Engaging the community

If you never engage others, you never chat about what you’ve learned, never ask questions - you’ll never truly grow. It’s through discussion and debate that I’ve found to be the best way to change your views and expand your horizons. I’ve learned more discussing with friends than I think I would learn on my own reading blog posts and what not. When you’re programming by google you’re stuck in a little bubble. You tend to search for things you already know or were exposed enough to already want to learn more. You might be exposed to new ideas on how to do a particular method or implementation but others who understand what you’re trying to accomplish might promote other methods or implementations you might have never thought of before.

Recently I started a project in which I was designing my own language for an MVC View Engine I’m calling Parrot. This is pretty new territory for me. I’ve designed basic languages before. All based on something I was intimately familiar with. Very basic parsing based on substrings and indexofs. In other words horrible. I would have gone down this same path if I weren’t discussing this new project with a long time friend of mine.

He suggested I write or use an existing parser/generator engine. What’s that?! Lots of acronyms and strange words were thrown around including LALR parser, SLR, LR(1) and so forth. I’ve never heard of these before. After some reading I discovered GoldParser. This was an amazing discovery. I was able to get the basics of the new language down fairly quickly and get a prototype of it running within the day. New changes to the language came over the week each with modifications to the grammars used by GoldParser. This allowed a lot of flexibility. If I had written my own simple parser I doubt I would have had the ability to change it so easily and advance so quickly.

Through discussion and by engaging others I was able to learn something new that will benefit me for years to come.

Friendships

However, you still need to have friends you can bounce ideas off of. People that listen to what you say and give you advice when needed or just act like a Rubber Duck. But you have to get out there and mingle with other developers. There are Nerd Dinners, Code Camps, DevCamps, User Groups, JabbR, tons of ways to meet other devs who probably share the same passions you do.

What do you get out of this? The most obvious answer is you make friends. I have met some interesting people by attending the Socal Code Camp. It’s a free event where developers of all kinds can come together and share knowledge and learn from each other. This event has been one of the turning points in my development career. I’ve made friends that I’ve stayed in touch with since we met. You never know what these new found contacts might bring to the friendship. Some bring knowledge. Some bring opportunities. But they all bring something to the table and likewise so do you, even if it’s just a new friend.

The most important thing is to meet the people you call peers. Take that first step. It can be a tough one but it will pay off in the long run. Some devs stay in the background and try not to be social. Don’t be one of those. Push forward and engage them. You never know who you’ll meet or where that meeting will take you.

-Ben Dornis

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