The Frontside Podcast

059: Build Useless Stuff

Episode Summary

A Frontsider's-only episode on why it's good to build useless stuff for creativity, accomplishment, and learning purposes.

Episode Notes

Show Notes:


React Native and Chill: A tale of stupid made fast by Charles Lowell


CHARLES: Hello, everybody and welcome to The Frontside Podcast, Episode 59. We're getting up there, 59. That's like, I don't know, it's not a milestone but it's something.

ROBERT: It's like one away from 60.

CHARLES: Yeah, it is. It’s past middle age. It’s like elderly.

ROBERT: Start thinking about retirement.

CHARLES: Yeah, exactly.

JEFFREY: These are our golden years.


CHARLES: Welcome to the golden years.

ROBERT: All right. Possibly, we need to go and watch the Golden Girls.


CHARLES: Actually, I think it was only five or six episodes, maybe 10 episodes, we were singing The Golden Girls theme so it all comes back around. We’re here with a very special guest and that guest is nobody. It's just folks from The Frontside --

JEFFREY: I was hoping you would say it was Betty White.


CHARLES: We're going to fly it solo or like tri-lo or like trio.

ROBERT: Trello?

CHARLES: Trello. I, of course, am Charles Lowell. With me is Jeffrey Cherewaty and Robert DeLuca. Hey, guys.

JEFFREY & ROBERT: Hey, what's up?

CHARLES: We were kicking ideas around and something that's been kind of percolating around the offices is a theme for 2017 is doing dumb stuff, just stuff that has no apparent value but that you can learn from. I think, we each have a bunch of these experiences where we've done something a very little import that ends up being really, really helpful, either both in the short-term and the near-term.

JEFFREY: And who knows, maybe this episode will turn out the same way.

ROBERT: Oh, how meta. This could become a black mirror episode. I'm start to questioning my values.

CHARLES: I know for me, I recently did some explorations into React Native, which I found to be very edifying. I could obviously talk about that experience quite a bit I did on a blog post but I'm curious, if you guys recently had something that was a throw away, something that you did that wouldn't really matter if it had come into existence or it didn't but it's just so happens that in this thread of reality, it did.

ROBERT: You know, I have. It's always been centered around the impagination library that we wrote here. I was always kind of intimidated by impagination for some reason because it was this big library that I didn't necessarily understand. I was like, "You know what? I'm just going to go for it. I'm going to go do something dumb with it," and then I just decided to implement the most useless infinite scroll. It solved absolutely nothing and as you're paginating through 500 records of robots from Faker, I sat down and spent six days and wrote some code and implemented it React Native and it was actually the most informative and fun thing I've ever did. I don't feel tied to it.

CHARLES: Yeah, so what kind of inspired to do that? Because usually, it feels like there's this pressure to ship something. Ship something is like just go build something but the idea is that you're going to build something that people actually might use.

ROBERT: Yeah, I always had that idea. Maybe you can think about it as like feeling getting cornered, like the pressure of shipping sort of pushing me into a corner. Then eventually, I just kind of lash it out like, "No, screw this. I'm out." I'm going to go do something that's not even useful. I don't care. I'm not going to try and support people or make it to something that other people can use. If that is what falls out of this, that's cool but I'm going to totally sidestep and this needs to be something that other people can use.

Sometimes, when I go to build a project, I start thinking, "This is going to be in my GitHub public profile. What if somebody comes and finds it? What are they going to think about my code?" And I just shed all of that fear away, then what happened is I learned a ton. After that experience, I was like, "Whoa. This is massively valuable."

CHARLES: Yeah, like hearing you talk about it makes me think about one time I went to a Picasso art exhibit and they had all these sketches that he'd made just in pencil from when he was younger and they were in studies. I guess, apparently artists do this a lot where it was like just a goat's leg. Or some old man's nose. You know, just in pencil or charcoal and these are little tropes that he later integrated into all of his painting --

ROBERT: That is an amazing way to put.

JEFFREY: It's funny. When you see engineering tutorials are like, "This is how you learn to make software." A lot of times that is the way they're structured it is around studies. Like, "Make this little tiny thing that by itself is worthless but can be part of a greater whole."

