Why developers never finish their projects

Shamoon Siddiqui
Mar 28, 2014 · 7 min read

Every developer starts about 100 projects that never end up going anywhere. So many good ideas, so few executed ideas. Just about every software developer that I know has a folder structure that resembles the one shown. More than a handful of incomplete projects that seemed like a great idea once upon a time. Like many of you, I’ve had many ideas for great products / companies and even started down the path of implementation for some of them. A bot that determines arbitrage opportunities between eBay and Amazon. A social network for referral based businesses (plumbers, electricians, software developers, etc). A bitcoin search engine. A CSS framework for the days when Bootstrap wasn’t literally everywhere. A “hot or not” that found people from Instagram. A real-time visitor analytics engine. The list goes on. I’ve started on just about every one of these projects (and more), but never saw them through to completion. In talking with my developer friends and colleagues, I find that the story is oft repeated. Some folder on their computer that lives as a graveyard to high hopes and incomplete dreams. I’ve wondered why this is.

Success as an obstacle

So it’s clear that software developers are generally successful. Yes, there are thousands that completely suck. There are many that are not paid well at all and can’t hold a job for very long. But I’m making a generalization here, so allow me the liberty to be general. A halfway decent developer is a relatively (compared to the general population) successful person. This success can paralyze and inhibit the completion of goals, however. We are far from hungry and we’re too smart to think that we can ever be foolish.

The impediment of knowledge

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.

Sir Isaac Newton, one of the smartest men of his time, could accurately predict the movement of celestial bodies so many millions of miles away. He stood on the shoulders of giants to see farther than anyone else had. Physics wasn’t his only interest as he also (co)gave us calculus. Surely he could understand how money and markets work, right?

Wrong. During 1720, at the peak of the South Sea Stock Bubble, he threw down a ton of cash and went broke. All of his knowledge didn’t help him one bit, because he failed to understand the dynamics of markets. His knowledge was not domain independent — he was a master of moving bodies, but that did not translate to the psychology of his fellow traders. We too are like that. While we can explain algorithms and data structures all day long, we may not inherently understand what people want. When the twitters first came about, I suspected it was just a fad that would disappear. I was wrong. We often seek sexy solutions without realizing the mundaneness of the problem.

Career ADHD

Sometimes a new job starts up and the demands of getting caught up there mean putting the side project on “pause.” Sometimes we lose interest because the side project was aligned with something that we were doing at our previous job. While logistics is a reason that switching jobs every few years makes it much harder to stick to a side project, there is something to be said about the mentality of switching. If you can change your job in 3 years, why not change your side project in 3 months? You’ll have a better idea at (seemingly) the exact moment that you hit a wall in your current side project.

Fixing it

You are awesome

Build parts of projects

Do it with others

Solve problems you have

Size matters, so stay small

Brag until you fail

What about you? What tips and tricks do you have for getting your projects done?

About the author: Shamoon Siddiqui is a serial entrepreneur, software developer, investor and public speaker in the NYC area. To get more awesome content like this, just sign up for my mailing list.

Things Developers Care About

My thoughts on the state of software development

Things Developers Care About

My thoughts on the state of software development

Shamoon Siddiqui

Written by

Building products + communities with code. Entrepreneur with more losses than wins. Lifelong learner with a passion for AI+ML / #Bitcoin.

Things Developers Care About

My thoughts on the state of software development