"People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing and it’s totally true. And the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t, any rational person would give up." - Steve Jobs
As one of the specialized software development recruitment agencies in New York City, technical side projects are our best friends. Naturally it’s always exciting to get a resume stacked with prestigious employers and top-flight projects. But, it’s even better when those responsibilities are supplemented by some tinkering as nothing says “passionate technologist” (generally the final characteristic in our current opportunities) like spending your free time using your skills to create something awesome.
With that in mind, the Infusive team went hunting for a few professional developers who have all created useful resources solely to fulfill their love of technology while simultaneously sharpening the skills that help them excel in their day jobs.
Without further ado, here are three great examples we found and now we’ll shut up and let the coders themselves do the talking (well … typing).
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Name: Sean Anderson
Day Job: Senior Software Developer at Cormant, Inc., a data-center infrastructure and management solution provider.
Side Project: Streamus
Why I Created My Side Project: The reasons for creating Streamus are two-fold. The initial drive came from being weary of bookmarking YouTube videos. I found myself scrolling through hundreds of bookmarks, categorized into folders by genre, wishing I had a better way of finding what I wanted. It seemed like a fairly straightforward problem. So, I decided to write a bit of code to fix it.
What Streamus Does: Streamus is similar to other music streaming services such as Spotify or Pandora, but draws its content from YouTube's catalog of music. Streamus differs itself from competitors by being built on top of Chrome's browser extension architecture.
Websites rely on tabs to continually stream content, but Streamus is able to minimize into the browser. Minimization alleviates frustrating experiences such as losing track of, or accidentally closing, a music-streaming browser tab. That's just the beginning, though. Streamus has a plethora of features that websites aren't able to offer.
For example, Streamus supports a large range of customizable keyboard shortcuts which can be set at the bottom of the chrome://extensions page. Streamus also allows instant YouTube searching and playing via the URL bar. After typing in 'streamus [SONG NAME]' options are shown to the user.
Music begins playing instantly once an option has been selected. Finally, once a user has set up a stream of music, Streamus' radio mode is able to continue indefinitely while helping the user discover new, related music. These features, and many others, are helping turn Streamus into the music player I want to use. It just so happens that others are down to come along for the ride.
The Hard Tech: Well, if you're a bit nerdy, you can take a gander at all of the code to get a full understanding of what the backend looks like. Streamus is entirely open-source and available on GitHub:
Chrome Extension: https://github.com/MeoMix/StreamusChromeExtension/
There's a couple of different pieces to the Streamus puzzle. There's a server and database hosted in the cloud. The extensions communicate with the server with video and playlist information being recorded. This information allows for users to share playlists between each other and, in the future, will be used to generate interesting metrics such as trending videos.
No personal information is collected. The extension itself is granted elevated permissions upon installing. This allows for code injection into other websites such as Beatport and YouTube, which helps provide a fully immersive experience when using Streamus.
The database and server are hosted on http://www.appharbor.com, which has been an amazing resource for getting a .NET server up and running for free/cheap. The website is hosted by Lumous, a small startup out of Oregon and was chosen for their attention to security.
The main C# packages utilized by Streamus are:
The server is backed by a full suite of test cases managed by NUnit. NHibernate is an ORM which helps with C#<->MSSQL interactions. The server is written in ASP.NET MVC4 because my work utilizes ASP.NET MVC to create their intranet web application. I'm hoping to move to the more applicable .NET 4.5 Web API at some point. AutoMapper helps convert domain objects to DTO objects so they can be sent to the extension.
Name: Oliver Peat
Day Job: Software Engineer at Raytheon
Side Project: TuneCrawl
Why I Created My Side Project: Answering this question has always been tough and I don't think there is any one answer. I began making side projects in college, starting with Android Apps. I remember publishing my first couple of apps and not thinking much of them. Making them was enjoyable to me. It helped expedite my learning and I didn't really expect much to come of it. Hell, I would have been happy if the apps even reached 100 downloads.
A few weeks after I published my first app, I saw a random person using it.
That moment was definitely something special. Since then, I haven't really let up making things outside of work. It has introduced me to people I never would have met otherwise. It has taught me technologies that I would not have ever played with or learned in my day job.
Side projects have given me challenges I never would have otherwise experienced. They taught me and gave me an appreciation for the business, marketing and financial side of products that I did not know before. They allowed my work to spread across the globe.
I've gotten mail, feedback and press coverage from all over the place. The list of reasons why I create side projects is numerous, but none of them would have been completed if not for my love of programming. I'm very happy that I decided on the very best career path for myself and look forward to what the future holds.
What TuneCrawl Does: TuneCrawl's aim is to provide users with the ability to find and play any music from the most popular music streaming providers. I eliminated the bloat of many services to bring you the music you want to listen to as fast as possible. With multiple music providers on TuneCrawl, you no longer have to switch from website to website trying to find one that has the song you are trying to listen to.
On the front end, there is just a single page consisting of a search bar and three columns that populate with search results as you type (see screenshot above). The music player appears at the bottom of the page once you have hit the play button next to the song of your choice. I tried to make the front end as simple and easy to use as possible. If people can't use TuneCrawl without an explanation, I consider my design a failure!
The Hard Tech: The base CSS is Bootstrap that I modified to my liking. I chose Bootstrap due to its great flexibility and support for various screen sizes. It looks great whether you are on a 4" mobile screen or a 27" monitor!
The search and results are provided by each music streaming provider's API. I took advantage of their various customization options and used a little bit of my own magic to make the results as quick and relevant as possible.
The source code for TuneCrawl is available on my GitHub for those that would like to look into it. I also encourage people to use and modify the code to create something even more amazing. https://github.com/ProbablyOliver
Name: Elliot Kulakow
Day Job: Data Scientist at Hired
Side Project: Psychoustic Visualizer
Why I Created My Side Project: To simultaneously fuel a diverse series of passions including psychedelic art, music, math and programming.
What The Psychoustic Visualizer Does: Psychoustic is a new type of visualizer, created to bridge the world of sight and sound. It is a synasthesic experience - emerging directly from the notes and beats you hear into shape and color.
The Hard Tech: Used Python with NumPy/SciPy etc. to create a visual representation of music in shape and color. Being a pure signal processing implementation, it requires no state (pre-generated artwork), directly transforming the song into video. Psychoustic originated as an attempt to crudely approximate the mechanism of Chromasthesia, the psychological condition where sound is perceived visually.
The current software is stable visually, but too slow for real time application - requiring GPU research before it will be practical to distribute.
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