import { inspiration } from "askme"
June 11, 2024 2:09 AM   Subscribe

Where do you get your inspiration for hobbyist coding projects? Alternatively, do you have an idea for a little web app you'd like to see?

I need new projects to keep the grey cells ticking over. My own technological life is pretty sorted-out so I need to look further afield for problems needing solving.

The sort of thing I have previously enjoyed:
- web app which analyses your whatsapp chats (javascript, sveltekit)
- web app which analyses the mefi infodump (polars, python, javascript)
- wordle on the command line (python)
- efficiently solving various word games (go, C#)
- making timelapse sunset videos (raspberry pi, ffmpeg)

The sort of thing I would not enjoy:
- hardware tinkering
- the faff of making a phone app or desktop gui app
- learning a new language just for the sake of it
- contributing to a larger project (I am a control freak and want to make everything myself)
posted by Klipspringer to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have so many! I really really want a stupid little app that will serve me up a random markdown formatted poem from a giant text file where I keep my private stash of poems so I can use that to add random poems all over the place on my various desktops/web pages.

I also want an app that will do a resizable browser screen pomodoro where I can set a background of an animated gif/mp4 from my own files either full screen or set to the middle of the screen with current time and a visual timer button - or a fade effect! I have tried so many pomodoro things but they are all over featured or incredibly boring. I want to see my own weird animations cycle in and out, not some drippy forest or an hourglass.

I think this exists but got jacked and required additional work - to be able to give your Spotify favourites and a time limit (and a bpm) to generate random playlists of exact lengths so I can get a 20 min high energy playlist would be so cool. Especially if you could start with one song that must be included.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:32 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

Best answer: wordle on the command line (python)

First of all, thank you for that! I've played it so much.
What about expanding it, so players can track stats and analyze them (these are the results I get with this strategy or starting words vs. those, etc.)

Also this is probably fiddly and less fun to implement but (command line) UI to customize colors would be great. (I did it the manual way.)

- efficiently solving various word games (go, C#)

A daily tsumego app? (Command line would be interesting...)
posted by trig at 2:40 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Something I've thought of for ages (and been meaning to ask on metatalk) is a mefi climate change scraper that parses askmes re items to handle unseasonal weather (e.g. cooler|warmer, heavier|lighter ... sheets, shoes, underwear, outerwear, aircon., house windows.....).

Many / most members have location in their profile (either the globe/ coordinate thing, or a state/place). So matching up location with season to highlight the global weather shift, and initially simply tabling the data.

There are a lot of questions like this across 25 years.

Seconding dorothy's pomodoro!
posted by unearthed at 2:45 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I’ve wished for an app that would keep track of a backlog of music recommendations from my friends. It could deal with Spotify and YouTube links.
posted by johngoren at 4:00 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Thirding a pomodoro that has user customizability! Even a simple choice of fonts / UI hex colors / user-upload static background would be a huge upgrade for me personally.

No idea how feasible this is but I REALLY miss RSS feeds. So far this has been the biggest loss of my life on the internet. Can you re-build the RSS infrastructure lol

In all seriousness, my only other suggestion is a web design report applet - a tool that can tell you which fonts are used on the page, which hex colors are used, and which platform hosts the site (WP, Squarespace, Wix, other). I know of ways/tools to find all those 3 separately but I have to hunt and poke more than I’d like. A little dropdown menu that spits all 3 of those out for me automatically would be amazing
posted by seemoorglass at 4:05 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My projects have come from my two main non-computer interests: math and sailboats.

As a suggestion, I could use a better way to move a picture from my phone to my Windows computer. Google Drive does not do what it used to, and even back then it had some annoying habits.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:12 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have ideas for:

- making an appointment/alarm/task timer app that has a more customizable and gentler - but still insistent - and much more effective style of alarm activation/playing. It would involve discovering and working with music curators/programmers, or possibly code to generate music or sounds with certain parameters, along with other specifics. It would be great to make it into a small device with a microcontroller, and to make very specific button/hardware control interface elements.

- I am super psyched about my search engine idea. It might involve opensolr, but it could start small. It would involve some account options that -- while not being gamification/gamifying at all - have a similar type of complexity and interaction with behavior, and I'm keen to figure out a new economic model for it besides ads bought by those with money.

- There is a huge need for an inexpensive device that integrates humidity control, temperature control, lighting control with more complexity than off/on at specific times, possibly a GFCI-type breaker element (because it should ideally power a water pump also), light meter perhaps, AND be powered by rechargable 12-volt DC batteries or a 12v power source/transformer, because it would be great if these things were operable without mains power. The device COULD just be some kind of modular-or-not power supply with switches that turn on and off - a lot of the components that actually change humidity, light, etc. are available in 12v versions, but there's no hardware to control power based on related sensors.

