I am an inveterate project-starter.
I just can't stop. I'm awful at finishing projects (which I've mentioned before) but my brain finds the novelty of new ideas too tempting to stay away from. And it's rare for me to fully abandon a project: I'll stop thinking about it for years, and then suddenly decide to open it up and work on it a bit more, pushing it slowly but inexorably towards a completed state like Zeno's Issue Tracker.
Such projects are my backburnered projects. I do still think about them, and I do want to return to them—some day, although not any specific day—but they're not at the top of my priorities at any given point. And I was recently considering how to give them a bit more love, how to bring them back into mind, how to push them along by at least tracking them or giving them a rough plan.
So here's what I'm gonna do this month: every day, I will post a short blog post about a backburnered project. I've got far more than can fit in a month, so I've formulated some specific requirements for what sorts of projects I'm going to write about:
- They must be things I haven't tried picking up and working on for a few months. If it's something that I was working on earlier in 2021, even if I haven't touched it in the last few weeks, then it's not really backburnered in my head. For example, I've been working off-and-on on a small and very silly project I'm calling Buckminsterfullerene, which is a source code display tool inspired by Carbon. I haven't worked on this since July and I'm not planning on picking it up in the next few days, but July wasn't that long ago, so I'm not counting it as backburnered.
- They must be things that I'm not opposed to picking up again. There are some projects that I have decided I am never going to resuscitate: those projects aren't backburnered, those are simply abandoned. For example, at one point I was working on a drawing program and associated vector format: the former was driven by the desire to recapture the novel way I felt about drawing in the Flash authoring environment (which remains one of my favorite programming environments) and the latter by the still-relevant concern that there are no good standard vector formats. I do not believe I will ever revisit this project: not because it's a bad idea, but because it's a massive undertaking that doesn't actually match my strengths or interests right now.
- They must be things that are, in some little way, novel: a little more than, “a tool which does this in a slightly different way,” or, “a library for X in language Y.” For example, at one point I was working on an alternative HTTP client library for Haskell which I planned to call
shelob(although I also considered the name
vriska, on the grounds that both are related to webs.) I was trying to solve a genuine problem using
shelob: the existing Haskell HTTP client libraries tended to make assumptions about the underlying sockets, and having a backend-agnostic library which would work over any stream-like abstraction would have made some tasks significantly easier in something like the now-defunct HaLVM project. But frankly, “an HTTP library with a slightly different interface” isn't that novel. I want to focus on projects that have a little more to talk about.
- They must be something that someone else might theoretically be interested in using, playing, or reading. This means I'm sticking to talking about plans for software and media objects. I've definitely got backburnered projects which are, like, art or functional objects I want to make for myself—for example, streamlined shogi sets or conlang projects—but I'm not sure that those are worth giving a few paragraphs to in a blog post. Consequently, I've mostly stuck to software and game-ish projects, with a few little fiction projects scattered in.
- They must be something I am comfortable talking about publicly. (I am not giving an example of a project I'm not comfortable talking about because… well, obviously.)
Each backburnered project will be given a few paragraphs: the what, the why, how far I've gotten, and of course why I chose the insufferable and impossible-to-remember name I gave it. (If I ever go back and finish any of these projects, I'll also edit the relevant posts to point to them, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you!)
Backburnered projects index
- Van De Graaff (software)
- Virgil (software)
- Delve (tabletop game)
- Rakonteto (software)
- Albulaan (video game)
- Parley and Beholder (software)
- Apicius (software)
- The Last Alliance of Men and Elves (tabletop game)
- Endsay (software)
- Tales (video game)
- Palladio (software)
- Morphosyntactic Trek (fiction)
- Petri (software)
- The Emissaries of Guenashk (tabletop game)
- Hypsibius (software)
- Alien Truck Simulator (video game)
- Lektor (software)
- Bunyan (software)
- Yan Tan Tethera, or Those Who Return (tabletop game)
- Bytor (software)
- The King of Cups (fiction)
- Cube Cotillion (software)
- Guns & Gasoline (tabletop game)
- Gitnode (software)
- The Stray Dog Trilogy (video game)
- Melvil, or Aloysius (software)
- Caverns Old (tabletop game)
- PicoML (software)
- Potrero and Treant and the rest (software)