekends after work. Anyone who thinks like this is an asshole who I don't want to work with.
In my experience, the people who have kids generally have more experience because they built up the experience before getting the kids.
Can you see how this presumption could be problematic?
Edit: fixed grammar
And that's great and all, but it also ensures that the only thing you did that was noteworthy for prospective employers was whatever project you happened to be stuck with your current job.
If you happen to be privileged and work on architecting exciting cutting-edge projects that use any of the relevant or even popular technologies then you have nothing to worry about.
If, instead, you happen to be like the most of us and are working on maintaining legacy projects with technologies that you hate and are obsolete and became irrelevant to the eyes of prospective employers, or even worse you are stuck on doing boring stuff that tangentially have anything to do with development at all... Then how do you work on your marketable skills?
Do you honestly expect to be the best candidate to a job position when you're competing with people who spent years working on exciting and interesting cutting-edge technologies when all you have to show for is years of maintaining a legacy application that was mostly done except with the minor updates you were charged to do?
So yeah, please do enjoy spending all your free time playing with your kids. Some of us are compelled to, in the very least, brush up their skills outside of work because otherwise we might not have a shot at a job that allows us to play with the kids, or even get a job in the near future.
Your line of reasoning doesn't actually benefit you unless you can negotiate a higher wage because of your side projects. In most cases, it's a proxy for an employer getting away with not paying you for training - either your current employer or a prospective new employer.
I guess it matters whether those side projects are intrinsically motivated. If you’re just doing it because you’re expected to, I can see it leading to burn out as it’s essentially a side job. But if you’re doing it out of intrinsic interest, it’s more of a hobby that also builds your professional skills
Here's what I googled and read up on this weekend, how to repair rotted roof rafter tails because the garage needs work. I was looking at the repair manual of the broken elliptical to see if I can repair too. As for coding, I was building a daycare app before the pandemic put a lid to that and I shelved that for now. Since the pandemic, I have just written toy throw away sim codes to run simulation of whatever that came to my head, predicting the pandemic numbers, housing market, etc.
Point is, I can somehow find out a little time here and there to play on the computer, most people can.
Of course, I could equally judge you based on my own life experiences. An engineering manager? Pfft, managers are overpaid babysitters who add no value. And I've supervised ADHD dabblers - on the side, while working primarily as an IC. Their flurries of little shiny projects sure do look impressive, especially in meetings and on resumes, but when it comes to building something genuinely new and difficult, and persisting to a high quality finish? MAN, they sure require a LOT of hand-holding.
There are plenty of people out there who are completely different from you and yet contribute as much or more than you do. Get over yourself and appreciate human diversity a bit more.
>>My typical work week is about 50-60hrs.
>>I'm not single, not young, now north of 40+. I'm just a doer.
You are at least 2 decades late to having kids. But that's ok, better late than never.
But I'd absolutely recommend partitioning some part of your 60 hour work week and late night Googling, and allocating it to exercise, sleep and relationship. Stuff like heart attacks, brain diseases and divorces tend to wipe out gains made over 30 years.
At the end, any amount of hyper productivity makes sense only if its beneficial and sticks to us in some way, like on the longer run.
I've been delaying learning ML for a while now, it doesn't seem to matter, basically delaying doing lots of things without payoff many of which will be irrelevant in 5 years. I can't say the same for exercise though.
You aren't necessarily a better developer (or person) for doing all of that than those who played videogame for all those hours.
Spending many hours on doing software development does, in fact, make you better at software development than someone who, ceteris paribus, spent that same time playing video games. I feel that "not necessarily" is becoming the 21st century version of "but there's still a chance, right?"
Plus if you have been doing it for 10 years+ how much more are you going to improve really by coding more hours?
The field is so wide that you could be doing it for 100 years and still keep learning new things that would improve your work.
And for senior+ levels, where soft skills start to dominate, you still need to have already become competent at the hard things. Soft skills are means for making things happen, but you have to have a clue which things need to happen, and which don't.
It isn’t rocket science really, learn the fundamental well, keep practicing 40h a week for years and you will master the craft.
The difference between two masters of the craft won’t be the person who sit more hours on the chair in front of the computer.
