Things I want to work on

July 16, 2013

I finished up my last contract, other than a few weeks of answering questions. Old clients want new things but I think that’s just a few weeks of work. And then I have a big open space (right after the family vacation).

Those used to make me nervous but I’m getting better at being excited to have time to work on my own ideas, if only to freshen my skills. I’m not as worried that I’ll never find a new client. For a little while (at least), I’ll be choosier with contracts (such a luxury!).

A friend asked what I want to work on. I think he has entrepreneurial motives though I’m not ready for another turn on the startup merry go round. In trying to figure out how to answer him, I’ve sat down and thought about what I really want to work on. Not the technology or location or industry, but concrete things I think must be happening that I particularly want to be a part of.

  • Smart prosthetic limbs (feet):  measure surface something (electrical impulses? micro movement? tension?) on the remaining limb and use it to control things like artificial toes for enhanced balance.
  • $5US clothes washer (the TED talk about how washing machines change everything really got to me). I suspect other things would do: a $5 ereader (put a whole encyclopedias on it) or a $5 something else that can make a huge difference to someone outside the US.
  • Use chemical sensing MEMS to make a pocket mass spectrometer/gas chromatography system (bomb sniffing, tricorder, being able to visualize 1/100 of what my beagle smells).

Thinking about concrete examples is difficult. I want to work on something innovative but my innovative ideas are smaller than I want to work on, smaller than a company could sustain. (Though, my ideas get bigger as time goes on so this may not remain a problem.) There are other things I can identify as great things about my next potential contract:

  • I’ve done a bit of work with devices that attempt to use game-ification as a motivation tool. I’d like to see a focus also on pet-ification. Many people tend to nurture more than compete. I don’t know if I want to apply this more to fitness or to education devices. Either. Both.
  • A genius’ vision of something that make the world a better place. While there are a lot of things I don’t want to work on/with (application, methodologies, and companies), I really didn’t want to make this a negative list. If I were to make this a list of things I don’t want about my next project it would be “I don’t want to work on something designed by committee”. I find those projects increasingly unsatisfying. However, the times I’ve worked with someone who had a plan and could articulate how my help was needed, those have been great projects where I have learned a lot and provided a lot of value. (Hey, Elon Musk, if you read my blog, please consider how my embedded software skills can help you with the LA/SF 30 minute transporter thingy (Hyperloop).)
  • Proof of concept prototype for a skunkworks. This is kind of like my recently complete project. I like shipping things, it is incredibly gratifying. But I also like proving something unlikely is actually possible.

I suspect I’ll find something interesting that pays bills while I ruminate further on my plan to take over a tiny portion of the world. In the meantime, I’m enjoying this thought exercise. And break.