ROBERT: Yeah, take that impagination infinite scroll thing, I think three months later, it turned into a full on talk about co-chairing between React and React Native but it started with this dumb little project that I decided, "If I don't finish it, nothing bad happens. It just kind of sits there and rots." I feel no guilt. No pressure.

JEFFREY: Would you say that was part of your blue period?


CHARLES: Yeah, I like you [inaudible] point to like ship it. It's like we have a culture of ship it or don't. In any way, it's entirely up to you.

ROBERT: I kind of thought to think about it as the extreme of ship it. Literally, just ship it even if it doesn't work.

CHARLES: Right, ship it even if it's wrong.

ROBERT: The other thing that I figured out was who is to determine what's wrong or right. I figured out that no one like I figured that out and I choose if it's wrong or right.

CHARLES: Right, and it's like whether I learned something or whether I didn't or whether I get to be the arbiter of what I get out of this experience.

ROBERT: And you almost always learn something. Always.

CHARLES: Yeah, you definitely do. I think it can pay off, both in the short term and in the long term too. I know with my recent experience, I was feeling extreme burnout. I don't know... You feel like the code that you're working on or the things that you're doing have become a burden. I guess that's kind of to your point, Rob like when you are building something that it creates users. It creates code. It creates maintenance cost. It creates contributors. There’s all this mass and inertia and momentum that are for it and that can be great if you own something massive, you can have a lot of momentum and it can be extremely energizing. But it can also be a burden, if it's something that you have to carry and you feel obligated to carry.

ROBERT: Yeah and when you have those huge successful projects, things that come to mind like Ember or React or Babel or things like that, those are awesome. But I was always experiencing that responsibility with things where I had big plans for them but nobody knew that just by looking at the projects like it was still very much a work in progress. But I felt that feeling in my gut.

CHARLES: Right and that mass and that inertia can come completely and totally from an internal source. It’s both important for the project to be like these throwaway projects to be completely and totally free from all attachment, especially from your own dreams and your own ego and things like that.

ROBERT: And when I learn to let go, that's when I learn that I'll learn.


ROBERT: I'm going to learn-learn.

CHARLES: I guess, the kind of greater point that I was making is that when you are able to approach a project like that, then it can be a really intense cure for burnout because you are just allowing yourself to create, you're allowing yourself to feel creative and actually deliver something whose success parameters you define entirely. I think, Brandon actually talked about this almost like two years ago with that robot. That project that he did where he was kind of in a similar situation and he really, really needed to do something that was not a web app. I think there was a series of talks that came out of it but that was primarily for the burnout case.

ROBERT: I think I can agree with that. I might have been in the similar situation where I was starting to think about the feeling cornered. It was maybe because of burnout.

CHARLES: Maybe those are one of the same.

ROBERT: Because I felt like I wasn't producing anything and I was like, "I should be doing this stuff but I feel like I should be but I'm not," and the things that I'm doing aren't great enough because the things that I have done in the past and that's a bad way to think about it.

JEFFREY: There's something so refreshing about being able to switch contexts of I've been working on this same app for a few months and doing kind of similar tasks over and over and that's such a nice way to create at really recharge like, "I'm just going to do something completely different and see how that feels."

ROBERT: Yeah, I've gotten really good at writing computer properties but I want to write something else.

JEFFREY: Just like anyone who does a lot of Ember, they're great at computer properties.

CHARLES: It really is the equivalent of throwing a dart into a map. If you're feeling burnt out and you're looking for what to do, There are so many things like you actually aren't cornered. You have the universe of possibilities and the dumber the better. Choose something random that you can do in five minutes, do something random that you can do in an hour or a week or something like that so it has that payoff for being an answer to burnout. I've experienced where these types of activities come back and pay you back down the road.

ROBERT: It doesn't have to solve a problem. I was always looking for the next project that I could build that would solve a problem. I always felt like I needed to solve a problem and I was just looking at it backwards. You should also be looking at things like it solve a problem. That’s cool. But why not take a piece of technology and like, "How can I bend this? What can I do?" And exercise the different corners of this framework or do just something that's totally useless.

CHARLES: I remember actually, that was something that Ryan, when he first started coming to the Ember meetups, he was asking questions about it and I think he was coming from Backbone and was --

ROBERT: Just Ryan from [inaudible]?