Skill doesn't come from nowhere. It comes from practicing it and thinking about it and otherwise being mentally engaged with the field.
And yeah, I'm pretty sure that after 100 years of cooking, and learning how to cook, I'd be better than the person who put in only 20, just by sheer virtue of more internalized knowledge, more time to think, and more practice.
Each person brings an unique set of skills based on their experience (professional and life).
I have worked in lots of different industries from designing hardware chips with VHDL to multi datacenter kubernetes deployment with 100k of cores.
I never did side projects neither did I expect more time on the chair from a coworker... Still somehow I can build winning teams with all the different mixes and industries.
By that logic the oldest developers should be the best of all. But that is not true. Some are great, some are average and some are still bad even after a life time of practice.
The word developer itself means someone who builds. So it is natural to assume that someone who enjoys building stuff, even for fun, is a better developer also at work.
As any rule, this has exceptions and it's not universal, but it makes sense to think so. And since he's a manager, it perfectly makes sense for him to think so.
It is entirely reasonable to provide programming tasks or whiteboard interviews or whatever in lieu of going through someones personal project.
Using your own lifestyle and tastes as a benchmark is what riles people up. If side-projects are the measure of the man, then there is an expectation of how people should spend their free time.
I believe the polarization is coming from how this is expressed, specifically pegging side-projects as the determining factor. People can find joy in their work (programming in our case), but not necessarily want to do the same thing in their free time.
This is likely biased as it is coming from someone with no personal projects though :)
Plural of anecdote is not data. The principle that "the more work you put into something, the better you get at it" works in general.
Beyond that, you are not a machine. Stop arranging your life so that you’ll be the best programmer possible and go do things that are just fun and not connected with your career. It’s good for you, trust me. 40 hours a week is enough for work, go enjoy living.
But on the other hand, I do kind of agree with the parent that a coder who shows no evidence of ever having experimented with a new technology or scratched their own itch with code seems like someone with neither love for nor curiosity about their craft.
I'm a welder by trade. Occasionally I do a spot of welding at home, but the 38 to 60 hours a week I've spent twenty years doing has made me a vastly better metal fabricator than the few side projects I've done.
But I can rant endlessly to you about my other interests, some of which tie in nicely to a wider-perspective-of-life than just metal fabrication, and it's those other interests that have proven to set me apart from the pack and advanced my career way more.
Could you just ask a person what fun or interesting or challenging things they've worked on, whether in their paid line of work or as a side-project, and leave aside your value judgements about what they do outside of work.
Core point: stop thinking your experience generalises to the whole population.
Now imagine you're just starting and you want to get hired as a spot welder.
You don't work 38 to 60 hours a week welding, though. You do something else for a living. But you want to move onto welding.
In that case, besides spending their personal time doing side projects, how do you expect someone to work on their skills?
What exactly do you personally interpret as the post, and thus perceive it was moved in any way? Have you been paying attention to the discussion?
Your basic hobbyist weld is like hello-world. As a side note, one sign of a bad engineer is one who underestimates difficulties in fields outside their expertise.
Like most professions you can become as skilled at it as you wish, depending on your willingness to work to get better. There are a lot of different types of welding, lots of different pieces of equipment to learn and master, and way more different materials to work with than most people realize.
Also, different situations present different challenges (like the fact that you have to be mindful of how your welds can warp the material).
I personally only know some the details second-hand (have professional welders in my family), but I know I'd want the guy with 20 years of experience over the one with 5, if I had something challenging I needed fixed.
Whenever we're tempted to reach that conclusion, we should consider that there might be something going on that we don't understand. In the case of JS frameworks, I think developers really are still figuring out the best way to implement a dynamic UI that's both efficient and maintainable.
A percentage of the software industry has a bias against programmers who don't code in their spare time because it's extremely difficult to evaluate technical talent. We lean on quality filters like number of hours spent on side projects that have sparse evidence to support their efficacy. While I'm skeptical that a general set of metrics exist we can use to perfectly evaluate technical skill across the industry, we can certainly do better.
Is it actually harder to evaluate a programmer's talent compared to, say, a lawyer or a doctor's talent?
