A Year of Giving Back to the Development Community
Earlier this year I began this blog as part of a News Years resolution to give back to all of the communities that have helped me become a successful developer and I am proud to say that it was a resolution that I stuck with.
So I thought I would wrap up this year with a hastily written summary of some of the things I did this year to help make a contribution to the development world.
I never would have realized how time-consuming consistently helping the community would be when I began this journey earlier this year. It was a huge investment on my part and thankfully I was able to continue on this path without my wife threatening to kill me although she did hear the “let me finish typing this one thing / post / answer” quite a bit, so I have to thank her for my current state of being un-murdered. I would estimate that I probably spent at least around 8-10+ hours a week specifically doing community-based activities and I had a great time doing it.
If I couldn’t sleep, I would hop up and write a blog post or spend a few hours answering questions or sometimes I would mash on my Surface until either the battery died (which isn’t an easy task) or I simply fell asleep (which occasionally occurred mid-answer). When I wake up I would answer questions or work on blog posts before eating breakfast or during lunch, it became a habit but in my mind, a positive one.
Let’s take a look at where I spent a majority of my time.
The ASP.NET Forums
Since I spent an overwhelming majority of my time working with .NET and other Microsoft development technologies, I couldn’t really think of a better place to focus my efforts than a forum that focused on just that. I had always remembered ending up there when searching for different issues and felt that Stack Overflow was a bit too chaotic, competitive and unfocused to be my primary choice.
So beginning in January, I began answering questions and tried to avoid just blatantly posting links to other sites whenever possible. I have focused on making a genuine effort to not only answer the questions asked but also help explain exactly what is going on and recommend better methods and best practices that they should consider using in the future. As a result, many of the answers I provide often resemble tiny, well-formatted blog posts, which I hope not only benefit the original poster discover what they were looking for, but to serve as a resource for future users that may encounter the same problems.
Above all, I feel that these contributions have no only allowed me to impart some of the knowledge that I have gained over the years onto others, but it has also help sharpen my skills through teaching others and communicating with other community experts and MVPs to help all of us improve as a whole.
And I haven’t stopped since, let’s take a look at some numbers :
- Posts since January : 9,001 (averaging ~25 posts per day)
- Posts marked as Answer : 4,268 (averaging ~12 answers per day)
- Points since January : 60,542 (averaging ~170 points per day)
- Views for posts since January : 785,212
I know that people often say that points are meaningless and for the most part they are. However, I do feel that they are a motivating factor for people like me to keep doing something that can often be stressful or time-consuming, but they serve as a number to let me know that I am contributing to something. All of these values were extremely helpful in setting personal benchmarks and goals to strive for to keep me going throughout the year and I am happy with the results.
During my time spent here, I have had the opportunity to meet some incredible people. The ASP.NET forums are full of Microsoft MVPs, ASP.NET Insiders, Microsoft employees and all sorts of wonderful developers with astounding accolades. The moderators always kept things clean, quickly removed any spam that might occasionally turn up and made it an enjoyable place to spend my time.
I would encourage any .NET developers that aren’t currently using these forums as a resource to head on over there, sign-up and post something if you run into any issues.
I began this blog in late January and honestly didn’t really have any expectations for it at all so I have to admit that my little to no expectations were dramatically exceeded when I noticed that people were actually visiting the site. I honestly wish I could spend more time on here writing (and finishing) posts as a majority of them have been quite well received and even published and spread out on a few different sites across the internet, which is really cool.
When I initially started the blog I may have set a pace that wasn’t really realistic at 8 blog posts a month and I quickly realized that in April. I could feel myself getting burned out trying to think of new topics to cover and eventually building up some excess stress that I really didn’t need. So I took a break during the summer and have since relaxed the number of posts to a much lighter amount (2-3 per month), which I think is a maintainable target to shoot for.
