I’ve always been envious of people who are “good with their hands”.
When they need a table for their home, they hop down to the local hardware store, buy some wood and other supplies and a few hours later they have new table for their home. Need some shelves for the office, no problem.
There is no expectation of mass producing the table, no expectation of profits from the shelves, or even saving money (it may have been cheaper to buy something mass produced). The enjoyment of making something, something unique and customized exactly to their needs is enough.
I’ve never been good “with my hands”, power tools scare me. It may just be that I need to practice more, or need someone to take me under their wing to teach me the finer points of making with my hands.
I’m much more comfortable making in the digital world.
It’s much easier to experiment, erase a mistake, or simply wipe the slate clean and start again from the beginning, because why not!
As a digital maker, I’ve noticed a trend that when I make something, the first question that people ask me is how are you going to monetize that? Can’t I just make something for myself? Can I make an app or website, and just use it, without the expectation of it being the next Facebook or Google?
Making a Movie Watchlist for Myself
I’m big fan of movies, I go to the theatre most weekends, thanks to MoviePass it is now much more affordable!
I find it difficult to find out which movies are coming out with their release dates, and to keep track of the ones I want to watch.
Existing movie sites make this very complicated to hunt down and are full of ads that can be very distracting. Building a watchlist.
I wrote See it Skip it, to help me solve this problem.
The homepage of the website lists all the upcoming movies, and some of the recently released ones. I can easily click see or skip on a movie to indicate my preference. A second page lists all the movies that I want to see, that I haven’t seen yet.
Making a News Reader for Myself
When Google decided to shut down Google Reader, I scrambled around like everyone else looking for alternatives.
In the end I decided to build my own. Rather than just using RSS feed it uses the API of popular websites to aggregate content in a more reliable fashion that just plain RSS. It is called Revery.
It has simple keyboard shortcuts to navigate the application, who likes using the mouse?!?
Shouldn’t I release this to others, wouldn’t they love it just as much as I do. That was my plan, but I decided against it.
Building a large scale news reader platform is very hard to do profitably, as demonstrated by the many companies who have tried and failed. Building something for myself, has a negligible cost.
I was building a news reader just for myself. The way it works is optimized for my reading habits. I didn’t want to comprise the way it worked to satisfy other users.
Making a Watch Face for Myself
I recently purchased a smart watch, a Samsung Gear S3 to be precise. It’s beautiful and very customizable. One of the first things people do is to pick a watch face.
I looked around at the available faces, and while I liked a few none were exactly what I wanted. Then I remembered, I like to make things, so why not make one for myself!
Some quick googling and I discovered the Gear Watch Designer. This tool makes it very easy to build watch faces for the Samsung Gear.
So a few hours later I had a custom watch face for my watch.
I liked it, but wanted something a little darker, and with some motion, so I created another.
Should I make these watch face available to others? That was my first thought, but I decided against it, I was making them just for myself.
Making because I Enjoy it
Not everything I make is going to be for myself, but not everything I make will be for others. Building something for myself is a fun and solves a specific need for me. Go ahead and build something for yourself, it’s ok if no one else uses it. In some cases it’s preferred!
Premature optimization is said to kill many startups, but premature optimization kills even more great ideas. Instead of keeping things simple and easy to build, optimizing ideas for use by other people delays and prolongs the build to the extent that some projects never see the light of day. So build the project for yourself. Others may use it, but don’t make their use the criteria for success. If the project solves your needs and you use it, then it is a success!
Note: This article was originally posted on Medium.