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Q&A with Creator of Plunker: How to Get Involved in the Developer Community as a Newbie

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How can a newbie coder get involved in the development community? Geoff Goodman, the creator of Plunker, shares his thoughts on how to do this.


I just came back from NG conf and that was actually my first exposure to the programming community, as I’m self-taught and I’ve spent a lot of my time in a different industry. The subject of my talk was a little bit along the line of how to get involved, contribute to the community, improve yourself and help others do this.
It really came down to three things that Lukas Rubbelke and I wanted to encourage:

1. Make Mistakes

If you’re a brand new programmer looking to get some feedback but are telling yourself you’re not at that level yet where you can really contribute to the community, I would say that’s wrong. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’d like to think that the community will be there to support you, and there will always be people who are maybe a little bit tough.

Take Lukas, for example. He’s a huge figure in the Angular community and in the front end programming community at large. However, for a long time, he was reluctant to post, blog, do webcasts, and other different things. He said, “You know, I don’t feel like I’m there yet. When will I be there? I’m going to wait until I feel like I’m at that level I can really contribute to this community.”

At some point you’ll realize he would never really be sure when that moment came, so he just went and started blogging, even if he was still very new to the technology. He started writing blogs, and he was corrected in a truthful, sometimes harsh, but always encouraging way. The creator of Angular itself actually corrected him before. As a result, he started engaging the community in his learning, and it allowed people to follow along as it reflected their learning as well.
So, make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to go out there and write a blog post or a library might not be the best thing that could ever exist. Make it exist. It’s a lot better if you’ve created something and shared it than if you just left that idea in your head.

2. Use the Work of Other People

We call this “make compositions.” Personally, the first thing I did was look at what else was out there. I’d like to use, as much as possible, stuff that other people have built, because it really saves me work. Doing so lets me leverage all the good stuff other people have committed to the community, and one way to give back to module authors is to actually use their stuff. In general, if I can get eighty percent of what I want out of a library, I’m probably going to use it and figure out a way either to adjust my approach or just patch it or something. I can even submit a pull request to get the library to do that extra twenty percent.

3. Make Friends

This is the best way to get involved in the community. Just reach out to other people and expose yourself to feedback. Show people what you can do, and show them where you are, and other people will help you.

How do You Get Your Project Adopted by a Lot of People?

Personally, I was a little lucky, because Plunker is the first real, sizeable project I’ve ever published, and I created this at the same time Angular was becoming popular. In the very early stages of my project’s development, I shared it with Igor Minar, who’s a part of the Angular core team. If you watch my talk, you’ll see some pretty crazy, if not stupid, things I had done in creating that first version.

Conclusion

For those of you who are wondering about getting involved in the community and how I started, this video gives a little bit more background.

We had a lot of positive feedback from people who saw it either in person or over the internet, and we really hope it gets people going and it motivates people to show what they’re able to do. We also hope people who see this won’t judge work created by new contributors but instead encourage them, correct them, and help them learn more.



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Codementor User
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I'm a self-taught programmer, tinkerer and problem-solver. I'm the creator of Plunker and give talks about the site and its underlying technologies.
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