Back at the end of 2020, Jhey Tompkins wrote an excellent article titled “Playfulness In Code: Supercharge Your Learning By Having Fun“. I loved this article and though the examples in it were more visually playful than technologically playful (and yes, HTML and CSS are technological – I just couldn’t find a better way to distinguish between the two things so, you know what I mean!) I still related to it strongly.
And the main point of the article is, in my opinion, both important and true:
Being playful with your code and what might seem like “lateral” learning can be a huge driving factor in evolving your skills. It might not be noticeable at once, but every time you make some new whimsical thing, you’re leveling up!
Turbo Admin was also in this category of “fun things I’m going to make just because I can” (some of its story is here), it just happened to be so useful that I thought others might pay for it (and, to my surprise and with my thankfullness, many of you did!)
And Turbo Admin is a base from which I can try all sorts of other things. I have experimental branches in Git for pretty admin URLs, pulling your favourite plugins into a dashboard widget, hiding dashboard widgets (remember this is a browser extension, so these settings would be saved across all sites).
I’ve put easter eggs on the marketing site. I’ve built my own licensing server (that I’m not using, but it’s there if I need it). And the other day I figured out that I could let people try it out using a bookmarklet.
And finally, last night, I found a way to add voice recognition to it to make WordPress voice-controlled. Watch the first video and you’ll see how much fun this was and how exciting it was to get it working.
And through all these things I’ve learned a TON, and I’ve had fun while doing it, and even made a bit of money too – let alone the reputation-building and networking I’ve done as a result.
It’s true, we need other hobbies. We need to get away from screens and apps. We need to move our bodies, and exercise our minds in other ways. We should not be defined by our coding.
And NOT having silly side projects or being – the term I’ve come to love – a “recreational coder” is fine too. It doesn’t necessarily make you a worse software developer.
But there are benefits to tinkering in SOME of your spare time. And if you’re having fun as well, as I clearly am, then go for it!