Do you have a side project you want to work on but struggle to focus on or complete? Have you thought about sharing your challenges?

That’s where On The Side comes in.

I’ve long been an advocate of side projects since working in tech. In fact, some of my best ideas have come from side projects; from hacking together a World Cup calendar, to meeting fellow geeks for a monthly beer; from sharing my love for house music to ranting about working in tech.

All these projects had one thing in common though – sharing.

The old cliché “a problem shared is a problem halved” is often true. This theory is proven when working in tech as well. As a team lead in software development, I often encourage engineers to pair (or even mob) program when trying to solve a problem. Granted, it’s not always plain-sailing but there is plenty evidence to demonstrate this approach works.

When working on side projects, I mostly do this as a lone ranger. It’s normally down to the situation – I’m sat alone on the train or at home with a computer and some time on my hands. I have a loose plan of how to approach a problem, working in isolation. Then I encounter an issue which takes me down some rabbit holes. Then life happens.

My day job takes up most my time or I have normal family demands. My weekends are filled with activities to enjoy time with people around me. Then Monday morning comes around again and I’ve made little-to-no progress on that thing I want to work on.

As I shared my stories with Ben Russell, another self-confessed techie who is struggling to finish some side projects, we realised we have a similar problem. We knew we wouldn’t be alone in this world either:

  • There must be plenty other people out there who struggle to focus on finishing their own passions.
  • There must be other people out there who’d like to work together on a project.
  • There must be a better way to organise this problem.

My day job is to focus on delivering good quality software, frequently and with a prioritised iterative approach based on user demand. Is there a way I can bring this approach to side projects?

This is where On The Side comes in.

On The Side is a collaboration space for people who want help delivering their side projects. It’s a place where you can encourage each other to focus on finishing a task, where you can ask questions or get support on those problems you’re stuck on.

You might even want to join forces with others in the community to build a new thing. I’ve been in situations before where I just want to share a project idea for validation, better suggestions or just technical support. This would be a great place to do that.

At the moment, it’s barebones to see if the idea has legs. We’ve setup a Slack workspace (open invite) to get people involved. We’ll be experimenting with appropriate tools to see what works to help organise our projects (such as Notion for shared notes and progress).

It won’t be prescriptive – you can use whatever tools work for you. However, I am keen to find a simple mechanism that could facilitate regular “asynchronous standups” across individual’s diaries.

We have set some initial guidelines and conventions to get started:

  • #general – chit-chat about anything
  • #introductions – a place for people to introduce themselves and meet others
  • #p-on-the-side – all things related to this project (On The Side).
  • #p-any-project – any project to be discussed, hyphenated and prefixed with p-. (We encourage public channels but, if you prefer, you can invite people to private channels.)
  • #help – help with any general problems you might be having, typically channelled correctly.
  • #h-topic – help with any topical problems, all prefixed with h-.
  • #demo – a place to show-off your latest thing; from a prototype to a fully-fledged app

For now, join the On The Side Slack space to find out what’s going on and how we can help each other to finish our side projects. I’m keen to see if there’s much appetite for a community like this so please spread the word with people you think might be in a similar position to us.

Let’s see where this goes.