There's this phenomenon that occurs when one takes on a personal project, as a hobby, in a domain one is still learning. The project will progress, but then one will look back on what has already been done with the skills that have been gained in the meantime, see new ways to improve it, and scrape a good chunk of it to remake it better. Rinse and repeat.

I'm looking for an idiom, word or short phrase for such a project.

Things I have thought of :

  • Sisyphus' boulder: this one doesn't fit, because although the project could be seen as a neverending work loop that leads to no fruition, it remains a pleasant activity, not a punishment. The knowledge acquired through the iterations is also a net gain.

  • Pet project: this one comes close, but doesn't (as far as I know) convey the "endless remaking" part.

  • 4
    I think "pet project" or "hobby project" fit perfectly actually. – Max Williams Aug 9 '16 at 8:28
  • 1
    Sounds like the Ship of Theseus – Pureferret Aug 9 '16 at 8:37
  • 3
    "Ship of theseus" and "Sisyphus's boulder" seem way too dramatic and pretentious for a hobby project. – Max Williams Aug 9 '16 at 8:40
  • In addition to pet project, which like @MaxWilliams I think is perfect, there's also hobbyhorse. – GoldenGremlin Aug 9 '16 at 12:58
  • If I were more sure of my Latin, eternum opus would be my answer. – stevesliva Aug 18 '16 at 1:58

"A perpetual work in progress" might be appropriate, implying that the work is never done and that the process is more important than the ultimate outcome.

  • It would be better if you could explain to us why that is a possible answer instead of asking "how about...?" :) – NVZ Aug 9 '16 at 12:33
  • Duly edited. I am a newbie, so the criticism is appreciated. – Shlomo Godick Aug 9 '16 at 13:27

Practice project.

This is something that you can mess up on as you're learning. It's not intended for public consumption.

(But "pet project" might actually be better.)


"Continual improvement" is a common term, a key aspect of which is the conduct of "after-action reviews (AARs)." AARs focus on what went well and what could have gone better. The latter result in the conscious identification and pursuit of "opportunities for improvement."

  • Do you have sources to support your claim, especially regarding a personal project? It seems like more of a corporate thing to say. Have a look at the help center to find out about good answers – Helmar Aug 17 '16 at 20:03
  • This is a perfectly good -- and direct --answer. You could view it as a "corporate thing," but so what if it is, even if it started out that way? Continual improvement applies on any scale, corporate to individual. Also, the questioner referred to project, but as an example he used hobby. A hobby is an ongoing activity, not a project; the latter is typically time bound, like cleaning up the basement. A hobby could be learning to paint, golf, gardening, birding, whatever. I'm sure you could ground truth my "claim" by googling it, but it's not like it's a foreign or counterintuitive term. – Richard Kayser Aug 17 '16 at 23:09

Program-wise, especially regarding games, this is often referred to as a "Perpetual Beta". I hate to keep you busy for the rest of your free time, but I think the TV Tropes page on the subject would explain it better than I could here.

  • I'm aware that "Beta" often implies it to be unfinished, but many designers will refer to their project as such until they abandon it, so sometimes a program not being listed as beta can be a death sentence to any new features. Though, for the linked example, you'd have to scroll down into the "Real Life examples" section to find this reasoning... – Papayaman1000 Aug 20 '16 at 18:01

I like "one step forward two steps back" to use if you wanted to describe a situation where the more you learn, the more you realize you have left to learn.


protected by tchrist Aug 25 '16 at 12:50

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