An institution that's hiring fresh lawyers or fresh doctors can piggyback on the extensive, rigorous and difficult evaluation (which costs a lot of time and effort both for the candidate and the evaluator) during the bar qualification, medical licensing examination, etc. For example, if a potential doctor is a board certified proctologist(colorectal surgeon), then you can just assume that they will be able to do proctology to a high standard, you don't need to (and likely even can't) verify that aspect of the candidate. (Though employment of doctors itself is quite different from how hiring normal employees work, they're often more like independent contractors or running their own practices)
If an institution is hiring a fresh software developer, then a CS diploma does not even reliably guarantee that they know the basics of software engineering (e.g. see yesterday's discussion in HN https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24740765 ) - so you have to do all the evaluation yourself, and neither you nor the candidate would be willing to spend as much time and effort on that evaluation as a lawyer or doctor does, so it definitely is trickier to evaluate since you don't (can't) have enough information.
In these scenarios they are going to get lot of candidates who will do far more fuzzing on their CVs
So you find out you have a semi-treatable carcinoma, how do you pick the right doctor? AM radio ads? Billboards about proton therapy? Internet search? Hearsay? Whoever your insurance company picks?
At least I know how to evaluate a programmer for life and death work, like avionics. That's just verifiably coding to a specification. Challenging, but relatively easy compared to cancer.
The professions that were mentioned in the grandparent were all things that can easily be tested in an testing process. I.e. _play_ the guitar. Cook a meal.
Testing a doctor or lawyer well in a limited time is difficult, just like a software engineer. The difference is that they aren't expected to do "side projects" to prove their worth.
They don't, but not because they don't want to - it's because it's irresponsible for them to. The occupation of a lawyer or a doctor professes some privileges but also creates legal liabilities. As a lawyer or a doctor, you're not going to risk losing your license over an advice or procedure given to someone for free, on a hobby project.
(Also, the work of lawyers and doctors isn't creative in the sense software is, but it's primarily a people-oriented service. Which means you need other people to do your primary type of work for/on. The kind of work lawyers/doctors usually do after hours is called research, or just learning. Meanwhile, in software development, I can do the exact same type of work for myself that I do at my job, and end up with a digital product I can enjoy using.)
These days many software developers have never delivered software by themselves, so when they say they were “part of a team that developed X” we can’t know if they really did a significant part of X, or if they were just along for the ride.
Just because some do doesn't mean most do, at least in any significant manner. Just because some don't doesn't mean that they are letting their life outside of work go idle. People are allowed to have other interests (e.g. hobbies) and other responsibilities (e.g family). That doesn't mean that they are suspect or not good. It may mean other things, like they are a better rounded individual.
I hate this attitude that there's something wrong with that. It's perfectly possible to be a good engineer doing only 40 hrs a week.
Frankly this whole attitude is a big part of why we have a diversity problem, because only a small minority (over represented here on HN) want to spend all their time building software and this attitude puts a lot of people who weren't teenage coding geeks off joining the industry. It's actively harming the industry and I wish it would go away. If you individually enjoy coding for fun above anything else by all means go for it and enjoy your life, but stop trying to force that on the rest of us. There's more to life that just building software!
That's great, someone is a better rounded individual. That's nice.
But if that well-rounded individual applies for a React position but has zero React experience, let alone any React project in their portfolio or CV, then that well rounded individual will be quickly brushed aside on the first round of the application process.
But at least he's well-rounded.
If you expect some lawyers to work professionally pro bono, why is it going too far to write tests for your side project?
Musician does not spend 8 hours a day playing music at work and then plays at home in addition to it. Playing music at home is not addition to full time work.
Same with mathematician, actually. I know, because I have them in my family. They do math for work, whether at work or at home. And they do have non-math hobbies.
Writer is not writing 8-5 in work just to come home for hobby writing. Writer either writes for job or has non-writing job.
> A chef might have an idea for a meal and experiment at home.
100% not. Chefs work long hours and when they come home, they want partner to cook.
I am ecstatic that I get to pour my craft into paid work. I have written my best code in the context of employment. Over the years, of course I have had side projects. But in the last two years I have worked on nothing but paid projects that have all let me grow and explore as a developer.
