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Editorial: On Choosing and Shelving Projects
Published by KermMartian on April 24, 2013 at 2:22:35 AM CST | Discuss this article (28)

Members' projects are the lifeblood of a community like Cemetech. It generates buzz and brings in plenty of new one-time visitors when TI, Casio, or HP release a new product or piece of software, but for all the months and years in between, our members' projects sustain site activity and interest. Sure, we teach people programming for calculators and computers, but users are much more passionate about their own projects than answering questions, in the end. And in a community where the majority of members are motivated, intelligent, and creative, there are bound to be far more project ideas than hours in the day. I for one have a list of potential projects that grows by the month, and an uncomfortably long list of unfinished projects. While considering cancelling one ongoing project and taking up another, I collected a few thoughts I wanted to share on general skills for choosing your projects wisely, something I fear is sometimes ignored in the calculator-programming community.

One of the biggest problems I've noticed over my twelve or fourteen years as active member in the community is programmers picking projects that are either beyond their abilities or too large to keep them engaged. My experiences with users starting projects poorly-suited to their skills and attention span can be exemplified in two anecdotes, of course with names omitted out of respect. In the first instance, a member discussed a new z80 ASM operating system he wished to write, setting forth many of the features he wanted to include. I and others cautioned him to start small, and upon learning he was unfamiliar with z80 ASM fundamentals like bit math, recommended he start with a smaller project to cement his abilities and build up to the effort, time, and skills required to write a complete OS from scratch. Unfortunately, that suggestion was received as an attack rather than a friendly suggestion, and the project remains unfinished to this day.

A heartening counterexample can be found in another user in a similar situation, who set out to make an ambitious game. I and other users cautioned him to start smaller, and figuring that we had benevolent reasons for our recommendations, he took the advice. Months later, he completed a few smaller projects, then was able to breeze through the larger project; at the end, he looked back and agreed that he hadn't been ready for the larger project. He admitted he likely would have gotten frustrated and quit in the middle. And therein lies the problem: projects need to be grandiose enough to hold the programmer's interest (not to mention potential users' interest during the development process), but not be so elaborate that they're never finished.

And indeed, when so many fun projects cross your mind that you end up with growing lists of future and in-progress projects, it's equally vital to know when to pursue and finally complete one project, and when a project just isn't worth your time anymore. The latter category covers my Sandpaper FTP client for CALCnet and potentially Tetric B for the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition. In both cases, I came to the realization that continuing to sink effort into the project would be a waste of my time. In the case of Sandpaper, I completed enough of the program to make it a neat proof of concept (browsing the ticalc.org archives from your calculator and transferring programs between calculators over the internet works), but I recognized that in the age of ubiquitous smartphones and laptops, it will never be more than a novelty. Perhaps a decade ago it might have been genuinely useful, but taking the time to support all the other file types and complete the Python code to download files from Cemetech and ticalc.org would be wasted effort.

The project I'm considering permanently shelving, Tetric B, falls in a subtly different category. While it works as it should and could be completed in another 5 or 10 hours of TI-BASIC coding, I don't feel that it represents a truly fun game, and would be too slow when finished. Whether it would be frustrating to users and lead them to think of me as a poor coder, or be disappointed with the TI-84+CSE as a whole, I feel I would be doing users a disservice to release it in its current form. I could spend more time trimming, optimizing, combing over the source code, but is that really a good use of my time when I could instead attempt an ASM version?

The overarching message is that there's no panacea, nor even a clear problem. Programming, building, and hacking are fun and wholesome activities, sure to help you think logically and get further in life. However, those annoying administrative details can't be ignored to keep you (and the community) happy. You must be mindful of starting and never finishing projects, probably because you picked projects you don't have the ability, focus, or time to finish. At the same time, you shouldn't hesitate to attempt something you're not positive you can do, keeping in mind that you can always drop it later and aren't contractually bound to finish the undertaking. What experiences have you had watching yourself and others start, stop, drop, and finish projects? I look forward to hearing reinforcement and counterpoint on my experiences in the calculator coding community.

