There’s never been a better time to be a developer, says The Kernel’s technical editor. But in exchange for all the resources laid out in front of you, what are you doing to give back?
There’s never been a better time to be a developer. Thanks to an unprecedented range of open-source software, learning resources and useful web services at our disposal, we can learn new languages, get help, collaborate with others and, if our ideas win traction, there’s now a multitude of investors waiting in the wings to help us build companies around our products.
This is not to say that our work is easy. Standards must remain high. But the resources available offer us the opportunity to move faster and make even more progress. The nature of innovation means that many of our ideas will not succeed, making determination vital for seeing ideas through. But the opportunity is here, my friends. We are the kingmakers.
The good news is that this golden age has made you the developer you are and will continue to help you. The even better news is that you have the chance now to, in the slightly emetic language of the Valley, “pay it forward”.
The first step is following. Developers who follow are vital simply because they use open-source software in their work. They also join mailing lists to keep up to date with the latest news, go along to local meet-ups and watch repos on Github. The number of followers attached to any technology gives an important indication of its popularity.
The next is contributing. Contributing code, ideas and experience all help to improve the ecosystem. At its simplest, this might involve sending a tiny pull request on Github or delivering a talk at a local meet-up. I say simplest, but doing either of these for the first time is terrifying. Once you’ve done it once, you realise it’s not so bad. And no contribution is too small. I only sent my first pull request recently and it consisted of tidying up some missing HTML attributes on Twitter’s Bootstrap. But I still had to summon all my courage before clicking Submit.
The big challenge is leading. It’s not as scary as it sounds. It’s really just an extension of contributing. If you make a significant contribution then you automatically become a leader. High profile leaders such as _why, DHH and notch are easy to point out, but many leaders aren’t as well known. Anyone who open sources a new project on Github, organises a local meet-up or writes a couple of well-trafficked blog posts lands in this category.
I only describe these levels for illustrative purposes. If you know which level you’re at then I encourage you to start thinking about how to move up the ladder. Whatever kind of developer you are, you’ll find it pays dividends. Levelling-up is extremely satisfying and helps improve your standing. My pull request to Twitter earned me a free lunch at their offices and a t-shirt. (Offer not guaranteed.)
The real benefit, though, is that moving the needle helps the entire system become smarter and faster. Everybody wins.
We hope The Kernel will play its part in this golden age of the developer. Over the coming months, we will be featuring more developer-focussed content from people like you. So if you’d like to take an in-depth look at a new technology, or pen an essay about an issue significant to you, then please fill out our contributor form.
Here’s to the future.