- I am keen to design and build a self-contained vivarium, incorporating the device with all the climate control aspects described above, that is also portable. I think I can make a lot of the body of it with some creative pottery/ceramic ideas I have.

- *** I was _just_ reading about 12V sewing machines yesterday. The state of the art can be improved upon, or at least analyzed and made more available for me to make one. Apparently there is an Amish company that sells modded Janome sewing machine and a modded serger that run off of (I kid you not) cordless tool power packs. Somehow there's a shoe for the power packs on the side of the sewing machine - you charge the Makita or Milwaukee drill battery on the usual charger, then slide it onto the side of the sewing machine. Then, with this sewing machine with a Milwaukee battery stuck onto it, you can sew for hours. How cool is that? I totally want one! But I'm game to use a bigger marine battery and figure out how to solar charge it.

- There are e-paper monitors now, but they are very very expensive. I would love to make a device with a large e-paper screen, possibly a touch screen, just for the experience. The alarm/task timer I described might use something like that, although I'm very interested in designing new mechanical switches (there are deep reasons for this).

- A portable solar panel mount that tracks the movement of the sun, with limited power usage for that movement.

- I am _jonesing_ for a simple solar-powered food dehydrator with integrated 12v fan (i.e., a computer fan that's repurposed).

- I started working on making an inexpensive air filtration system that anybody could hack together. I've learned (in theory) how to make activated charcoal using natural charcoal from Home Depot and ice melt also from Home Depot - I have some components to make a charcoal crushing system. After that, it's just a matter of making an air-permeable charcoal sandwich and constructing a fan housing to mount the charcoal sandwich -- and of course using a 12V power source for the whole thing. The working filter/fan could be very small, maybe a 6" x 6" square 3" thick plus power supply. The charcoal crushing part is a bit difficult - and not really electronically centered. I just really care about this idea.

- Speaking of 12v fans, you know what the kids need? A bug vacuum gun that is waaaaay more powerful than what you can buy, and humane, and long (so that it's safe to vacuum up, say, a wasp's nest or any bug that is just too creepy to get close to - for some people, that's most bugs). Using a wall-powered vacuum is wasteful, and also so loud and cumbersom that actually capturing bugs is super difficult.

- There are educational kits out there called "Mud Watt" or something like that, and what they do is capture electricity generated by soil bacteria. It is awesome!!! I'd love to make an embedded device that builds up some power over time using this source, and then, when it has enough of a stored charge, sends a photo or an environmental reading out, or maybe just logs it somehow. This would be great for environmental sensors in places that are too dark for solar.

- There is a huge need for the _right kind_ of Android phone/device UI to make a safe way for people who just want a simpler way of being connected but not that connected, or who want to see a simple elegant no-collection-of-icons, scamming-someone-is-impossible, only-connects-to-three-things-that-are-safe options - maybe one option, or two. Just make a version of Android that has a totally different "desktop" environment. This is sorely needed, too, by people with dementia.

- Hard one - need an electrical engineer: a power source that sits between _any_ electrically powered oven/stove and the wall outlet it connects to; it has a simple mechanical/tactile user interface that lets a user grab it and instantly set a timer. It only allows power to the stove after someone sets the timer, and automatically cuts power when the timer expires. THOUSANDS of people need this.

- A teaching/reminder app for people to prepare them and then onboard them to pet ownership. This would go beyond vaccination reminders, but do things like cue the pet owners to notice and record behavior based on some kind of ethogram system - which will lead them to be able to read their pet's non-verbal signals of emotional state. I have ideas for this that go in several different directions (all integratable), and I believe that building this skill set in people will increase empathy and understanding OF humans, too - basically, though, I think the actual technology part is fairly easy.

- I have several ideas that I think could actually make money.

- There are now some services (at least one anyway) that run online fundraising auctions for nonprofits - the local animal rescue group used one for their annual fundraising auction. If you wanted to make a version of this, improving on existing options would be _trivial_ once the basic framework is in place.

- I'd love to make a DIY light meter, both for plants and for photography.

- Use UIPath or another web automation tool to build a) a database of product ingredient lists, and re-check the ingredients from the manufacturers' sites regularly; b) knowledge of which local stores carry which products, so that c) if I need to find a shampoo that doesn't contain methypropylisothiazolinone and costs less than $14/bottle and less than $1/fluid ounce, or to be alerted when it's suddenlin in stock somewhere, I can do that. Or if I need to buy organic strawberries, Clorix bleach, and a new toothbrush, the system will tell me how to get what I need as efficiently as possible.

- I have an idea for an apartment/rental search system that would be awesome, but it will work best as a desktop app. It also would need some serious thought about UI stuff because I think it would need to be crowdsourced.
posted by amtho at 5:41 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I forgot to mention my walking-powered personal cooling device idea. I don't know anything about building the pressurization/depressurization system parts needed for this, but if one can just take apart an old air conditioner, how hard could it be?

