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I appear to have done something wrong here, so let me try to rephrase this more simply so I stop giving the wrong impression.

I'm in the planning stages of a project right now, on my own time; I'm currently defining the scope of the project. I can see this application also releasing an Android app; furthermore, I've long wanted to get into Android development, and being able to list an actual project on my resume seems likely to be beneficial. However, the application itself is far more useful on a PC than a tablet and almost useless on a smartphone; odds are, very few (if any) people would want to use this on Android.

I want to develop it, but I anticipate almost no demand. Should I do so under the idea that the experience is useful, or should I either keep it private or not do it under the idea that an app nobody uses looks bad to future employers?


Original Question:

I'm planning out an open-source project, mostly to beef up my resume (ETA: Okay, I'm doin it mostly because I want to do it, but I'm releasing it as open-source rather than keeping it to myself so I can list it on my resume easier). I'm considering doing an Android version, intended to run on tablets. But it's not the most useful thing to have on a tablet; neither I nor my partner can really conceive of anyone wanting the product. However, adding "developed for Android" to my resume seems to be a good selling point, and I'd like to get into mobile development. Should I make an app nobody wants so I can say I made an app? Or should I hold off until I have a better idea?

Edit: I must have phrased things badly, some of the answers seem to have the wrong idea. I'm doing the entire project for the hell of it; if I don't do an Android version of this particular project, I'll complete it sooner and plan something else and do that. It's a given that I'm always going to be doing a project and that I want to do this project. The question is, should I instead do something more useful as a "let's play with Android" project? Will making something nobody wants hurt me in the long run?

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You risk they actually try to use it... –  user1249 Dec 7 '11 at 14:28
    
@ThorbjørnRavnAndersen Well if I'm releasing it, it'll WORK perfectly fine. The question is why on earth you'd WANT something like that. It's an application much more suited to a PC than a tablet or smartphone. –  Yamikuronue Dec 7 '11 at 14:29
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"Working" is many things. Tender, love and care usually show. Lack of same, the same. –  user1249 Dec 7 '11 at 14:32
    
@ThorbjørnRavnAndersen I plan to use this software myself, quite often. I don't understand how I gave the impression that I'd be slapping something together roughshod and throwing it out there, but that's not my intention in the least. –  Yamikuronue Dec 7 '11 at 14:35
    
Great :) In that case, good luck. –  user1249 Dec 7 '11 at 15:50
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11 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Can you already do stuff for Android? If yes, then just add that to your resume and use your time to learn something else. If not, then doing any kind of app for Android is a learning opportunity. Getting into mobile development business is probably easier when you can do mobile development. Being able to say that you can is just a side effect.

Will making something nobody wants hurt me in the long run?

90 % of everything is crap. When it comes to Android software, I think the number is closer to 99 %. So you're not alone in making something nobody wants. The company behind Angry Birds made (if I recall correctly) 51 games that almost nobody wanted before hitting the goldmine. The trouble is, you'll never know in advance...

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Do it ! Consider it as an academic experience :

  • You will do a theoric experiment that will not have a direct and obvious use, but will help improve your skill at one technology.
  • Making it open source allows it to be easily peer-reviewed. You will be able to seek reviews and be teached to improve yourself.
  • Even if it's now a theoric experiment, you or someone else may rework your idea and transform it in something useful.

Put enough energy to make it a valuable item in your portfolio. Once you're done, iterate either by improving this project (You'll certainly get ideas while developing it) or create another one.

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I would recommend coding a project on Android that you are itching to develop, instead of making one to boost up your resume. When you are passionate about your work you learn the most, as it's when you are the least willing to give up on the hard mini-problems within a project. Almost all great programmers have hundreds (often never published) projects under their belt, from when they can't help the need to try something out. These are the programmers companies love to hire, as they are more "true" to the art.

Now, those hundreds of projects are hobbyist projects, and the next step is to showcase professional experience. You want to show that you can not only code on some platform, but you can also finish a project too. You want to show that you are smart and get things done: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/GuerrillaInterviewing3.html

(EDIT: I guess there's a book on it here too: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2007/06/05.html)

So, to be clear, I'm not saying you should hold off until you have a better idea, either. As action generates inspiration. Don't wait for inspiration to generate action.

What you do with this seemingly conflicting advice is up to you, but I hope it helps.

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I'm planning out an open-source project, mostly to beef up my resume.

That's a valid reason, but it may backfire. If your only motivation is to beef up your resume, there's high chance the end result will be poor. A potential employer may check your developed for Android claim, and if the only thing to support it it's a poorly designed and/or coded application, you won't get hired.

However, adding "developed for Android" to my resume seems to be a good selling point, and I'd like to get into mobile development.

Employers actively looking for Android developers, will probably not consider you if you've only build one minor application, regardless if it's a poor one or not.


