SmashMag: Giving Back to the Web

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German poet and playwright) once said, “Don’t say that you want to give, but go ahead and give! You’ll never catch up with a mere hope.”

Giving back is something we should all strive for. The reason we have so many great open source tools, technologies and standards is because of the hard work and dedication of people, just like you, giving back and bettering the Web that we all deal with on a daily basis.

Smashing Magazine released an article about “Moving the Web Forward” and offered suggestions on how to get started and help out.

Below is an excerpt from the article.

What can you do and how much time can you contribute?
Before we look at what you can do to contribute back to the Web, ask yourself three very simple questions: What are your strongest skill-sets? How you might these be used in an open source project? How much time and effort would you like to contribute to giving back?

Understandably, a lot of us have full-time jobs and it can be tricky sometimes trying to fit in extra side-projects into our schedules. The great thing about the Web is that there’s never too little or too much time that you can spend moving it forward.

10 minutes is enough to help someone stuck on a Web-development problem and an hour here or there is enough to greatly improve existing open source projects. If you have the desire to give back, anything is possible.

Pick a project or Web standard/specification you would like to work on
Once you have some rough ideas of much time you can contribute, you’ll need to decide on the project, standards group or area you would like to help with. The good news is that there’s a great new initiative to help with this called (MWF), driven by some of the talented people that brought us HTML5 Boilerplate.

Whether you’re just diving into Web development, or are have been doing it back since tables were cool for layout, there are a number ways for you to give back to the community. MWF makes it easy to help anyone find ways to contribute back to the Web platform by giving you a list of ideas, resources and guides to get you started.

Not sure what projects to look at or where to find lazy-Web requests you can get done in an afternoon? Not a problem. The site breaks down almost all aspects of open source contribution and even separates things based on your level of experience. Regardless of whether you’re a CSS wizard, a JavaScript ninja, or a C++ hacker wanting to play with WebKit there’s something on MWF that everyone can help with.

Don’t see a project that applies to you on there yet? Don’t worry. It’s being updated everyday and other members of the community can submit pull requests to add new things to it. You may also find it helpful reviewing what libraries and technologies you regularly use personally, whether it be a CSS feature like psuedo-selectors or a JavaScript library like Modernizr or jQuery. Beyond the basics, you may have some insights or ideas for how these could be improved in some subtle way.

Do you feel the implementation of a particular feature isn’t quite as usable as it could be? Are there circumstances where a solution just doesn’t give developers everything they need? The learnings you’ve obtained whilst using things on a day to day basis are something you can share with a project to help improve it.

Take a look at each week and if you’re up for it, consider committing to getting a small task done that can push the Web forward.

What would you like your role in the project to be?
Most open source projects (and standards groups) have a number of key areas that they require assistance with. In no chronological order these are:

  • Core development
  • Discussions / Mailing lists
  • Documentation
  • Bug submissions triage
  • Operations
  • Testing
  • Site & UI Design
  • Developer Evangelism
  • Support

Many of the most popular open source projects today once started out as tools and workarounds that a developer or designer worked on to satisfy a personal need. If you love hacking on code, please consider sticking your work up on GitHub and sharing it with the rest of the world. There may be many others (just like you) that your work could end up helping or inspiring it’s a great feeling knowing that you’ve saved someone else from dealing with the same headaches you once had to yourself.

Although I’m involved in open source projects, my biggest contribution to the Web is still in my day to day technical writing. Teaching through this medium is a great learning tool and you’ll often find yourself learning more as you write and research about the topics you’re conveying.

Remember that your words can be a very powerful tool for pushing education on the Web forward. For this reason I encourage you to consider writing about what you do and learn — write tutorials, create demos, post gists, write essays.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes (because that’s how we all improve). It’s absolutely okay for you to not be a complete expert or authority on a topic. Share what you do know because it has the potential to help many other developers and designers out there. Reach out to others in the community if you don’t know something — ask questions and prompt conversations.

Contribute to the MDN
For those interested in getting involved with writing, it’s okay if you don’t have your own blog. Almost any designer or developer with HTML, CSS or JavaScript skills can also contribute back to the Web through the MDN (Mozilla Developer Network).

The MDN is a community of developers building resources to improve the Web, regardless of what browser or platform you’re using. Anyone can contribute to it as the entire site is a wiki (just like Wikipedia). There are sections that detail specs, pages that are just tutorials and others that are just guides to quirks that are useful to be aware of when using particular browser features.

The Smashing Guide To Moving the Web Forward
by Addy Osmani
November 30th, 2011.

Read the full article Here.

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