In general, I love the idea of using direct human muscle power for energy-hungry movement actions like building pressure or rotating heavy things, and then using microcontrollers for fine control, timing, etc.
posted by amtho at 5:44 AM on June 11

Best answer: I invented a game where you guess an English Wikipedia article based on what categories it's in. It broke a bit after an API update in 2009 and I think a modern port that makes use of Wikidata would be marvelous.

Similarly a web version of Podguessing would be fun.
posted by brainwane at 5:57 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My inspiration? Being annoyed, or being worried. The key is seeing _every_ emotion as an opportunity to learn something new about the interface between me and the non-me parts of the universel
posted by amtho at 5:58 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been tinkering on an idea for a little bit but not making much headway: A smart RSS/Atom aggregator.

Essentially you could have several feeds per tag (or folder), and:

- Block stories that match certain criteria (either keywords [1] like "US politics" or LLM-powered stuff to block USpol stuff generally).
- Remove duplicates within feeds and between feeds (if I subscribe to both CNN and NYT there'll be a lot of crossover). Either merge duplicate stories or remove one of them.
- Generate a bulleted summary of all the top stories per tag, so I can get a quick overview of what's new in a certain field.
- Potentially plugins for Twitter, Reddit, too. But that could be tricky due to enshittified API access.

[1] The app I currently use, Feeder, supports this already.
posted by tripsix at 6:22 AM on June 11

Best answer: Seconding seemorglass's "website design reporter" ideas - as a person who needs to build websites periodically but is by no means an expert, being able to get a rundown on the basic mechanics and design of a random website would be incredibly helpful!
posted by heyforfour at 6:34 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Your play with infodumps stands out to me. It seems like turning raw data into something meaningful is fun/interesting to you. My suggestion is to lean into that. MeFi data you've done. How about city data from where you live, or government data, or census data, or climate data, or data from places like imdb or musicbrainz. Maybe merging disparate data sets in interesting ways. Searching for "open data" gets some interesting results.
posted by artlung at 7:05 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some of my ideas come from metafilter posts - like a post about a guy tracking the longevity of his clothes, so I built one of those for myself.

The last one I built was to track repairs made to my cars. I also try do do stuff to save money (or vague research) like tracking water for my plants and yard - optimizing my sprinkler system. If I could do one for my electricity, I'd do that too, but I don't have an interface in and don't feel like buying one right now.

I also do localized weather tracking - I'm trying to add info about the current type of clouds based on their height, etc, and percent of coverage and to do barometer stuff for rain.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:40 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is vague, from elseweb, but stuck in my mind — what would a to-do/reminder/notes app that was anti hustle look like? Can you design one for satisficing?
posted by clew at 10:24 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, something I’m vaguely meaning to do; take in weather measurements and time-to-harvest over a market garden season to make better estimates of how long everything will take to ripen week by week next season.

Possibly with MCMC to rough out a plan that gets a good variety of veg types by week. We all do this by guess and tradition, but as the weather changes it’s more guess.
posted by clew at 10:28 AM on June 11

Best answer: amtho re timers, mefite flabdablet wrote a timer batch file "worlds simplest time tracker windows app" back in 2007. I've been using it .. hourly for a decade. More info and an update to it on flabdablet's profile.
posted by unearthed at 11:59 AM on June 11

Response by poster: Wow, what amazing responses! This is even better than I'd hoped for. Thanks to everyone.

I can't respond to everything, but some thoughts:
- I am a big Spotify user and they have a good API so there's a rich seam of ideas there, thanks dorothyisunderwood and johngoren
- trig, that's brilliant knowing you kept using wordle-cli. GitHub doesn't have any clone/download stats, so I had no idea if anyone ever played it. I will look into the features you suggest.
- seemoorglass, I love the website summary idea. I'm always doing dig and then dig -x, or looking at the server header and html, to see what people are using.
- unearthed, the climate change thing is fascinating. I'd be interested in generalising it to any tag trends over time. The infodumpster is such an elegant piece of ui and code, I've never wanted to tread on its toes, but maybe there's a gap in the market.
- amtho I'm genuinely in awe of the fertility of your mind.
- The_Vegetables and clew, my houseplants could definitely do with some rasberry pi-based humidity monitoring and timelapse videos.
- SemiSalt, have you tried SyncThing? I use it to keep my phone camera roll synced to my laptop.

Without committing myself to anything here... I hit git init on one of your ideas this afternoon.
posted by Klipspringer at 1:51 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]

I would love for somebody to form Washington State's political donation data into visualizations that show patterns of political operation.
posted by away for regrooving at 7:37 PM on June 11

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