In Praise Of “Just Because” Hacks

Sometimes you pick a project because the world needs it to be done. Or maybe you or a friend need it. Or maybe you don’t really need it, but it fulfills a longstanding dream. In my mind, the last stop before you reach “why am I doing this” is the “just because” hack.

The ideal “just because” hack is limited in scope. You don’t want to spend years on a whimsical project, and because of this a “just because” hack isn’t usually motivating enough to keep you going that long anyway, except for the tenacious few. A “just because” doesn’t necessarily have to be an easy win, but it makes sense for you to see your way out before you get in too deep.

I’m not sure if it’s the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or not, but in the last week or so in the Hackaday universe, a lot of people have been singing the praises of “just because” hacks. (Check out this one discussion, for instance.) Mostly, it’s a combination of them turning out better than initially thought, or it’s about the learning that came along for the ride. Of course, many of them spin off into longer, serious projects even if they didn’t start that way.

Not everything in life can be frivolous, of course. But that makes the “just because” hack that much sweeter, and you should try to make mental room for them if you can. When the stakes are low, creativity can be high. You might still want to impose a deadline, lest you fall into eternal yak shaving, but take it easy. You don’t need a justification all the time: the journey can be the destination.

25 thoughts on “In Praise Of “Just Because” Hacks

  1. “The reason anyone would do this, if they could, which they can’t, would be because they could… which they can’t”… or maybe its just an excuse to escape therapy… because when we don’t like something about the world we change it. We’d like to think we are the masters of our own universe and yet we find ourselves again at the end of the year, dripping with rat blood and feces. Happy new year everyone 🎆🥒

    1. Pickle Rick FTW!

      “the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness.
      You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse. And I think it’s because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control. You chose to come here, you chose to talk -to belittle my vocation- just as you chose to become a pickle.
      You are the master of your universe, and yet you are dripping with rat blood and feces. Your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand.
      I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die. It’s just work. And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people well, some people would rather die.
      Each of us gets to choose.”[1]

      Or not?! ;-)

      Happy new year!


  2. My favorite are the complex time pieces that you need a crib sheet to determine the time with….

    As Mehdi Sadaghdar once said: “I really love this watch. It is a beautiful watch. There’s only one problem – I can’t tell time with it.”

    1. Aah yes, using RGB LEDs to represent the unit seconds in base six format. Zero, R, G, B, RG (yellow), RGB (white).
      Then use base base five for the next digit (omit one light from above) to give you a 30 second count in 2 LEDs.

      Repeat for minutes, taking care to omit a DIFFERENT light for the multiple minutes.
      And 24 hours use a combination of bases three and eight.

  3. Don’t let Elliot’s negativity chill your passion though, with a large enough Yak and a small enough razor, Yak shaving can be inflated to a task resembling the magnitude and scope of painting the Forth bridge.

  4. As an amateur tinkerer I look around my home office and find gadgets on their last leg and think how can I make it to keep working, but then I get sidetracked and try to sort how to make it better than before… Months ago I read I believe on here about someone reviving their classic Apple iPods. I rarely use my Android smartphone to listen to music or watch videos. I loved my iPods, owning 5 different ones (1st gen 5GB, 5.5gen 80GB, & 7th gen iPod Nano 16GB are my favorites) sorted thru boxes of boxes of stuff and found several and decided my old classic 2006 5.5gen 80G Video iPod would be my new project. So I got all the parts to revive it. Why, because I want to. Because it will give my mind something to build. I’m not a hacker or pro builder like some folks on here, but I hate throwing away tech. Especially when it can be repurposed. Good luck to everyone in the new year.

    1. In car entertainment is often so stupid, in the guise of being user friendly, that if you wanna listen to podcasts or books on tape while driving, you practically have to have a dedicated device with no music it can find on it. Often can’t guide it to what you actually want to listen to without a hell of a lot of button mashing. Goes for if you have specific driving tunes, vs general chillaxing tunes as well. So keeping older devices functional to limit the harm your ICE can do to your tech irritation level is a good way to do it.

      One time I had a phone with 8 bit emulators on and the car I connected with bluetooth decided “the first and best music it could find which I very obviously wanted it to conveniently play right now” was a tape audio file. Other dumbass decisions were playing some video files, audio track only of course, and sticking them in it’s audio library univited, so I had to hit the skip button for like 100 episodes before it got to music again, it’s just a shit show.

    1. The most satisfying sort of hacking is when you look at something useless or broken , and suddenly envision something useful or at least interesting that you could make of it.

      Unfortunately that’s also rationalizing the hoarding of currently useless or broken things :-(

      1. “Unfortunately that’s also rationalizing the hoarding of currently useless or broken things :-(”

        In that regard, people might consider me “hoarderline”.

  5. At work i was told to throw out a broken PC monitor. I thought “I can fix this”. I actually got it running again. Now i have a monitor i didn’t ask for and i do not need. ^^

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