On Making Stuff

Standard

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been spending whatever time I can spare on a little project: building kisttr, a Kickstarter Backer Tracker. It’s a pretty straightforward hack that allows you to “track” (or “follow”, if you prefer) a group of Kickstarter users and see what new projects they’re backing without having to visit each of their profile pages on the site.

As I was putting it together, a part of me couldn’t help but play out a little dialogue:

“So this thing just sends you a daily email that lists the new projects some people are backing on Kickstarter?”

“Yes. Though it does show them on a Web page, too.”

“And you spent two weeks building it?”

“Correct. Late in the evening, mostly.”

“It kind of sounds like a feature, not a product.”

“True. Very true.”

“And it actually kind of sounds like a feature that Kickstarter is likely to release themselves at some point.”

“Agreed.”

All of the points raised above are entirely valid. I fully expect that Kickstarter will sooner or later release an update that makes kisttr obsolete, it’s definitely a feature rather than a product, and it took me an awfully long time to build something that a competent developer could have banged out in a matter of a couple of days.

But to me, all of that is missing the real point.

Kickstarter may well release an equivalent feature, they don’t offer it right now, and I want this right now. Kisttr isn’t as elegant as I’d really like, but it works — and it’s a lot better than not having anything at all.

And while I’m a slow and clumsy programmer, after spending some focused hours designing and building this, I’ve remembered a bunch of tricks that I’d forgotten and learned a few new things, as well. [Amazon’s Simple Email Service is kind of neat, I’m an idiot for not making better use of CSS frameworks before, and so on.]

Today I have a better understanding of a few design and development issues than I did two weeks ago, and even though (or maybe because) I’m more of a “product” guy, that’s incredibly valuable.

When it comes down to it, it’s just fun — and wonderfully satisfying — to take a project from a barely articulated idea to reality. Making something that didn’t exist before is a real pleasure — even if what you’re making isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

The further I get into this process (it’s still underway, since there are still a number of holes to be patched), the more strongly I believe that I get the real benefit from the process of building kisttr — the end product is just a little bonus.