I consider something to be a side project when it is unrelated to my main professional focus and takes more than a day or two to complete. It's an arbitrary definition, but it works for me. That means that re-wiring a light fixture or helping decorate the apartment isn't a side project, but building an artificially intelligent laster pointer for my cat is a side project. Got it? Great.
The scope of my side projects ranges from tiny to more ambitious. PlantLink is probably the side project that I've spent the most time on since the summer of 2011. It more or less ceased to be a side project after the Kickstarter campaign was a success in January of 2013, but before that it was something that I was doing on nights and weekends during graduate school.
Other side projects that I've started have been more or less abandoned over time. One of the projects that I enjoyed for a few weeks was building the aforementioned laser pointer for my cat. I got as far as an initial proof of concept before losing interest, but I'd love to get back to it again someday.
This past spring I started work on a chemical sensitive QR code. The basic idea here was to create a practical use for QR codes beyond simple url embedding. I thought that if you took a chemical sensitive ink and patterned part of a QR code with that ink you could make a sensor that would communicate machine readable information upon exposure. Again, I got as far as the initial prototype before moving on to other things.
Recently I've started two side projects that have almost encountered a similar fate.
The first one was this website. I've been wanting to start a personal website for several months, but most of my attempts were embarrassing to say the least. I let me desire for perfection get in the way of just getting the first result out there. Since you are reading this post that means that I managed to get my website off the ground. It's currently a shell of what I want it to become, but I think it is a nice starting point.
The second project is more similar to the other projects I described in this blog post. Right now I'm calling it physical copy-paste. Before you ask, yes, I am aware of the fact that digital copy and paste got their names from physical actions. But this is more like a 3D copy and paste than the old 2D process. Basically I'm thinking of a way to integrate a 3D scanner and 3D printer into an art instillation so that people can copy sculptures from one physical location to another using digital files. It's still a rough idea, and I think other people have done similar things, but I think it would be a fun way to introduce a non-technical audience to the potentials of rapid prototyping.
I don't know if I'll ever move any of these three projects beyond their current states, but it seemed like a waste of effort to not document them at even the most basic level through this blog post. Maybe I'll spend some time wrapping up a few of these things later this fall. They'll make interesting blog posts if nothing else.