#MySideProject profiles awesome side projects from the InternMatch community! Working on something cool, or know of a friend who’s working on something awesome? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You think you know Kanye West? Kanyetest.com asks you to recognize 10 songs from Yeezy’s discography without any help. You’ll only have 15 seconds to choose the correct song. Ready…set…go!
Dany Joumaa (@dannibles), an app developer and a witty hacker, joins us today to tell us his story from programming at the age of twelve, to developing a series of mobile applications, to diving into web development with his side project kanye|test that’s blowing up the websphere.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a 21 year old developer who’s an ultra marathoner, a hack pianist, and a college dropout (inspired by the album) from University of Arizona. I started programming when I was about 12. In middle school, I started a video game site called StrategyWiki with a friend and, after my freshman year in college, took a year off to work with the guys who make a mobile app called Circle.
How did you get started with Kanyetest.com?
I actually made a Tupac version first. The Kanye version took a day, but the Tupac version ended up taking a week because I sucked at web development.
When the Tupac version was done, it didn’t really resonate as much, so I made another version for our father Yeezus. I launched Kanyetest.com at the end of January and have been improving it since. It’s amazing to hear back from people who liked it tell me how to make the game more awesome.
How successful has kanye|test been?
In the first 24 hours, the game was played 6000 times by 4000-5000 different people. It’s grown since and, lately, it’s played about 1000 times a day. I used Mixpanel (they’re awesome, check them out!) to dig into the data and figure out where it failed and succeeded. So far, it’s been shared over 700 times on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. It was also briefly on the front page of Reddit. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that the next version stays on /r/all longer.
What advice or resources do you have for students who want to learn programming?
Don’t believe you have to start at an early age to get into programming. Just because Silicon Valley hypes up the young autistic genius admitted early to Harvard, that’s no measure of the likelihood of your success. Your success depends on whether you do something cool with what you know.
What advice do you have for students wanting to start a side project in general?
When evaluating an idea, ask yourself, “is this something I really care about?” Personally, I’m a huge hip hop fan. If you care about something enough — so much that you’d love it even if you weren’t making an app for it — that’s perfect. You’re probably already a “domain expert,” so you get to focus on the other billion things you don’t know yet. It’s unfortunate that some people work on stuff that doesn’t really matter to them. You shouldn’t feel like you’re doing a project just to tick a box or pad your resumé, because it’ll probably suck when you’re done. You should feel like doing it is a natural extension of who you are and what you want to do in the future. Keep brainstorming if it doesn’t fit that criterion. Be honest about what you care about and execute on that honesty instead of selling out for stars on GitHub.
Each step of the way, zoom out and make a list of things that you don’t know about your project. I find it helpful to keep a couple sheets of paper on my desk, along with pencils and erasers, to write down or draw whatever I want — especially things I don’t think I know about (“unknown unknowns”). Even with something as simple as kanye|test, there was something I didn’t know each step of the way. Make a list of potential gotchas and remember them throughout the process.
How do you think doing side projects can benefit you in the long run?
Too many ways to count! One is that they help you increase your technical capacity. There are tons of things you can’t learn unless you’re on the job doing it. Doing one-off projects helped me become more familiar with different languages and platforms, which in turn netted me work at my first startup during my sophomore year and eventually gave me the freedom to drop out. A friend of mine likes to say that, in the software world, “the app is the new resumé.” There is some truth to that.
What about in terms of full time employment?
I think it’d be cool to work at Apple someday, but right now I’m excited about working for myself and helping others out. Anyone interested in putting their side project knowledge to use can start off with internships. InternMatch lists a ton of internship opportunities here, check it out.
What are you working on now?
I am pretty skeptical of the iOS and Android app stores because, these days, they are ridiculously competitive. Startups with multimillion dollar runways are make it hard for indie developers like me to make a mark. So I’m spending the next few months trying figuring out if it’s possible to circumvent the current app ecosystem. kanye|test is a scientific experiment in making a viral mobile experience without making a mobile app. I’m definitely thankful for and still am overwhelmed by its success so far.
SHOUT OUTS TO MY BOYS YEEZY AND MY HOMIE YOUNG HOV … just kidding, I don’t really know them.
InternMatch would like to wish you the best of luck Dany on becoming even more successful with your future side projects! A big thank you for sharing your story. We hope you readers got a good look at starting your website app, or any kind of side project. Until next time!