Speaking of numbers, let’s take a look at some of the statistics for the site since its inception :
- Visitors since launch : 78,032 (averaging ~239 per day)
- Views since Launch : 124,962 (averaging ~338 per day)
- Total Posts since Launch : 43
and here’s a graph as well :
The blog has been extremely popular and has received far more traffic than I would have imagined. Many of the articles that I have posted on the site have been published and spread across the web on sites like CodeProject, Reddit and have been used within several other areas such as resource guides and magazines.
Since many of these blog posts often contain practical code and examples, I have made an effort to upload them to sites like GitHub so that the open-source community can use them to help solve many of the problems that they have may have encountered in the past (or possibly in the future). Blogging has opened up many doors with regards to additional community involvement and I have been extended invitations for speaking events and presentations, online mentoring, guest authoring and beta testing new components and releases within the realm of .NET.
Thanks everyone that has stopped by and those of you that are reading this now, I want you to know that I appreciate you taking the time to do so.
I honestly thought when I dedicated this year to community contribution, the first site that came to mind would be Stack Overflow. It is without a doubt the largest development-oriented Q&A site on the web and it is usually where just about every question has an answer. But surprisingly, I haven’t really done much there this year apart from moderation duties as I have found the community there too often be quite aggressive and cutthroat when it comes to “rep”.
I’ve spent most of my time on the site doing this that help the community without actually posting answers. Since I currently have enough privileges there already, I tend to spend any idle time editing posts, approving edits, flagging posts and other related topics. I would encourage any users out there that have these abilities to use them as a site the magnitude of SO has a huge need for helping hands when it comes to these duties.
Real World Contributions
This year I have taken part in several personal development-related community projects. I was invited and currently serve on a Computer Science Advisory Board at a small public university to discuss the importance of many of Microsoft’s technologies and their practical uses outside of academia (with regards to future employment and usefulness).
I have also taken part in a variety of private mentoring sessions for younger / junior developers and recent graduates to learn the ins-and-outs of C# and the .NET environment in general. These sessions have included both one-on-one mentoring and tutoring as well as group presentations.
Previously Set Goals and Results
In late March, I threw together another blog post that detailed some goals that I had set for myself that I thought were fairly ambitious, so since the year is basically over. Let’s see how each of the goals compare to the actual results :
Goal : 50,000 + Points and 7,500+ Posts on the ASP.NET Forums
Result : 61,056 Points and 9,117 Posts
Goal : 4,000+ Questions Answered on the ASP.NET Forums
Result : 4,223 Questions Answered
Goal : 20,000+ Reputation on Stack Overflow
**Result : 18,830 Reputation (I’m not too disappointed about this one)
Goal : 40+ Blog Posts
Result : 43 Blog Posts
Goal : 15,000+ Blog Visits
Result : 124,962 Visits
Overall, 4 out of 5 isn’t too shabby.
What I've Learned
Since I have a News Year’s Eve party to get to, I’ll keep this succinct and leave you with a few of the major points that I'll be bringing into the new year.
Contribute even if you think you can't - Experience is unique and two people rarely share the same experience or tackle a problem the same way. If you find a situation that someone encounters and is having difficulty with, consider sharing how you tackled or solved the problem. It can work wonders.
Teaching is a great way to learn - I can’t express how many things I have learned by helping others throughout this year. I know that I am a much stronger developer than I was at the beginning of this year and I would attribute much of that to the dedication that I have put into teaching others and learning along the way.
Helping others helps you - Since contributing in all of these different ways, countless doors have been opened for me. Speaking engagements, interviews, guest contributions, job opportunities and much, much more. I would highly recommend taking the leap and giving back if you get a chance, I can just about promise that you’ll get a return on your investment in one way or another.
Keep your e-mail Address private - Although I put this here in jest, I can’t tell you how many e-mails I get per day of folks asking questions outside of the forums and other areas. It’s not that I mind, but it was a little unexpected to see 20+ emails when I wake up and they are all from users asking for help.
Thanks again everyone for giving me something to strive for over the past year and thanks again for visiting.