Just as we started thinking about our capstone projects for the month of April, I had also picked up the book Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals. The thing I love about books like this, that are all about "reinventing" the way people work, is that they usually read like horoscopes- depending on your current circumstances, what you get out of it will change and there's always something you can vaguely apply to yourself. Even though the book is targeted to a different audience than someone like me who has yet to get bogged down in bureaucracy, I actually ended up really enjoying applying the lessons to my capstone project. Additionally, I really liked the illustrations that went along with each lesson, so I thought I would share my favorites:
Scratch your own itch: There are three main points of "scratch your own itch" that the authors bring up. Building what you want is the fastest way to find a problem that needs a solution, it allows you to quickly assess the value and quality of the work, and finally, it lets you "fall in love" with what you are making. Because out capstone projects are a month long, double the length of our previous projects, I knew that I wanted to pick something that I could see the immediate value of. Luckily, I remembered an app idea I had almost 5 months ago when we first started Ada- I had borrowed a car from family to go to Canada, but I quickly realized that I had no idea where I could park it! I actually went to the Seattle.gov website to try to figure out whether or not I could park on my own street because there are no signs on either side of the street. I had thought back then, "Man, this would be a great app to have on my phone."
Now I have a whole month to dedicate to scratching my own itch, so to speak. I do worry about becoming bored with the project because parking isn't the most exciting data to work with, but on the other hand, knowing what I know as a recent transplant to Seattle and someone who drive infrequently enough to not know any of the parking restrictions, I will be able to quickly evaluate and prioritize features.
Draw a line in the sand: In this section, the authors talk about having a strong stand (which also ties into the chapter on saying 'no'). They say, "Lots of people hate us because our products do less than the competition's. They're insulted when we refuse to include their pet feature." Although we are just starting out, I have already heard so many people's opinion on what THEY want me to make my app. While I can't just throw out their opinions, I have noticed a pattern that people really struggle to give constructive feedback without simply changing the project to be what they idealize.
The other line in the sand that I will have to keep in mind is about scope. As the authors write about their products, "We design them to be simple because we believe most software is too complex: too many features, too many buttons, too much confusion." While brainstorming ideas, it becomes really easy to get carried away with all the potential features that could be included. A profile that lets the user input their parking permit, a recent locations search, or a potential space count- all great ideas for future features. At the end of the day though, we only have a month to develop this projects, so I will have to do a lot of work to draw those lines in the sand on what the app will be so that it can actually fit in the span of one month.
And of course, my favorite advice in the book- Go to sleep: One challenge I see during this project is finding the balance between working hard and overworking myself. There might be pressure being surrounded by so many other people working hard to really push myself and not look like a slacker, but honestly part of the project is time estimation and management. I really hope that we can figure out which features and in and which are out according to our timeframe so that not only are we successful in building a great product, but that we are successful in managing ourselves. I think of myself as the kind of person who can get the work done in a crunch, but I'd rather be the person who is talented enough at estimates and self-direction that I get to leave at the end of the day proud and satisfied with what I've done without feeling like I need to "work harder". Since I don't function well on little sleep, I know that I will have to make sure I take care of myself in order to produce the best quality of work I can, and that includes a responsible bedtime. As the book declares, "Some people still develop a masochistic sense of honor about sleep deprivation. They even brag about how tired they are. Don't be impressed. It'll come back to bite them in the ass."