CHARLES: Yeah, [Ryan Ralph?] from [inaudible] and he was asking questions and like, "Yeah, it's pretty good. The only disadvantage right now is you can't have multiple apps inside of a single tab," so literally he comes back the next month with a talk of how I embedded more than one app in a tab and here's what I had to do it. First thing was like, "Let's see how does it break." Let me prod at it and poke it in and just see what happens.

I know I had an experience recently where I had done something really, really stupid with Amazon Lambda and I just very recently came back like the fact that I had actually gone through the process of just deploying a very dumb --

ROBERT: How dumb, Charles? Tell me how dumb?

CHARLES: Remember when I was going on and on about badges and how we needed to have our own custom badges. I kept on trying to get everybody excited --

JEFFREY: I don't know that we need that.

CHARLES: That was pretty much the response that I got from, I think in a poll of nine out of ten. It was 9.11 or something like that.

ROBERT: -- That was cool but --

CHARLES: It was cool but no one wanted to put it anywhere. The badge was just a static SPG that was served on top of the Amazon Lambda but as part of that, I had to go through all of the steps through actually getting it to deploy. While that thing was completely useless and it was thrown away, that knowledge ended up becoming useful almost a year later or maybe six months later, something like that. I feel like it was sunny so it had to have been at least six months ago and so --

ROBERT: You know, that it's always sunny here.

CHARLES: Uhh... Ish. I mean --

JEFFREY: It's not Philadelphia.

ROBERT: I was trying to work somewhere.

CHARLES: It was warm but it's a practice that often has long term payoffs. I guess that's just the learning aspect of it, the fact that you're going to learn something.

ROBERT: The thing I want to stress here is you don't have to go into it expecting that.

CHARLES: Yes, that actually is critical.

ROBERT: Yeah, that absolutely is critical because then if you expect that, then the problem with all the things for me started with setting expectations. It was always I had expectations. You take them and throw them out. Toss those things out the window.

CHARLES: Zero expectations.

JEFFREY: Really, it's an adjustment of your expectations to where at any point, you can say, "No, I'm kind of done with this. I learned something but it's not going to turn into anything," versus the expectation of, "I'm going to make something amazing that thousands of people are going to use."

ROBERT: Yeah, that's the way I always start out as like, "Here we go."

CHARLES: "I'm going to take over the world."


ROBERT: "I'm writing another JavaScript frameworks. Next step, world domination."

CHARLES: Yeah, I know it's absolutely important to make sure that if this thing that you're doing just cease to exist, you wouldn't feel good or bad. It wouldn't make any difference. Very Zen, I think. Some people try to approach every aspect of their life that way. I'm not sure if that's healthy.

ROBERT: That's another podcast.


CHARLES: But I certainly think it is, if you at least allocate a portion of your projects to be that way. I think that applies to any creative endeavor that you try to undertake. Jeffrey, you had some actually some non-programming examples that you were talking about earlier.

ROBERT: It ties in nicely to the Picasso thing.

JEFFREY: Yeah, actually I was I'm moving right now to a new apartment and I have no architectural background at all but I am comfortable with vector graphics in Illustrator and doing things mathematically precisely in there. I do have a little bit of problem solving that comes out of this. It’s not purely exploration but I've been like, "I'm moving to this new place. These are the pieces of furniture I have. How can I rearrange them and play and --"

ROBERT: Did you actually set the scale correctly to your --

JEFFREY: Oh, absolutely.

ROBERT: Oh, that's amazing.


JEFFREY: --Otherwise it's worthless.

ROBERT: This is a whole new world. This is awesome.

CHARLES: -- Like there's an atomic gauge on the couch.


JEFFREY: My couch is six feet, three inches and 24 angstroms. I have not reached that level --


ROBERT: Does Illustrator have that level precision?

JEFFREY: It can go pretty far. But yeah, it's just an opportunity to play around and like in a situation where actually moving those pieces of furniture in 30 different ways would be a pain and just unrealistic but thinking about it more in the abstract and just being able to play with it at a scale that's playable with, turns it into something fun and creative.

CHARLES: Yeah, I guess that's a luxury that we have, I guess in the modern era of being able to simulate so much and be able to apply this practice of total creativity in a consequence free zone where people might not have been able to do so before. Before the advent of computer-aided design, I don't think that would've been a possibility.

ROBERT: There will be a lot of manual hand-drawing and sketches and stuff.

