3-5 days and good programming skills. I wanna build something cool!
August 4, 2009 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I have 3-5 days (starting tomorrow!) in which I'm off from work, and have really nothing planned. As a developer geek in a crappy economy, I'm looking at looming unemployment and/or the start of a freelance career in the very near future. I want to this time making "something" that I can use in my portfolio to show potential employers/clients. What on earth can I build?

Ideas for sites are a dime a dozen, except for when I need one. I'd like to build something cool that I can show off. Trouble is, I'd like to get it out, at least v0.1, after only 3-5 days of work. All my ideas involve considerably more effort than that. And I at least want it to be somewhat fun and/or interesting and/or to teach me something new... I can write boring code at work.

So mefites -- what should I build? I know the LAMP stack pretty well, where the 'P' can be either PHP, Python or Perl (although right now PHP is my strongest language). I can thnk in SQL -- databases are not a problem. I have more than enough hosting and a good dev environment. I can learn things (APIs, etc) pretty quickly. Maybe something fun with Google Maps? A Facebook app? An entire site? I'm open to all and any ideas...

Yes, there are better uses for my time. I should be networking, yadda yadda, but this is my vacation and I don't wanna. :) I never get to write what I want to write anymore. Assume my resume is up to date and polished.
posted by cgg to Technology (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've been leaning towards Django lately, but it basically handles much of the design for me.

One idea would be to re-implement a popular website. You get the advantage of skipping most of the design decisions, and really don't have to think hard about scaling unless you want to. For example, soclone seeks to reimplement Stack Overflow in Django.

If you're looking for something simpler, maybe a lolcat generator. It'd beat the pants off the boring crap we make students do -- "build an ecommerce site with inventory control!", "build a customer relationship manager!", etc.

Whatever you do, skip making your own damn blog from scratch. You're better off demonstrating you can find and learn technology from outside your own head, or custom writing an app that isn't freely implemented a dozen times.

posted by pwnguin at 1:47 PM on August 4, 2009

Do you really want to be showing off your best work to a future employer by showing them something you threw together in a couple of days?

From your post, I would suggest you focus on either 1) Doing something for fun and to learn a bit, and have something completed in a couple of days, or 2) Working on getting a big chunk done for a larger project, which when finished, will blow the socks off of a future client.

If you are worried about future unemployment, you should probably take whatever time you can to put something together that showcases as many of your abilities as possible, and is so well thought out that anyone who sees it will want to hire you on the spot. If you think that can be put together in 3-5 days than go for it.

Alternatively, can you come up with something that is self contained, but can be later become part of one of your larger ideas?

If you aren't too concerned about that, and want to just find something that is fun to do, I would try to do something that takes advantage of twitter and uses it in a different way. Maybe some sort of google map tracking program, where people can twitter where they are, and the program creates a map of where they have been, and what time they were there. You could load in all of your friends, and if people were going out for a drink, you could know exactly where each of them are.
posted by markblasco at 2:24 PM on August 4, 2009

a personal blog exercising whatever is the most MVC framework for PHP. i'm pretty sure PHP still does not have true MVC available, so I'd recommend doing it in python.
posted by rhizome at 2:25 PM on August 4, 2009

I know there are sites where people post programming work, but I have no actual sites to post. Look for a really interesting project, bid low and specify that you keep the code and the right to use it as a demo. Or ask around among programmer buddies to see if somebody knows of a juicy project. Maybe you could earn a little and still have the demo.
posted by theora55 at 2:43 PM on August 4, 2009

people will punch me for saying this, but Twitter is pretty "buzz"y these days, and it might impress employers if you did something with the twitter API.

When I felt like screwing with it I did a chron job that hit a php script and posted "The Great Gatsby" 140 characters at a time. I'm sure you could think of more complex projects though.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:05 PM on August 4, 2009

I'd go for an open source project -- even just a library for other developers based on some project you've already done.
posted by meta_eli at 3:54 PM on August 4, 2009

How about you spend five days thinking really hard about a good idea to work on in your spare time?

If you even get that much accomplished, I'll be impressed.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:36 PM on August 4, 2009

a personal blog exercising whatever is the most MVC framework for PHP. i'm pretty sure PHP still does not have true MVC available, so I'd recommend doing it in python.

...what is your definition of a "true MVC"? There are tons of MVC frameworks for PHP.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:57 PM on August 4, 2009

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