Taking initiative and offering assistance
I have kept a bookmark to Joel Spolsky’s article on Unicode and character sets on my work computer for ages. So last week, with all the buzz about the demise of del.icio.us, I finally decided it was a good time to find a link manager service to have a persistent place for such things. That brought me to Trunk.ly, a link aggregation service that pulls in links from Twitter, Facebook, etc., and started using it immediately.
After reading their first blog post (discussing their not-quite-when-we-planned-to-launch launch), I could kind of tell they were feeling the heat to ramp up development to handle their influx of traffic. Not only that but with their growing userbase they were also dealing with requests for new features and bugfixes.
Just on a lark, looking for a new project to work on, I sent them a message using their “Contact Us” form that simply asked, “Is there any way to contribute help to Trunk.ly?”
I was surprised when they wrote back, and even more surprised when they gave me a small and straightforward feature (RSS feed importing) to implement. It has been fulfilling, educational and entertaining writing code for something that a lot of people use, not to mention actually helping a couple of real developers out by giving them my time. I am sure they will have to revise it, given that I’m not exactly the world’s most experienced developer of production-quality code. That being said, I’m pretty proud of the little bit I’ve done. Added bonus: I’m not embarrassed about my github repos anymore, since I’ve got something actually useful in there now.
I guess the lesson here is that to find a project to work on in order to hone your skills, ask the people who make the things you have a use for if you can help. I’m much more optimistic the answer will be “yes” in the future (and infinitely more confident that I’ll actually be able to pull off executing the task I’ve been given!).