Sidebar Creative: State of the Union

An idea was spawned over two years ago to form a small collective of freelance developers to have the opportunity to work on larger projects. What's happened since then? A number of people have looked at the collective to see if the idea would work. Could you bring together four people, each living in different cities, and have a system that works?

Client Work ... or not

The original idea was to be able to come together and work on larger projects, larger than anything that we could really handle alone. As it turns out, that didn't really happen. Not for lack of interest, as we saw a number of requests (and still do) for Sidebar Creative to collaborate on projects.

What did end up happening, though, was a combination of things. Firstly, we were all quite busy still with our own clients. Having all four of us free at the same time was near impossible. With the inability to schedule all of us to work on a large project, we ended up just saying no to most of the requests. Some of the smaller stuff, in particular the design projects, we still took on.

If I recall correctly, this idea cropped up just around SXSW last year. Steve Smith mentioned his desire to build an application to track your mileage that could be easily managed via the web or mobile. After some discussion, we decided to build this application collaboratively and release it under the Sidebar brand.

We all contributed in a way that was oddly fluid. I started off with some wireframes which went to Bryan to design. Dan worked on copy while Steve built the backend (in Rails, if you're curious). We contracted Edward Scherf to do the fantastic design elements on the home page (the pump, reports, and mobile phone). Everybody chipped in at each stage providing critiques, input and testing.

One of the best ideas to come out of this was to use Twitter to handle updates via SMS. The cost of SMS gateways are just way too expensive. Luckily, we were able to do it for free because of Twitter. On top of that, the team has worked hard to make sure the app works well with mobile environments including the iPhone.

Despite not officially announcing it (except on Twitter, which has it's own way of spreading the news like wildfire), it really caught on. We're already close to 10,000 people who use the application to track their mileage. If you haven't already, be sure to check it out at


Snitter was a personal project of mine that I started as an exploration of the Adobe AIR platform. However, with both Dan Rubin and Steve Smith contributing to the design effort, it only seemed fair to put it under the Sidebar brand.

After reading some of the funny stuff that people overhear on Twitter, and being inspired by Foamee and Overheard in New York, inspiration struck to build our own barnacle application. Dan did the design, while I did the development. This was a quick project done over a couple evenings.

Django Pluggables

As you may likely know, Bryan Veloso has been developing in Django for some time now, using it to power his blog (which he just recently redesigned — be sure to take a look if you haven't already). Frustrated by the lack of a central place to find pluggable applications, Bryan put together this cool little site, handling both the design and the development. Check out Django Pluggables.

The future of Sidebar Creative

As you can see, we've been quite busy, working together to put together some fun and even useful applications for the community. As a group, we've really enjoyed putting this type of stuff together. Sidebar Creative will continue to build fun and useful apps like these.

The web site for Sidebar Creative has been expanded to highlight what we have in store. Not only are we continuing to do design and development for clients (as a group and individually), we're also looking to expand the services that we offer.


With all four of us doing regular speaking engagements, including workshops at various conferences, we've felt that there's an opportunity to target cities that don't usually get the attention of the larger conferences. Starting this fall (assuming we stay on our timelines), we'll be doing workshops with the intention of hitting the nation capitals of both Canada and the United States (Ottawa and Washington D.C., in case you weren't sure). If those go well, we'll be sure to add more events. If you'd like to see a workshop take place in your city, be sure to let us know.

More to come

Dan, Steve, Bryan and I are still thrilled about how well this collective has turned out. It may not be what we originally set out to do but we're having fun along the way. We've got plenty of ideas still in the queue and you can expect to see more from us later this year.

Published April 09, 2008
Categorized as Business
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7 Comments · RSS feed
Fouad Masoud said on April 09, 2008

its gr8 to know that Sidebar Creative is working for u guys. u have a couple of nice projects there.

now what i would really love and its a thing i keep nagging about all the time :D is to c u guys here in the Arab world at Dubai UAE. ull be amazed by how much this area needs events like this. think of it this way a new market where no one has stepped foot before.

we have a growing community of web lovers around here.

just give it a thought! UAE is fun :D

Brendan Falkowski said on April 10, 2008

Looking forward to it. Enjoyed following your individual projects, too.

Dan Rubin said on April 10, 2008

@Fouad: We'd certainly love to visit Dubai - I was actually talking about it with a friend of mine last week, and apparently it's on the list of places I *must* visit.

Put in a good word for us - teaching in an exotic local would be great :)

Jeff L said on April 10, 2008

Hey Snook, glad things are going well.

I know Dan was just here, but give some thought to coming to NH for a mini conference....something we are trying to arrange some more of around here. We've got a great and growing community here in southern NH and northern MA.

Adrian said on April 10, 2008

Cool, I was curious how the collaboration was going and what new projects were created by you guys as a team. Great stuff, looking forward to what you come up with next.

Andy Kant said on April 11, 2008

Its nice to see that Bryan is blogging again, his site used to be one of my favorites and then it disappeared for quite a while.

@Fouad, Dan
A conference in Dubai would be sweet (and would give me an excuse for visiting Dubai).

Tom Sieron said on April 29, 2008

I'm doing a similar thing with some friends (designers and devs). Our motivation was that client work is fine but doesn't bring us anywhere closer to being financially independent and working only on the stuff we really like (none of us is as well known as you - we can't afford to be too picky choosing clients yet).

So we've come up with a startup - Mapness, and we're developing other map-based side projects and some funky mobile stuff for kicks. Work is fun again!

Good luck with the Sidebar Creative and should you ever wander anywhere near Europe (or Poland even ) - don't hesitate to visit a conference or three here too :).

Sorry, comments are closed for this post. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to send them to me directly.