Side projects: Your biggest playground to build your skills!

Playground
Playground by Janne Moren via CC license on Flickr

This post is inspired by Lee Munroe’s excellent post called: “Side projects are your playground.” Lee makes some really great points, but his central point to me is the freedom to experiment coupled with exclusive control over your project. You are not weighed down by work policies, a large team, or other ‘constraints’, but have the freedom to work at it in your own time, and if it fails, it’s not the end of the world. I think it’s really important to be able to have some time to play and experiment with technology for yourself; if you understand it and can use it (at least basically), you are well on your way to helping others use it. That’s the main point behind ANZ 23 Mobile Things – to take the time each week to look at a different app/tool and learn about it.

I thought it was also important to balance my other post about the yes/no work/life balance which may have lead people to believe that I don’t say “yes” to many things. Rest assured, I’ve said ‘yes’ to a lot of side projects and have learned many interesting things along the way!

Some of the ‘side projects’ I am involved in are:

And some of the skills I have learned? Here’s a small sample:

  • Marketing – it’s all very well to have a great program/newsletter/topic/blog post, but you have to let people know! I’ve learned quite a bit about which channels are most effective for particular audiences (list servs still win every time for most NZ librarians :P), and how using different wording or titles can draw more people in.
  • Community engagement – it’s important to be involved with the communities of the projects you are involved in. Particularly with ANZ 23 mobile things, I have met lots of people and been able to interact with them on a number of different forums/social media. And it’s a combination of marketing & community engagement that gets 750 people involved with ANZ 23 Mobile Things!
  • Social media – a little over a year ago, I wasn’t on Twitter. As part of being Library Life editor, it was suggested very strongly to me to get on Twitter. It took me a while to get up to scratch, but now it is my favourite social media tool out there and I have learned so much and had some many opportunities through Twitter.
  • Writing skills – I have been able to hone my (online) writing skills in a variety of contexts.

Side projects are fantastic for forcing allowing you to learn new things.

My latest side project is teaching myself to code HTML and websites through Codeacademy – they have great interactive lessons and exercises to get you up to speed.

So what are your side projects? And what have you learned?

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One thought on “Side projects: Your biggest playground to build your skills!

  1. Pingback: The Octopus Librarian | #BlogJune: Looking back…

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