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2013 Articles
January 2013 January 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Introducing "Using the TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus" published January 7, 2013 by KermMartian
» Update on TI 84+CSE Interface & Programming Capabilities published January 9, 2013 by elfprince13
» TokenIDE Featured On Ticalc.org published January 13, 2013 by tifreak8x
» Cemetech Contest #9 Ending Soon published January 15, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition: Official Press Release published January 18, 2013 by KermMartian
» jsTIfied Online Calculator Emulator Adds TI-83 Support published January 21, 2013 by KermMartian
» jsTIfied: TI-73, TI-76.fr, TI-81, TI-82, TI-82 Stats.fr published January 23, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-83 OS Author and TI Coder Shows First TI-84+CSE Game published January 30, 2013 by KermMartian

February 2013 February 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» TI-84 Plus C SE Seminar Reveals More Math Features published February 6, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI Introduces TI-Nspire Apps for iPad published February 6, 2013 by KermMartian
» jsTIfied and iOS6 published February 13, 2013 by Alex
» Calculator Reference Pages and 84color.com published February 14, 2013 by KermMartian
» KermM and critor Run First 3rd Party Code on TI-84+CSE published February 19, 2013 by DrDnar
» Hands-On with the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition: Full Review published February 19, 2013 by KermMartian
» Online TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition Emulator: jsTIfied published February 20, 2013 by KermMartian
» First Hands-On Week with the TI-84+CSE published February 23, 2013 by KermMartian

March 2013 March 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Cemetech Contest #9 Results published March 5, 2013 by KermMartian
» Orion TI 84+, A calculator for the visually impaired published March 5, 2013 by souvik1997
» Cemetech and Texas Instruments' 25th T^3 Conference published March 6, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech and T^3 International 2013: Day 1 published March 8, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-Nspire Apps for iPad Panel at T^3 2013 published March 9, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech and T^3 International 2013: Days 2 & 3 published March 11, 2013 by KermMartian
» T^3 Postmortem published March 11, 2013 by merthsoft
» Touchscreen Calculators on the SAT Soon? published March 13, 2013 by KermMartian
» Happy Pi Day 2013 from Cemetech published March 14, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-Freakware's Converter published March 15, 2013 by tifreak8x
» Overclocking the TI-83+SE / TI-84+/SE Family published March 18, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-84PCSE: Out in the community published March 19, 2013 by tifreak8x
» Win a TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition published March 29, 2013 by KermMartian
» KermM to Step Down, comicIDIOT Now Dictator of Cemetech published March 31, 2013 by elfprince13

April 2013 April 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Announcing SourceCoder 3: Closed Alpha published April 2, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-Connect 4.0 and 84C OS 4.0 released ! published April 10, 2013 by Lionel Debroux
» TI Releases Schedule for Annual Educators' Conference published April 16, 2013 by elfprince13
» Presenting Graph3D v4.1, a Color 3D Grapher published April 18, 2013 by KermMartian
» Editorial: On Choosing and Shelving Projects published April 24, 2013 by KermMartian
» More Details on the Casio fx-CP400 Touchscreen Calculator published April 27, 2013 by KermMartian

May 2013 May 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» HP Prime Multitouch Graphing Calculator: The Scoop published May 9, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech Member Carves Intricate Wooden TI-83+ published May 22, 2013 by KermMartian
» HP Prime Datasheet and Screenshots published May 24, 2013 by KermMartian
» Planned Server Maintenance, May 27th-28th. published May 24, 2013 by Alex

