The Lounge is rated PG. If you're about to post something you wouldn't want your
kid sister to read then don't post it. No flame wars, no abusive conduct, no programming
questions and please don't post ads.
College plans? Military plans - non-combat, with technical MOS (programming, etc.)?
If you love to code then you need to show an employment timeline with full-time coding, software development, etc. I would focus more on that then side projects, IMHO. I don't consider people for employment based on their "side projects".
I've also tried the whole "make something you would use" and wind up finding out someone has already done it and better than I could do it.
I agree with the idea of making something you would use. This is very practical advice. My best 'side projects' have been little utilities that I now use just about every day both on or off the job. There's sure to be at least one small utility application you currently use that could be just a little better...maybe a better UI or an added feature or two. Start from scratch and/or use samples/examples from working code (with proper credits of course!) to make something that you can get immediate results from and improve on over time.
First, clear some space on the side you wish the project to appear on.
«There is a spectrum, from "clearly desirable behaviour," to "possibly dodgy behavior that still makes some sense," to "clearly undesirable behavior." We try to make the latter into warnings or, better, errors. But stuff that is in the middle category you don’t want to restrict unless there is a clear way to work around it.» Eric Lippert, May 14, 2008
My struggle is finding the time to write code, rather than coming up with ideas; I have thousands stored away in mails to myself; most of which will never see the light of day...
What are your interests / hobbies? I can cherry pick some of the ideas that match up to what you're interested in and give them to you. Also do you have any preferences on the type of thing you'd like to build? i.e. - Platform: web based, desktop app, phone app - Content: game, social network (i.e. involving some social features; not a full blown social network), etc. - Time: how much time do you think you'll have to invest in this; do you want something you can knock up with an hour a day for a couple of months, or something bigger/smaller?
ps. If you want to come up with ideas on your own, look for things that frustrate you.
When I go to the airport I have to go to one place to get my boarding pass, then another to drop off bags, then through security, then customs, etc. If I've not travelled in a while I get confused and often end up going to the desks in the wrong order (e.g. I go to check in my bags, then having queued for 20 mins am told I have to first check in at a different desk, so have to go queue there before coming back and queueing again). In some airports I can do everything at one desk.
As a developer you can't change the airport's procedures; but you can still help people... i.e. create a phone app which can store the workflows for each airport / airline, into which users can enter their details (which airport they're flying from, flight number, do they have luggage for the hold, etc). This app can then list an itinerary for me, pulling back any data from open sources (e.g. from my flight number it can get the flight time, and from that can suggest appropriate times for each step, and telling me which desk number or gate to head to in order to complete a step). As I complete each bit I tick it off and the app tells me where to go/what to do next; saving me some pain.
I wrote a budgeting system that we use (for Windows desktop). Replaced Quicken with it because Quicken was an overkill. Started the project about six years ago. Took 3 to get it to a reliable state, it's all I use now. Have given it to a few others also who find that it helps them. Got us out of debt. Good "side" project. I'm now developing a web-based version of the program as a way of learning ASP.Net, AJAX, etc.
I can appreciate your boredom. Try to pick a task that you would like to automate and just get started with it, don't over-design it and don't "scrum" the thing, it's your project. Maybe you can find someone who needs a membership-tracking system written or something, do it for free (or swap). One of my "side" projects is a management utility for our local cooperative farm. We've got lifetime veggies in exchange for that project (which is constantly ongoing).
Do not worry about it if someone else has already written something you want to do, your solution will be unique in some way and you'll have the joy of creating it. It doesn't have to impress anyone but you.
If you think that hiring a professional is expensive wait until you try hiring an amateur! - Red Adair