JEFFREY: And now software it's at point where --

CHARLES: Or you just get your children to do it.


CHARLES: "Move it over there." You guys are sweating but man, I'm feeling really creative.

JEFFREY: Yeah, really making stuff happen here. But software has kind of reach the point where we have similar abstractions there to be able to do it, move pieces around like that. Maybe not as fluidly as I'm going to move all these squares around in Illustrator but we're at the point where we can kind of plug in pieces and see how it performs and plug in another piece and see how that performs in a way that feels maybe more creative and less scientific than getting lower down in the code.

ROBERT: Honestly, I wonder if this is where React began because the idea of rerendering the entire dom every time was more performant like you just throw something at the wall. See if it sticks. I don't know but --

CHARLES: Yeah, you have to wonder. I'm actually become surprised at the origin story is not more widely known.

ROBERT: Yeah, I also don't really know it. I kind of heard of it like --

CHARLES: I remember hearing about it the first time I was like, "That's crazy."

ROBERT: Yeah, that sounds like it'd be massive performance hit. That sounds really slow. Why would you rerender everything?

CHARLES: Right but then again, it's always getting into pre-[inaudible] optimization. We always fall down these paths of optimizing in our heads. Of course, we want to do incremental rendering. Why? Because it's faster but nobody's actually measured then realized that it's actually the dom that's slow.

ROBERT: It's like opening up your world to this. It's just like you explore everything.

JEFFREY: That's another thing we can take from design thinking and the philosophies around the design field that maybe aren't as recognized in engineering is the idea of simply brainstorming of being open to dozens of ideas, trying out dozens of ideas and seeing what feels right and being able to have so many ideas that you can throw most of them away. In software, so many times we get to the point where maybe we'll have two or three ideas but none of them are worth throwing away. We feel uncomfortable throwing out any work.

CHARLES: Part of it is you were so busy. You have so much invested in your current track that it's very easy because your current track is on Rails. It goes forward, there's clearly a path forward and to hop off of those Rails, it require some sort of energy and are you going to be leaping into like a chasm? I don't know.

ROBERT: Or in Jeffrey's case, if your computer dies and you're forced to think without a computer --

JEFFREY: That actually happened the other day.

CHARLES: That was amazing. That was worth a story.

JEFFREY: I forgot to bring my charger to the office so I have one of those new [inaudible] MacBook with the USB-C charger and we didn't have any backups in the office. I was hacking along on some configuration devops kind of stuff and just kept running experiments and eventually my battery died. Then I was forced to whiteboard out by what I was doing and I came way over to conclusion that I would have ever come to, if I had just been sitting on my computer the whole time. It was another case of where I needed that abstraction away from looking at the code to be able to rearrange the blocks in a way that made sense.

ROBERT: Pull yourself out of the [inaudible].

JEFFREY: Yeah, definitely.

CHARLES: I really like that idea. Again, I'm not being too familiar with the way that the design world works. Is that kind of like a modus operandis to have too many ideas that you can throw a bunch of them away at any given point?

ROBERT: Where you start stealing pieces from all of them and you make one master design. In my digital design class -- shout out to Miss McDaniel -- she would always make us start off --

JEFFREY: Check for that in the show notes.


CHARLES: -- She would always make us start off in a sketch book and I remember because I'm not an artist at all. If you know me, I draw even the worst stick figures: my arms and stick figures don't line up. That's how bad it is. She would always make us start off in a sketch book and it drove me nuts. But after doing it for two months, I finally realized the value because she would make us come up with five or six different design concepts. Then after I did the process a couple more times, I realized, "This actually has a ton of value."

I sort of picking things from one of the other. It makes you think outside the box. The first couple of ones that I would turn into her she would be like, "You actually have three of almost the same design here. You need to think more outside the box. Think of something that's completely different." Seriously, it's just like you're throwing things at the wall. Whatever freestyle off top of the brain and just let it go.

JEFFREY: I'm thinking of a concept side of exercise where maybe you're playing around with layouts for selling a magazine or something and you'll sketch them out and you'll sketch out maybe a few dozen of them but you don't get into the nitty-gritty details. You do it at a very-low fidelity where it's just pencil and some boxes and rearranging those boxes and maybe mark what that box is but you don't worry about the details of that box until you mix and match like, "That layout is not going to be great. This layout seems like it might be along the right track. I like this piece of this one. Let's combine them and make something completely different." Then once you have that high-level view, that make sense to you and you've gone through lots and lots of iterations, then you can start honing in on the high-fidelity details.

