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So Good They Can’t Ignore You…and Cool Little Projects

I just finished reading So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. I thought it was pretty good, if a little bit repetitive. One idea that really grabbed me was part of his Rule #3, Little Bets, which remind me of a more career focused version of what I’ve taken to calling ‘Cool Little Projects’.

To sum them up, a little bet is:

  • It’s a project small enough to be completed in less than a month.
  • It forces you to create new value (e.g., master a new skill and produce new results that didn’t exist before).
  • It produces a concrete result that you can use to gather concrete feedback.

-Newport, Cal (2012-09-18). So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love (Kindle Locations 2443-2446). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Sucked into Herman Scribble

Well, I let myself get sucked into designing Herman Scribble, the card game. I decided to focus on that Cool Little Project primarily because I found this: Pass Go: Design Your First Table Top Card Game (warning: affiliate link, I think), an inexpensive course on designing a card game. I’ve only gone through one of the lessons beyond the introduction at this point, but the community is pretty lively, and the feedback is good.

Herman Scribble, Problem Solver


Herman Scribble. Right now, Herman Scribble is nothing. Herman Scribble was an idea for an iPhone game I had a while back. It is like the old Lucas Arts adventure games, mixed with top-down CRPGs, starring someone like the goofy kid from Up. The idea was that each task would be framed in a merit badge for a Boy Scout-esque organization. Fighting off an alien invasion = Astronomy merit badge.

– From here:

Still no real progress, other than deciding that iOS wouldn’t be the platform I’d choose to use today. I don’t know if this is even a computer game at all.

I actually think this would make a fun cooperative/competitive card game. It would contain a few phases.

Map construction – the town and adjoining areas for the adventure would be represented by cards. The map deck would be seeded with a couple core locations – the clubhouse (starting point for the members of the group, one or more key locations (the haunted house, the clearing in the woods, or the observatory) and the rest would be local color – the school, the mall, magic shop, etc. (which could be the key locations for other adventures) which provide additional places to gather clues.

Certain locations would be tied to specific people or things which can be used to ‘seed’ the location.

Stepping back, this reminds me of the Spaceline setup of the Star Trek:TNG CCG. Each player brought the same number of locations to the game, they were shuffled and then put into a straight line between the players. ‘Dilemmas’ and ‘Artifacts’ were then put underneath the location to provide obstacles for completion.

I was originally thinking that the map building may take place on the fly, as players ‘explore’, but I think I like the idea of it being fully formed at the beginning of the game.

Solving Problems – The core of the game will be solving problems for people, gathering clues, and basically preparing to solve the big problem (oncoming alien invasion, for example).

I’m not sure how the mechanism for this would work. I don’t want the game to feel too much like Arkham Horror, collecting Elder Signs until you have enough, but I’m not sure how else it would work. Perhaps the clues you gather conform to sets or poker hands?

What is holding me back?
I haven’t done much with this idea due to art concerns. I am not an artist, and this sort of game would require a lot of it.

Podcasts I’m Listening To

I’m a podcast listening fiend. I was writing an email to give a few suggestions to a friend and realized that I might as well just put ‘em up here.

The No Agenda Show
The self-proclaimed ‘Best Podcast In The Universe’ – and I agree with that assessment. It is a delightful mix of politics, media deconstruction, and conspiracy theories. A must listen for me, but can be bit difficult to get into.

Jim Harold’s Campfire
Stories of the paranormal told by the people who experienced them. Jim is a good host and the content can be genuinely creepy on occasion.

The Paranormal Podcast
An interview show by Jim Harold (of the Campfire). A good interview show, I find it to be hit or miss depending on the topic covered.

Roderick On The Line
I don’t know what to say about this one, other than it is worth going back to the beginning of the series. Topics range from Hitler, hitchhiking across Eastern Europe, music, and dead rubber girls. Usually very funny.

Star Trek: Outpost
A Star Trek radio serial set in the DS9 era. Some episodes and actors are better than others, but the quality is very high, given that it is a free, fan created show.

NPR: All Songs Considered
A good music podcast focusing on the new stuff that has come out recently, or will be out soon. Occasionally, they do shows around a particular topic/genre/artist, which are particularly good.

NPR: Live In Concert
Usually this feed sits dormant for me, but sometimes they blow me away with phenomenal concerts. I’m particularly interested in festival coverage. The coverage for Newport Folk Festival (going on now) and SXSW are not to missed.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is a good start.

As far as software goes, I listen to everything from my Android phone. I’m currently using BeyondPod as my player of choice.

Cool Little Projects

Like a lot of folks, I’m pretty good at coming up with ideas for ‘cool little projects’. Not revolutionary business ideas or incredibly complex applications, but little things that I think I could leverage to learn a new skill, pad a resume, or (re)establish connections. Also like a lot of folks, I’m terrible at actually following through with these projects. I want to remedy this situation.

So, here’s the plan:

1) Publicize
At least once per week, I will be posting one of these ‘Cool Little Projects’ (CLPs from now on). The amount of detail will vary, but the core of the thing should be basically complete (or as complete as it is in my head). These are all things that I’ve thought about doing or started doing and sidelined.

2) Progress
If I decide to take action on one of the projects, I will post that progress here. If someone else takes action on one of these and want me to publicize it, I’ll be happy to. Progress may be as large as actually writing code or content, or as small as new thoughts or ideas on how it should or could work.

3) Blanket Appeal for Help
If any of these projects interest you, send me a note via email, Twitter or leave a comment. I want to stop hoarding these ideas. Do you want to run with one? You have my blessing, just please give me a heads up. Want to partner in some fashion to work on one? I’d be up for that as well. Have something you think would be an interesting addition or hack to the idea? Throw it out there.

Why am I doing this? There are a few reasons:

1) Exorcise the Demons
These things are churning around in my head, providing inopportune distractions when I need to buckle down on something. They are also very much at odds – just as I decide to start investigating one I find that another starts to be more interesting. Its a vicious cycle.

2) Public Scrutiny
The easiest way to figure out if an idea is terrible is to try and explain it to someone else. I certainly don’t want to waste my time thinking about something that when I get it on paper, is completely ridiculous. On the other side, what I find to be a dog someone else may find truly inspirational.

Let me know what you think.

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