My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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Linus Torvalds, Yukihiro Matsumoto, David Heinemeier Hansson, and Larry Wall. They're all famous software developers you may have heard of. If you haven't heard of them, surely you know about some of their creations: Linux, Ruby, Rails, and Perl.

Checking the Rails core alumni list, I had heard of half of them before I knew they were ever Rails team members. You know other names as well - many inside what you might consider your core community, and probably several outside of it.

Even if these developers weren't trying to do so, they did a fantastic job of marketing themselves. As Chad Fowler notes in this week's chapter of MJWTI,
Anyone can write Struts or Nant on their résumé. Very few can write Struts committer or Nant committer.
When thinking about marketing yourself as a programmer, keep that in mind. In other words, it's not just about the fame from a hugely successful project you started, or the love from all the sexy kittens who know your name.

Oh my! It's Linus!

Simply having participated in the project shows not only your passion for software development, but also that you're well versed in the technology you intend to use. You helped develop it, after all.

My own experience in this sphere has been limited, but it's something I hope to rectify. I have released a couple of projects, to little fanfare, but since then, I've been wanting to work on projects that someone else started, because being responsible for the life of the project is something I'm just not interested in at the moment.

In pursuit of that goal, at the beginning of the year, I resolved to get more involved in OSS (among other things), and for a couple of weeks I actually stuck to it. But once school started I quickly realized that there just wasn't enough time to do everything I wanted, and open source contributions were some of the first to go.

Another limitation was that while I wanted to work on JRuby, I wasn't using it for any major projects (just many small scripting tasks) - so I couldn't even help in the most obvious way of filing bug reports. However, now I'm working on a Ruby on Rails application that we expect to deploy on .NET using IronRuby, so I may get some good opportunities to help on that project, even if just by a little.

These are all baby steps. I expect to get more involved in the future, even if in small ways to various projects that never lead to "committer" status.

Aside from learning by being the worst and just saving your job by practicing it, you can also market yourself through your involvement in open source projects.

I know a lot of you already have your own projects and collaborate or participate in others. Perhaps you can help answer the concerns of everyone else.

For the rest of you, here are a few questions for discussion:
  • What are you waiting for? Is there a way you can help your favorite project this weekend? It will make you a better developer than reading this blog will, that's for sure. =)
  • Do you feel too intimidated to start, or just don't know how?
  • If you don't participate, why not?

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