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Contributing to open source projects - To do or not ?

Lexington Smith
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Joined: Sep 29, 2012
Posts: 67
Hi !

I have basic Java development skills (jdbc and servlets) with Eclipse as my IDE. I am 25 years old, switching my career to the IT field. I know that I still have a lot more to learn.
I was thinking of contributing to an open source project (OSP).

My problem is that I am worried about when I make a mistake or do something foolishly or inefficiently. In my personal projects, there have been times when I am not alert/in the best frame
of mind and I wrote code that was clearly long. I know that people would not make such mistakes even when they are slightly drunk.

I don't want this to happen in OSP and become public. But, I am a beginner and I need review of my code. I need to make mistakes and learn from them.
If my faults are exposed in public, that will seriously affect my chances of getting a job. I was thinking of going under a fake name and if things work, then reveal my real name. Otherwise, remain hidden.


What do you suggest I do ? How would a potential employer treat me if I made mistakes online VS I have no project to show ?
I am worried that if he sees inefficient/bad code online itself, he will not even call me for an interview.

Jaikiran Pai
Marshal

Joined: Jul 20, 2005
Posts: 10113
    
165

Lexington Smith wrote:
My problem is that I am worried about when I make a mistake or do something foolishly or inefficiently. In my personal projects, there have been times when I am not alert/in the best frame
of mind and I wrote code that was clearly long. I know that people would not make such mistakes even when they are slightly drunk.


I have been in software development for more than 8 years now and during all those years, I have been contributing in some way or the other to various projects including open source ones. Trust me, no matter how experienced you are, you'll always do mistakes. Over years you'll learn to reduce those mistakes and also learn to take it in your stride. So if that's what you are worried about then I would suggest that you keep aside that worry and instead start looking into projects which interest you.

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Joe Harry
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Joined: Sep 26, 2006
Posts: 9390
    
    2

Open Source contribution is one way to keep applying all what you have learnt. At least I see it this way. It is also a good way to learn.


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Luke Kolin
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Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Lexington Smith wrote:If my faults are exposed in public, that will seriously affect my chances of getting a job. I was thinking of going under a fake name and if things work, then reveal my real name. Otherwise, remain hidden.


If you seriously think this is a good idea, you have bigger issues than the quality of your code - like confidence and integrity. These are things I expect employees to have. Making mistakes when writing code? I expect that too.

Luke
Lexington Smith
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Joined: Sep 29, 2012
Posts: 67
Luke Kolin wrote:
Lexington Smith wrote:If my faults are exposed in public, that will seriously affect my chances of getting a job. I was thinking of going under a fake name and if things work, then reveal my real name. Otherwise, remain hidden.


If you seriously think this is a good idea, you have bigger issues than the quality of your code - like confidence and integrity. These are things I expect employees to have. Making mistakes when writing code? I expect that too.

Luke


Yes, I want to learn from mistakes. But, if the mistake is "too big", then it could hurt my chances. When I was in college/class, I would ask questions openly, some of which were stupid and caused a lot of rolling eyes and giggles. But many were appreciated too.
Getting faults exposed to a few people is not so bad, but before the whole world - thats another thing.
Luke Kolin
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Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Lexington Smith wrote:When I was in college/class, I would ask questions openly, some of which were stupid and caused a lot of rolling eyes and giggles. But many were appreciated too. Getting faults exposed to a few people is not so bad, but before the whole world - thats another thing.


As I said before, expecting to be perfect is unreasonable in software development is unreasonable, no matter what your level. I think you need to adjust your expectations for yourself; that is harming you far more than any skill deficiency.

Luke
Ulf Dittmer
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Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Posts: 41906
    
  63
"the whole world"? Please. What project were you thinking of contributing to? Extremely few would have that kind of visibility, abnd those wouldn't accept you as a contributor until you had proved your mettle for quite a while.

I think your worries are unfounded, though. If you have contributed significantly to OSS, that's worth mentioning in a CV, but I don't think any prospective employer will go looking for projects someone might have contributed to in order to inspect its code.


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Jeanne Boyarsky
internet detective
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Joined: May 26, 2003
Posts: 30555
    
152

I've brought down this site. While I'm not proud of this, everyone makes mistakes. I'd rather them be here than at my paid job. Similarly, your employer wants you to learn and make mistakes elsewhere.

This is my real name. I'm not worried about someone searching and reading this thread. The fact that I'm out there doing things shows I am good technically. Nobody is perfect. The key is to learn.


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