CHARLES: This conversation makes me feel like there's definite poverty in our processes as software developers in the sense that what I'm hearing is that these things are just taken for granted, that these are the activities that you're going to be doing as part of design and what are we doing if not design. Each of us has these experiences that are kind of these one off things where we actually experience this creative space. It seemed very special and it seemed revelatory but really, it almost sounds like you need to make sure that it's something that you're revisiting again and again and you're doing it as integrated with your work. But I feel like it would be hard to pitch that --

JEFFREY: That's not understood to be part of the software design process.

CHARLES: Maybe that's a little bit of what happens when we've put together our design documents --

ROBERT: Yeah, it just occurred to me like looking back through my history of how I landed to be a software developer, I actually wanted to be a designer first. That's why I was in digital design and stuff. I rejected design so much because I thought it was super... What's the word I'm looking for? Flighty?

CHARLES: Wishy-washy? Non-committal?


ROBERT: Anybody could walk in and say, "I don't like that design. It looks ugly. It doesn't look good," and I thought I was going to programming because it was more black and white like, "This is the right solution. That's not the right solution." As I've worked my way into my career, I actually realized they're actually really similar because you're designing software and software is abstract. As much as you want to try to think about as it's not, you start to develop this mental picture of the programs that you're developing. You're designing these things. It's just a different form of design and design is problem solving.

CHARLES: In digital design, it's not artwork. It is measured by some quality. It's just hard to put your finger on but there is some kind of external measure of, "Does this fit the purpose for me, which it was made?"

JEFFREY: "Does this solve the problem?" Usually, there are some expectations just like there are software of, "There's been best practices established. Did you stick to those best practices? And if you didn't, Why not?" Because sometimes there is a good reason to break those best practices.

CHARLES: Right. I wonder if it would be interesting at integrating into our process like what we think of as the ideal pull request or issue reporting or design document have. It kind of similar to some of the RFC processes out there. It's like, "What are some crazy alternatives?" Not just any alternative --

JEFFREY: I don't just need viable alternative.

CHARLES: Yeah, I don't need viable. Give me the in-viable. Give me the ones that are like, "What crack are you smoking? Oh, wait a second... Hmmm..."


ROBERT: "All right. Here we go. I got it. It's got to be powered by nuclear --" No.


CHARLES: Curious. I'm very, very, very curious.

ROBERT: Let the curiosity fly.

JEFFREY: Charles, do you had a blog post recently about a dumb project you built. Would you tell us about that?

CHARLES: Sometimes, it gets stressful around here. Sometimes it gets stressful in life. Sometimes you just feel stress and there are a lot of things you can do to deal with it. Everybody has their coping mechanisms. For me, one of my secret weapon coping mechanisms --

ROBERT: Not a secret anymore.

CHARLES: It's not secret anymore.


CHARLES: This also will be in the show notes but I'll go ahead and say it right now is If you need to enhance your chill, you can just go to and I guarantee you will not be disappointed. You will feel instantaneously better. I was in the point where I was feeling a lot of stress. I don't know exactly how it came up but I was actually with Stephanie and she was like, "Charles, you just got to do something stupid. You just got to do exactly what it is that we've been talking about on this podcast. You've got to just do it and you've got to do it fast and you've got to not look back and look forward."

I was like, "Oh, my God. You're right." That planted the seed in my brain but then, I think it was the next day, I was talking about -- go check it out. You can pause the podcast right now and go have a look at it. It’s really awesome -- And I was showing it to everybody and then I think Rob were like, "Oh, my goodness. We've got to have this on the Apple TV."

ROBERT: It just lands itself perfectly.

CHARLES: Yeah, I was like, "Yes. Absolutely we need it on the Apple TV. We need it on the Apple Watch. I need this on my iPhone," so right that minute, I hearken back to the conversation I had with Stephanie and I was like. "This is it. This is perfect scope." I have been looking to build something in React Native. Something that I can just completely and totally throw away, something that fits in a small time box and I also have this opportunity to build this thing that I really need but if it doesn't work out, it's fantastic.