Musicians are not a great analogue because they aren't getting paid to music for 8+ hours a day already. Of course they have to practice at home. But I get plenty of practice coding while I am getting paid, I don't always need a side project.
The point of side-projects is that some of us don't get any practice at all coding relevant stuff while working on their 9-to-5 job.
Those who are mindful about their career do understand the risks of getting stuck doing irrelevant tasks, thus they feel compelled to work on their skillset and put together a nice portfolio during the process so that we have something to show to prospective employers.
That's not the assertion at all.
The general assertion is that those without side projects either might not have a way to showcase their skills or might not have a way to work on skills they don't use as part of their 9-to-5 job.
The specific assertion regarding recruiters is that without any side-project that showcases your skills with specific technologies then recruiters have no objective way to evaluate your skills. Thus if they have other candidates that demonstrate their skills and they have to pick between them and you, you will be left out because you have nothing to show for.
This is a tough argument to have constructively because it's really going to depend on our own experiences at our jobs and in recruiting. But lets just say that I would have to work full-time on a side project for it to outshine my industry experience, which makes sense, because I worked full time in order to get that experience.
I guess that's why this is a pain point for me. I see around me extremely skilled developers putting in real work solving real problems from 9-5, but according to the grandparent comment, their skills are suspect because they haven't spent their afternoons writing dead end projects for fun.
I would hire any of them in a heartbeat over the guy with the New Tech laden github.
It really isn't. I can tell you that personally I've already been contacted and hired a couple of times exclusively due to a side project I have.
> But lets just say that I would have to work full-time on a side project
You don't. You only need to have something to show for. You are the only one whose input matters and you are free to choose whatever you feel is best for you in terms of learning experience and portfolio. No one cares if you work on it for 14 hours a day or 15 minutes each month. What recruiters do care about is that you have something substantial to show for when they ask you if you have any experience in X.
> (..) but according to the grandparent comment, their skills are suspect because they haven't spent their afternoons writing dead end projects for fun.
Those skills are obviously suspect if they claim prowesses that they have no way to corroborate.
What? Do you believe people don't lie in job applications? Do you believe no one ever said in job interviews that they were very skilled at X although they never in their life had any contact with it?
Why would someone have no way to corroborate their industry experience? I can show you thousands of lines of code I wrote on the job. Even with an NDA there are ways to show your achievements.
Anyway, I am not saying side projects don't get peoppe jobs, that was never my argument. My argument is that talented developers don't always have side projects all the time. Some of them are already highly skilled and work in challenging enough environments that they continue to learn anyway. The grandparents argument was that anyone without side projects is suspect, that is demonstrably false.
In that case, I'd say "No I categorically do not do side projects because I do not want FAANG X to own them" is a perfectly reasonable answer.
If you somehow manage to avoid signing that clause, then suddenly your side projects become potential competition for your employer, so they might get you into awkward discussions with your manager, especially so if your side project turns out useful or valuable. So having your own side project might require a level of people skills that programmers highly dedicated to their craft will likely not have.
I know people who dread "their" side projects because it just feels like additional unpaid work to them. I also know people who keep their side projects a secret from their employer.
If you select for people with corporate side projects, you're likely selecting for future employees with bad people skills.
The only (sous) chef I know hates cooking outside of work.
I do a lot of reading at home. Some tech, some non tech. However not a lot of side project work at home. Baby, wife and dog come first when I’m home.
Second category who work on large custom build applications, likely enjoy good software craftsmanship. They got chance to be part of challenging projects. They think of getting even better jobs or just plan to write some personal projects which may even be useful at work.
Now when it comes to hiring I do not know if hiring folks / HR really identify these 2 categories. To me it seems every application is evaluated as software developer without analyzing context on what kind of work is done at what kind of companies.
I started working fulltime as a coder maybe 3 years ago. Before that I coded a lot on my free time, but since I started doing it fulltime at work, I did less on my spare time, and now it's basically no coding at all on my spare time.
I can understand that an employer wants someone who practices their work-related skills on their free time, but is it really that important?
