The past year has been a crazier year than most for me. I moved jobs to working in publishing where I've created a new thriving user group within the very company (post to come soon), launched the most awesome way for ASP.Net web developers to deploy their sites and generally loved being a developer for another 365 days. Our jobs are made so much easier by the online contributions of others, and moving into another year we get a chance to give something back.
Every year many of us get caught up in the idea of using the New Year as a time to commit to doing things a little different.
As developers I think this should be no different, even if you don't buy into all of the over hyped holiday'ness that surrounds the very thought of making a new year resolution.
As developers we often take for granted that so many people out there create great content for us to consume, but most of us would probably find it easy to fit ourselves into classification that Scott Hanselman likes to call Dark Matter developers. There is nothing wrong with this, but like a lots of things in life sometimes you find it's time to give back, and there's no better time to make this change than in the New Year.
I would have definitely once classified myself in this group of people – but here's the thing: although we're doing pretty well as a group of society we could be doing even better, and you're probably the perfect person to make our community more awesome.
And it doesn't mean that you need to start huge and build the next Ruby on Rails. There's only enough air in the room for so many
Here's some ideas to fuel your New Year
Help out an open source project
Local Sydneysider Brendan Forster of Code52.org fame has recently created a pretty cool site where developers can post project's they need help on.
The site is called Up-For-Grabs.net and takes some of the pain out of trying to figure out "what project should I start with".
The thing to keep in mind with contributing to open source projects is this: you don't have to rewrite the whole project into a new GUI interface using Visual Basic.
- Report bugs.
- Fix simple bugs (maybe your project is using the wrong "there" or "your" on an important page and your inner grammar Nazi could lend assistance by making the world right again).
- Write some documentation for the project. Maybe it lacks a simple one page "how to get it working?" Maybe there is one already, but not in a language other than English that you just happen know?
- Test a new candidate release – is it the project's next release for prime time? Open source project maintainers are always struggling for people to test their apps on different types of systems – maybe just by running their code on your new machine you'll be able to contribute.
The point it; just start.
Any contribution makes the developer world a little bit more of a happy place.
Add to the Internet Developer FAQ – Start a Blog
You might have seen this written a hundred times before, but another great way to contribute to the developer community is to simply start a blog. Hell if you're adventurous ignore Jeff Atwoods advice and take my preferred approach as covered by Phil Haack – write your own blog engine!
This very blog started with one post, in a similar way.
And you don't need to be the next startup founder waxing lyrical about the "XX sucks, and this is why [insert my million dollar VC funded startup doesn't use it anymore" posts on medium.com to get a million page views and "go viral" for being so deep.
Simply by writing a post detailing every little problem you overcome helps add to the internets very own "Developer FAQ library" you and I use everyday.
This my friends is how we all end up appearing like super programming gods at work – someone else's blog post about solving your current problem.
Attend a local user group
There comes a certain time in your developer life where you have a coming-to-Jesus moment when you realise:
I'm a nerd/geek/dweeb/brogrammer and I've chosen programming as a career. And that's freekin' awesome!
And at point you've got a decision to make: Do you embrace your developer self and let your nerd flag fly or do you hold yourself back from potential career and personal professional fulfilment.
User groups are an amazing way to make great friends with people just like you. People with the same likes, dislikes and gripes about the very industry that we all live and breath everyday. Some of my great friendships have come from simply sharing a pizza and some beer at a local user group.
Answer some StackOverflow questions and level up your inner Programmer
How good is StackOverflow?!
It comes second only to Google as a developers best friend when trying to solve a problem.
Sadly though, statistics show that more than half the developers who visit and use StackOverflow either ask but never answer any questions, or don't even ask questions and just consume the content on the site.
Even if you're relatively new to your programming career there are often hundreds of questions you can help with – you just need to be able to find them.
One great life hack is to use the unanswered tab which allows you to more easily surface questions for tags you are more experienced in that have no answers or upvotes yet; prime for your answering.
You'll never catch John Skeet, but you can at least help pay back some of the awesome Nerd-Karma that StackOverflow has paid forward to you in the past.
If you've ever wanted to choose a time to step from the shadows and pay back some of the free developer information love that the internet and open source has given to your career over the years, a line in the sand like the date boundary of a New Year seems like one of the best times to get out there and give it a go.
So go out and create awesome in 2014! And shoot me an email letting me know how you did it so I can subscribe to your blog, follow you on twitter or just generally give you a pat on the back for your hard effort! :-)
Belated Christmas Presents For all Readers!
I know, I know – if you don't give out presents on Christmas day you end up falling into the same category as Uncle Steve and his bad after shave.
Well don't worry. Unlike your Aunty Meryl I'm not here to give you a pair of socks, a sweater or a couple of $5 scratchies.
To celebrate the New Year I'm giving you all access to 30% off to any OnCheckin plan.
Simply use the following discount code:
Simply visit the following link to take advantage of the discount: https://oncheckin.com/startdeploying/DeployLikeANinja2014