But you should go ahead and do it anyway, provided that the time you spend on the application couldn't be better spent elsewhere. One is better than none, and there is a small possibility all of the above will be overlooked by a potential employer.

It would be better if you did it for the fun of it, or for educative purposes, and you went for something that's actually useful, but in practice it's better if you build it for all the wrong reasons than not build it at all, as you will at least learn the basics of Android development.

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Disagree with "will probably not consider you if you've only build one minor application". I think it depends on the context. If somebody was applying to work for me and said "here's my first shot at an Android app. I have some other code out there too", that has a lot more mileage than nothing. If you claim to be an Android expert and you're not, and this goes for any tech, and most things in life, that will backfire. –  Kevin Galligan Dec 8 '11 at 19:24
    
@KevinGalligan That's why I put "probably" in that sentence... And later on I do write that "One is better than none", which is essentially the same as "that has a lot more mileage than nothing"... btw my answer is on the original question not the update... –  Yannis Rizos Dec 8 '11 at 19:38
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As the other answers say, don't be afraid to develop something just because you believe no one will want it - this kind of thing is hard to predict in advance.

However, have you considered contributing to an existing project, rather than start your own?

Advantages:

  • You demonstrate to future employers that you are a team player and can work in an existing structure.
  • You demonstrate that you can understand an existing project, and add value to it.
  • If the project is reasonably well-known and reputed, just the fact that your contributions were accepted will serve as a sort of endorsement of your work.

And finally:

  • Established user base, so your contributions will actually be useful.

Of course, the drawback is that you will have to deal with the politics of the project, and need to live with decisions that you don't like. But if you pick a project with policies you like, you can minimize these problems.

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I plan to do this project regardless; I'm making software that I need and can't find a good version of. But I do plan to look for some projects I can join onto later, once this is done. –  Yamikuronue Dec 7 '11 at 18:33
    
I think that writing your own app trumps contributing to a project in terms of a sales pitch. Contributing is an opportunity to learn and if you've also got an end to end application then it adds weight (again assuming the contribution is non-trivial). –  Murph Dec 7 '11 at 19:37
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If you're doing it to beef up your resume you're making a mistake.

Do it because you want to learn, do it because you think it will be fun, do it because you want to get into mobile development and the best way to do that is to develop for mobiles.

If, having done that (i.e. produced a non-trivial mobile application), you still want to go play in that area then you can choose to add the app to the resume - doesn't really matter how generically useful it is (though if its not useful why publish?) so long as you can use it to illustrate your capabilities - to which end "Hello World!" probably won't get you very far.

And remember, above all else, you have to assume that you will be found out, sooner or later, if you are not reasonably honest about your capabilities.

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You've already picked an answer, but I'll chime in here. I run a little Android shop. If you want to learn Android, I tell people to pick an idea and try to build it rather than doing tutorials or whatever. When its your idea, you're far more invested, even if it won't be used. Second, anybody up there who said it was worthless for your resume is TOTALLY WRONG!!! If you apply to me for a job (and, of course, we're hiring), and you have code available, you're far more likely to get an interview and get the job (unless your code is terrible). That leads me to say the "correct" answer guy is wrong in saying you shouldn't code an Android project if you have some experience already. Most people who claim to know Android (or any platform) because they coded one little thing are totally wrong. I would say you don't really know Android until you've had to finish and release an actual commercial product, or a very significant non-commercial one. Having basic familiarity with a platform, and understanding how to debug multi-threaded apps in the field, with 500+ different combos of hardware/OS, are two totally different things. We only do Android so we can have a deep focus and do a better job than general shops. So, Android, iOS, Fortran, whatever. If you know you want to work on a specific thing and find a job doing that, double down. Go crazy. Write apps. Put them in github and ask the community for feedback. It will only help.

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chances are you are never going to come up with an idea for an app that any large group of people would be interested in, but you are never going to make an app everyone wants if you don't know how to make a decent app. you should make lots of apps not just one, make all kinds of apps, copy existing popular apps, make useless apps, none of these have to be released, but you need to make a ton of apps so if you ever do get an idea for a good app you are capable of actually developing that app. just making an app to say you can make apps on your resume without flat out lying is a terrible idea.

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I seem to remember a quote from an author:

You should write a story that interests you and would want to read
That way, you will always find an audience

I find the same applies to development (if you look at a lot of successful software out there): you should build something that you want to use, and you will probably find others will want to, as well.

Plus, it will be a learning experience, and will be a solid project to point to in resumes.

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Do it because you want to do it and expect to learn from doing so, and because the challenge fascinates you. Doing it for any other reason is a waste of time.

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I would go ahead and do it. Doing it for a resume is fine, but I think you'll get more out of it. This is much better than taking too much time trying to think up the next big thing. You may discover something useful along the way. It will benefit you when you attempt your next app.

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