If you want productive employees, isn't it even more important that they eat healthy, exercise and sleep well?
Just counting amount of hours/week spent on coding sounds like quantity over quality to me...
Lawyers have both continuing education and pro bono work expectations, both of which are frequently also bar membership requirements (with some common
exemptions, IIRC, for the pro bono requirement in jurisdictions where it generally applies.)
Of course, because they are binding requirements and because lawyers as a norm (and, when not working as regular employees of their direct client, usually a legal requirement) work for other lawyers, this is usually accommodated within working arrangements. But software developers don't have industrial guilds or self-regulation, so they don't have the same kind of power to get accommodation for the need for doing things outside of their current narrow job duties accommodated within most working arrangements. But that doesn't lessen the need for it.
> Doctors about the diagnoses they make for fun on Saturdays?
Doctors are much like lawyers, including both the binding nature of continuing professional education requirements and, and least broadly, the reasons why it gets accommodated in their working arrangements.
> Teachers about their open source lesson plans?
No, but, teachers also have mandatory continuing education requirements as licensing conditions outside of what they are immediately teaching. And they tend to have strong unions and legal requirements to point to to get these accommodated in their working arrangements.
Software developers have, as a whole, implicitly opted for immediate pay over other advantageous working conditions, including accommodations for continuing education, but it is no less relevant to their ability to develop and perform. Possibly moreso than the other fields; tooling and practices in software development evolving more rapidly than many other intellectual professions.
It's a little harder to pin down than side projects, but the activity is still there.
My brother is a surgeon. And before that, a doctor.
And yes he worked all the hours in the day and still does and always has.
He has never stopped studying - he has constantly studied his whole school and working life.
Being really good at something takes hard work.
And also it makes total sense that employers seek out those people for whom it's more than just a job - because those people tend to have a higher level of expertise. You might not like that but the logic is reasonable.
While I certainly don't think software developers should be expected to make software their freetime hobby with a menagerie of weekend sideprojects, this forum acts like it's an unfair demand on a carpenter that you see something they've built before you hire them.
I also can't say I expect much from a software developer who hasn't at least had interest in personal projects during some interval of their life. Like a carpenter who has never made something unless they were getting paid for it.
I've had interviews where we talked about Tiger King.
Though I do agree, this is the minority. I feel that, especially in the cybersecurity world, it's an expectation that you should have several CVEs or public bug bounty writeups under your belt, things which oftentimes take tens of hours of time outside of work.
Don’t. You seem to be utterly blind to the enormous power imbalance in an interview setting. If you were to ask people what their sexual preferences were, or what their political opinions were, people would feel compelled to answer. Don’t behave as if you don’t have any power and are just talking informally; you’re not.
You have a huge amount of power in that relationship, and if you will be their boss after they are hired, this will continue to be true. Wield this power responsibly, don’t pretend you don’t have it.
Ain’t nobody got no time to do that any more.
Next, having the right non-coding hobbies to portray yourself as an upwardly mobile urban creative: Climbing is in, hunting is out, that sort of thing
Only on HN is having interests outside of work considered a slur.
I have some side projects, and employers have rarely asked about them or cared at all.
> Worst yet its often phrased in the interview as "do you have any hobbies?"
I think you're projecting here. Perhaps they just want to know about your hobbies?
For questions about hobbies it’s the same. You need something to talk about to gauge fit into the team.
I feel exactly the same way, but there is an incredible amount of hostility to this website in this thread imo. I almost made a similar blog post to start my blog off this year (which I still haven't gotten around to doing), and I did a similar thing with a web domain I bought as a joke while drinking. After years of development, it was actually exhilarating to work on something that I have no deadlines for and can use as an outlet to explore technologies I never got to use but always wondered about. I get the same energy from this website.
I hate the expectancy of software devs to work on their own projects as a resume builder, but this site seems to be _specifically not about that_. On the contrary, it seems to me like the author is re-learning how approach something that they may have forgotten that they even like to do in a casual way, which I think is nice. In fact, when working on side projects I care about these days, I get annoyed by my friends constantly trying to figure out how I'm going to spin it as work experience.
It's more of a question of work and why we do so. Most are left burn out at the end of their week.