I went home. I think that was that very night and started hacking on React Native and took the Chillest Monkey, then put it first into an npm package. You can include it in any React Native application. Then once that was accomplished, I went out and checked the support for Apple TV had dropped literally ten days before, maybe even less. I was like, "It's a sign and this has got to happen."

It was a little bit of a slog but we were able to get it up on our Apple TV and with a remote and feel that glassy touchpad, move it over to the Chillest Monkey and open it up and just see those wisps of hair and those tranquil eyes up there and six feet across. It was just such a great feeling. But it was something that was accomplishable within a day or two. I don't think it was more than that but it serve the purpose that I was able to learn a lot about React Native. I was able to learn about packaging, shared components.

ROBERT: Actually, I remember we fought about flex box and what not for a little while.

CHARLES: Yeah, that's right. I learned about laying out images and kind of the best practice around there. Also, I think this is important as I got to experience a win and it felt good to be able to experience that win. It felt like if I hadn't experienced it, it probably wouldn't have been that big of a deal. But the fact that I was able, it was a low-hanging target but it felt like a big-hanging target. It's hard because there's no such thing as a free lunch but kind of there is, when it comes to little projects like this because when you see something totally stupid come together and it works exactly you wanted it to work, then it feels like you've accomplished something major. I don't know if that's some sort of brain hackery or some sort of life hack or what but that was extremely good for my internal morale.

JEFFREY: This is an example of a project where, maybe you didn't get as much creative juices flowing out of it.


JEFFREY: But you've got a high accomplishment and learning value, which I guess are all, I call that the iron triangle of building dumb stuff.


JEFFREY: You can have two of the three.

CHARLES: On one side is creativity, on the other side is what?

JEFFREY: Accomplishment.

CHARLES: -- Is accomplishment, just shipping it and then on the third is time? It's the iron sticks --


JEFFREY: The third side was learning. That's creativity, accomplishment and learning. You can't have all three, sorry. It doesn't work that way.

CHARLES: It doesn't work that way. Okay.


ROBERT: Then you'll take on a big project, that's how you'll get all three.

CHARLES: I like that.

JEFFREY: In a particular project where you're having to throw tons of ideas at the wall, You're probably going to be learning, you're probably have to be very creative but your chance of shipping here is much lower.

CHARLES: It's almost a detriment.


CHARLES: Whereas in this case it was take something that is easily accomplishable and accomplished it.

JEFFREY: And you learned something from it.

CHARLES: You learn and you accomplish but you're not particularly creative. But it's still a feather in your cap. I like that. It's a good way to categorize it.

ROBERT: And the accomplishment is how you define it. In this case, you actually finished this project.

CHARLES: Yeah. I finished it. We have it on Apple TV.

ROBERT: Yeah, and like you said, you have to do that. For me, after I did a couple of these things, actually what I just do, a newsletter has come in and somebody was like, "Look at this new thing," and I'm just going to put it off to the side and then eventually, I'll stack two or three of those things together and decide, "We're going to take all three of these things, we're going to put them all together and see what happens," and that's how GraphQL and dove in to create React app.

CHARLES: That's actually a good idea. I like the random newsletter driven development --


CHARLES: -- You're like, "I'm going to subscribe to this newsletter. I'm going to pick one thing from each week and after I have five things, I'm going to build something with those things.

ROBERT: Wait. I have a dumb app idea. We could make this just a random app idea generator. It takes ten packages and you see like --

JEFFREY: A bunch are required to build the Hackernews clone. Isn't that a classic newsletter driven development?

ROBERT: Or the Reddit clone? This feel like that's the React thing -- the Reddit clone.

CHARLES: Yeah. I think it's more like Frankenstein driven development like you've got GraphQL, Vue.js and I don't know... Datomic.

JEFFREY: Like a GRD stack --

CHARLES: No, like a rando stack.


CHARLES: Rando.js, that would actually be a good --

ROBERT: You hear it first. It's our new JavaScript framework.

CHARLES: A stack generator.

JEFFREY: It's going to be a high on learning and not so much on accomplishment.

ROBERT: You won't ship anything but damn will you learn? Every week!

CHARLES: What is an example then? We've talked about the one where the accomplishment. I'm wondering if there's an affinity between those sides of the triangle. What would be an example of a project that was high on creativity, low on shipping? How do you approach projects like that and then make it okay to fail? Because I think, one of the things that was great about the Chillest Monkey Native was I did get to ship it. It wasn't much but it felt great. How do you prepare yourself for those projects which are high on creativity that you're not going to ship? What is one of those look like?