June 2013 June 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Promotions: Comic to admin, Tari to server-admin published June 5, 2013 by elfprince13
» Sandpaper v0.95 Calculator FTP Client/Server published June 10, 2013 by KermMartian
» June Software Trifecta, Part 1: Doors CS 7.2 Beta 3 published June 13, 2013 by KermMartian
» June Software Trifecta, Part 2: gCnClient v2.0 published June 14, 2013 by KermMartian
» June Software Trifecta, Part 3: Sandpaper v1.0 published June 14, 2013 by KermMartian
» Announcing Cemetech Contest #10: Physics Programs + Prizes published June 19, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech Contest #10: Rubric and Rules published June 24, 2013 by KermMartian

July 2013 July 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Happy US Independence Day; Community Digest published July 4, 2013 by KermMartian
» Doors CS 7.2 Released! published July 11, 2013 by KermMartian
» Calcuzap: PatrickD Starts TI-84+CSE Phoenix Game published July 19, 2013 by KermMartian
» Presenting Celtic 2 CSE published July 20, 2013 by KermMartian
» Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator Released published July 26, 2013 by merthsoft
» Cemetech Contest #10: One Week Left! published July 31, 2013 by KermMartian

August 2013 August 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» TI-84+ C Silver Edition Back-to-School Sale published August 4, 2013 by Alex
» This Week in Ticalc Downloads published August 8, 2013 by merthsoft
» TI-Nspire Apps for iPad published August 4, 2013 by Alex
» Tetric A: Color Tetris for the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition published August 13, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech Contest #10 Results and Winners published August 15, 2013 by KermMartian
» Inspiring Students: "STEM Behind Hollywood" published August 18, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-Planet Summer 2013 Contest: The Treasure of Knossos published August 16, 2013 by critor
» "Using the TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus" Published published August 22, 2013 by KermMartian
» Back-To-School Guide 2013: What Calculator Should I Buy? published August 24, 2013 by KermMartian

September 2013 September 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Eigenmath: At Last, a Casio Prizm CAS published September 6, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech Returning to World Maker Faire 2013 published September 9, 2013 by KermMartian
» Hands-On with the HP Prime: Full Review published September 11, 2013 by KermMartian
» Announcing Doors CS for the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition published September 17, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech at World Maker Faire 2013 Recap published September 29, 2013 by KermMartian

October 2013 October 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» HP Prime Archives Added published October 4, 2013 by KermMartian
» Doors CSE 8.0 Release Candidate 1 published October 14, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech Returning to T^3 2014 published October 23, 2013 by KermMartian
» Doors CSE 8.0 Release Candidate 2 published October 24, 2013 by KermMartian
» The World's Only TI-82 Plus published October 27, 2013 by KermMartian
» An Onslaught of Tetrises! published October 31, 2013 by tifreak8x

November 2013 November 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Doors CSE 8.0 Released published November 5, 2013 by KermMartian
» rom8x Modernized published November 8, 2013 by KermMartian
» Put Games on Your TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition published November 11, 2013 by KermMartian
» 3+ Years of Have Calc, Will Program (HCWP) published November 13, 2013 by KermMartian
» Hands-On with Guerrilla TI Calculator Accessories published November 23, 2013 by KermMartian
» Graphics Excellence: IkarugaX and SolidFRAME published November 25, 2013 by KermMartian
» Jezzball v1.0 Released, in Monochrome and Color published November 30, 2013 by KermMartian

December 2013 December 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Cemetech's Lightning Contest #11 Starts Tomorrow published December 5, 2013 by KermMartian
» ticalc.org's 2013 POTY Competition Underway published December 8, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech's Lightning Contest #11 Results published December 12, 2013 by KermMartian
» Omnimaga 2013 Coding Contest Results published December 15, 2013 by KermMartian
» Merry Christmas from Cemetech: Calc Books and SourceCoder 3 published December 23, 2013 by KermMartian
» DecBot Reaches 20,000 Points published December 29, 2013 by merthsoft
» Cemetech Minecraft Server 2.0 (MC 1.7+) published December 31, 2013 by KermMartian

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