Over the past few years, April Fool's Day has been quite a bit different than it is for some other folks. It hasn't been filled with paranoia about pranks, but instead it's spent waiting to see if my torch is being extinguished and if I've been voted off of the Microsoft MVP Island.
Thankfully for the fourth year in a row, it appears as though my torch will continue to burn bright for at least another year.
The past year has been a busy one for me.
With a two-year old that keeps growing like a weed, my wife starting a new job, and trying to juggle everything that comes with being an adult and a parent, it's tough. To be completely honest I didn't think that I'd be able to find the time to contribute nearly as much as I had in the past.
It's hard to find time, but it's not impossible. Sometimes it's an hour, sometimes it's fifteen minutes. Sometimes it's adding in a huge, new feature to that open-source project, or maybe just fixing a minor typo that you stumbled across. Maybe it's a 3,000 word blog post, or just a sentence or two that might save countless hours for others.
Over the course of a year, these contributions accumulate into hundreds of hours, which can make a huge impact on the lives of your everyday developer, or even the entire development community. It isn't always easy and it is often thankless, but you just have to decide if it's something that is important to you.
Why do all this? Why spend all that time?
I enjoy it. I know, crazy right?
I'd like to think that if I wasn't a software developer that I'd probably be a teacher or a professor. I just really enjoy having the chance to guide folks through tough issues and hopefully help them become better at what they do (and having the summers off would be awesome).
Although some folks might see as a huge time-sink, I cannot stress how rewarding these things are:
- Meeting someone that you've helped in person and getting to shake their hand.
- Watching your open-source tool reach over half a million downloads.
- Getting a thankful e-mail at 3AM about the countless hours that you saved someone (or their company).
- Seeing an article or answer that you posted being shared with others and sparking discussions.
It's not always easy to find time to dedicate to this and sometimes it can even be frustrating. You may go days or weeks without as so much as a simple "thank you" and might even face some harsh criticism for just trying to help. It can be daunting, but sometimes it's the simplest of motivators like those mentioned above that can make it worthwhile.
What do you get out of it?
The benefits of the award are fantastic.
Microsoft sends you a little trophy to plop onto your desk (or sometimes just a little ring to put on it), an MSDN subscription, and a few other little fancy things like stickers. The real benefits are the brilliant people that you'll get to meet.
I wrote about this in a previous blog post about my experience at the last Microsoft MVP Summit, which you should check out if you want to know more about what I mean.
In addition, you'll be surprised at just how much you learn along the way. For every blog post you read, there's usually twice as much time spent actually writing and researching the topic (generally to avoid looking like an idiot). The same holds true for answering complex questions that you might decide to tackle.
Thanks (to everyone)
There's countless folks to thank out there.
- Thanks to my wife, Katie, for tolerating the glow from my computer screen and constant clicks from my keyboard while you are trying to nod off to sleep.
- Thanks to my little two year old, Gray, who I can only hope that I am inspiring to be a driven, kind, and smart little guy.
- Thanks to my employer, Structure X for being an awesome place to work for (and more specifically to Blane for being an incredible person to work for).
- Thanks to Microsoft for making a kick-ass platform like .NET that I really enjoy working on.
- Thanks to everyone at the Coding Blocks Slack channel, who continue to foster an awesome developer community, and inspire me to keep churning out content and sharing it with others.
- Thanks to everyone that e-mails me, asks questions on the ASP.NET Forums or Stack Overflow (that I can actually answer), or that I work with in the open-source community.