in a vast echoing space

Motivation and Side Projects

For a long long time — starting in 2009, actually — I’ve been hacking away on a PHP framework, writing loosely-connected bits and pieces of code here and there as the mood struck me, repeatedly reconsidering the implementation of components as web development practices continue to evolve and as I continue to learn more as a developer. And at the end of the day, what I consider the “trunk” of the project (including the literal trunk in source control) has never consisted of more than a handful of parts that benchmark blank pages nicely but don’t really do anything.

And every once in a while, some job thing will come along with requirements perfectly suited for the application of that perfect framework, the manifestation of which exists only in my mind. And so I sit down, and in a few days, I hammer out something pretty close to what I’ve got in mind. Sometimes I’ll reuse existing components — I’ve got a database singleton I’ve been hauling around for at least a couple years now just because it works and I don’t have to think about it — but it’ll mostly be original to that project. And when the project’s done, I move on with my endless conceptualizing of something better. I may update the external original of anything I dragged in that that saw updates, but for the most part, I feel that my employer (none of these situations have ever been contract work) owns the implementation I’ve written on their time, so I take concepts with me, not code. Those concepts get rolled into the never-eventual “what I want to have”, and I go back to tinkering until I next need to pull out the stops.

I’m not really sure why I keep this up. Based on the time it’s taken the times I’ve had to finish an implementation — two or three, now — I could, if not finish this, at least have something ready to rumble in about a week straight of plugging away at it. Maybe some part of me enjoys the perpetually unfinished state: it’s a chance to continually explore (or at least contemplate) new development methods and design patterns. I think it’s more likely that without an objective clearly in sight, I find it hard to make progress on milestones. Every time I’ve had to get something operational for work purposes, it’s been a subquest: “vanquish the demon” requires “craft a website”, which has one completion path involving a frameworky backend. But at the same time, I think defining a use for the framework would somewhat rob it of its usefulness; despite the futility and inevitable over-complication involved in any attempt to craft a perfect be-all, end-all base for everything else, something reasonably close to that would be nice. Maybe I can settle for more clearly defining what it must provide.

Or maybe I’m just lazy and get distracted easily and someone throwing money at me makes me more likely to finish something. That could be it too.

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