Friday, October 3, 2014

Don't Break the Chain

The Amphibian.com web comic is maybe the only personal project I've ever really completed. I've certainly completed projects at my day job, and I don't know if I could call anything really completed since I continue to make upgrades and changes...but Amphibian.com shipped. It made it. It's there for you to read.

I've started a plethora of personal projects at home over the years. Some new technology comes out and I want to play with it. My list goes way back. In 1996 it was WorldGroup BBS game modules. In 1999 it was web browser games using ActiveX or Flash. There was a bunch of little stuff in the aughts.  In 2009 it was iPhone games. In 2010 it was HTML5 canvas games with multiplayer capabilities using Websockets. In 2012/2013 it was OUYA games.

You might notice the pattern. When I tried to apply a new technology, I usually tried to make some sort of casual game. But that's not the point.

The point is that very few of those projects ever shipped. And by shipped I mean they got released to the public. They rarely got finished to the point where they could be publicly consumed.

What did I do differently with the web comics that enabled me to actually launch?

I made a chain, and didn't break it.
"Broad chain closeup" by Toni Lozano
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
via Wikimedia Commons

Not like a chain for towing a car, or holding back a dog, or attaching to your wallet. A chain of days on the calendar where I checked in some code. It was easy to track using GitHub's contributions graph. I wrote some code and checked it in every day for 52 straight days. Then I was on vacation so I missed a few days, but I went back to it and did 19 more. And it was ready.

It was a challenge to see how long I could make the chain. It kept me motivated, and it got the project done. I was impressed with how well this method worked.

I didn't invent this technique myself. It was discussed on Lifehacker as a method recommended by Jerry Seinfeld.

A friend suggested I try it after I was lamenting over how I can never finish a project at home. I am totally sold on it. It works. Try it yourself.

Get a calendar, get to work, and don't break the chain. You will achieve your goal!

Amphibian.com comic for 3 October 2014