JEFFREY: I think those kinds of projects are usually tend to be ones where you're more comfortable with the tools already so that you do have the space to be creative and you're not having to fight against, "I don't know how to do this." The learning is already been done, at least to a point to where you're comfortable enough to go, to feel loose and creative and be able to brainstorm without having to bump up against walls over and over.

CHARLES: I guess, tender love is a master of that, where it's really has a deep knowledge of Ruby and systems programming and does some fun and creative. Do I say zany?

ROBERT: The Ember example of this, I think it's Alex Matchneer. Matchneer?

CHARLES: Matchneer, yeah.

ROBERT: Sorry, I cannot pronounce names. The Photoshops, I mean those aren't exactly --


ROBERT: -- Those aren't exactly programming related but --

JEFFREY: High on creativity and accomplishment, low on learning.


ROBERT: And then the Ember Twiddle is the one that I laughed out and I was like, "Can React router do this?"

CHARLES: I don't actually see that one.

ROBERT: Actually, it was broken when I went to look at it but the responses were hilarious. They're like, "Actually, no. I'm happy. I can't."


ROBERT: But he always has the Twiddle and he's like, "What about this? It’s like the programming equivalent of his Photoshops.


JEFFREY: I'm wondering if there are particular, out of those kind of three different types of dumb projects that we've identified. If there are particular types that people gravitate toward like I know that I am higher on the, "Just go, do something creative with tools you already know side," versus, "I enjoy learning," but I'm more likely to want to accomplishment up things and be loosen in my creativity. I'm wondering what the breakdown is among different engineers of those different profiles.

ROBERT: It's quite interesting and I wouldn't think of myself as an explorer but I feel like I'm driven by FOMO -- fear of missing out. That's where this comes from for me. All this technology that I hear so many good things about that I haven't even done anything with. I don't even have Hello, World or anything. That's usually where I start picking things up the shelf and I'm like, "What if I did redux, Vue.js and whatever else. Let’s see if we can make all these things work together."

CHARLES: Do you feel like you can, at least always be kind of touching?


CHARLES: Pinging different areas of the ecosystem?

ROBERT: Yeah, I really like to see what they're doing because they all have different takes on things. I really like what Chris Freeman said, he's like, "I feel like programming is just gaining experience points." Like it's video games where you're just going through and you're getting experience points with different things. That's kind of the approach that I've been taken for the past five months. Since I discovered this, this is just like, "Oh, that look shiny." Maybe that's also driven because of our JavaScript-type cycle or whatever you want to call it, where something new is always coming out. Somebody is always reinventing the wheel.

CHARLES: Whenever I see a cool demo or whenever I read a really provocative blog post that guides my exploration a lot, which I guess those things usually are extensions of some activity like what we're talking about that someone did. A lot of really good blog posts are just like, "I've been doing this stuff for five years and I have gained an absurd level of expertise on it. Let me take you to school."

I definitely love those but a lot of it is like, "Look at this cool thing that I've done." Without talking about murdering names, what is it? Hakim...? Gosh, I can't remember his last name. The guy who does Slides. Some of his demos for CSS and JavaScript animations back in the day we're just like, "Woah, someone has just revealed a huge power source," and so I want to go do it. But most of that came from him just having to play.

ROBERT: Jeffrey, you've actually got my brain ticking here. I'm thinking about where people fall in applying this like just go do something dumb and it doesn't have to mean anything. This makes me starting to think, "Maybe I need to go do something really creative in Ember."

JEFFREY: It's making me think that I need to go do some learning --


JEFFREY: -- Just try some new stuff so I have new tools to play with.

ROBERT: Because that's the whole purpose of this, right? I just recognized that I am not doing very creative things and the tool sets that I am comfortable with.

CHARLES: Yeah, it is harmonious. The more learning projects you do, you acquire tools and then with familiarity with those tools, engenders creativity so you can see how the process feeds in to itself.

ROBERT: Now, I'm going to build something creative.

CHARLES: All right everybody. There you have it. Go out, build something useless, build something creative, build something that will help you learn and acquire new tools, new techniques and take you [inaudible] and do it quickly.