After all it's a job, because someone has to pay you to do it.
Programming is just the process of abstraction and automation of work. At what point does it end?
At my previous job the anti-competitive clause was strong enough to include anything which uses the same skillset as your day job, even if it's a non-commercial side project. I originally thought it was fine, since I hadn't managed to find time and motivation to work on my dream project, anyway over the previous four years.
Five years in, however, I had an epiphany which meant I just couldn't ignore the urge to work on it and finally see it through. I ended up changing jobs largely to be allowed to work on it.
It's been difficult, finding time and motivation, especially since I will always prioritize spending time with my kids above any other activity. But I've managed to find time a bit, mainly in the evenings if I happen to have energy over.
I do plenty of coding activities in my spare time, my library is filled with technical books, some work related, others that I bought out of interest in a given technology - but I don't think there should be an expectation to have a published game, a large website making a few hundreds of bucks a week or a massively successful open sourced project.
I have no desire to see that attitude become any further entrenched in software development.
I usually just say something to make me seem well rounded if asked about my hobbies.
The problem is when there is an expectation that as a developer you're somehow inferior if you don't code in your free time.
Insofar as diversity of experience matter, coding less and on a narrower array of projects does make you inferior. So, yeah, I’d expect developers who don’t code outside of work, all other things being equal, to be inferior to those who do.
I’m curious what, other than simple self-interest of those who don't code outside of work, would lead one to argue that that isn't the case.
Additionally, doing things other than coding also provides diversity of experience which may be relevant and/or offer a wider perspective.
So, I don’t think you’ve really made your case here.
It might be (I don't think it's practically orthogonal though it's obviously not strictly linked), I should have mentioned both quantity and diversity of experience (and, in fact, thought I had; I must have dropped part of intended edit.)
I can spend W + H time making X widgets, granting more quantity in the same scope or W making X widgets and H making Y (or Y0...Y∞) systems, for increased diversity with the same quantity in X.
That is not an absolute. Being a developer is not just about writing heaps of code.
Maybe the developer who volunteers at a local community centre is better at dealing with people. Sure, they might not code as much, but they might be better at teasing requirements out of BAs.
Or it could be as simple as the developer who does their work during the day, goes home, cooks a meal, plays with their kids/socialises with their friends comes in the next day rested and ready to focus on their work, instead of trying to thinking about that problem in their personal project.
Or it could be that the guy who codes 24/7 is a total rockstar. But maybe working on that pet ML project in Tensorflow at home isn't really helping you write that REST endpoint in ASP.net at work.
There's no guarentee either way.
Distracting one's mind from the immediate task can also be beneficial for the end result.
All this does not make me inferior. Rather the other way around. Luckily I've been my own boss for the last 20 years so I do not have to explain how I do things. I am only responsible for end results /time frame and overall cost.
Granted there are situations when loads of code needs to be written that does not require much thinking. For this I usually hire subcontractors. Sometimes do it myself but it does not come very often.
So before I got that first job, I focused on learning general things to raise my ceiling, so I studied text books. OS, DS and Algos, Calculus, DB Implementation, and others.
Now that I have my job, I’ve focused on the areas that i am tasked with in my day job, like DB deep diving and Statistics and Linear Algebra.
I always felt that any side project I would focus on would impose too high an opportunity cost because I fealt I was learning better things.
I am still growing and will continue to grow as long as I’m in this field but my github has nothing noteworthy to show off.
That said, I believe your point is correct in the abstract, namely, that Devs who spend time outside of the office to level up will be better than those that don’t All Other Things Being The Same, I’m just saying that side coding projects isn’t the only instantiation of that activity
I get it. Computering has been my hobby and job for many years. I'd do it more if my body would cooperate. But it's cool if some folks just want to leave it behind when they clock out.
I know I personally regularly burn out on both screen and music during work hours and prefer more athletic hobbies in my free time because of that.
Sitting too much is bad for you too though.
Like an android developer or iOS dev who has never written an app.
Yes, it would be like a chef who never cooks. A nurse who doesn’t apply her own bandages.
If a person does not work on side projects I won't hold it against them,
because I know good developers who don't.