A Call to Contributors

August 3, 2013 - By

A couple weeks ago CSS legend Harry Roberts passed out on stage at a web conference. He wrote about how this came to pass, and it re-struck a chord with me about a couple things I’ve been thinking about for a while:

We need more amazing community contributors working less hard.

I’ve gained so much knowledge from a handful of users like Harry. People like Chris Coyier, Jonathan Snook, Nicole Sullivan, and countless others. These are people who are insanely passionate and share so much of what they create and discover. I’ve often wondered if these people sleep. Coyier for example runs CSS Tricks, Code Pen, hosts a podcast, guest posts on other blogs, and speaks at conferences. I think he also occasionally does other human things like eating, and being unconscious [Citation needed].

Conversely, I’ve worked with, and am friends with many excellent developers who are more lurkers: they also have brilliant ideas and problem solving skills and they never share them (you know who you are. Graham.). They don’t even have Stack Overflow accounts, the scoundrels.

We’ve all been guilty of this, and we all have dues we can easily pay.

The CSS Wizardry post “making things count” is an extreme example of pushing ones self too far. I think it’s easy to understand how he came to this place. Harry has obviously spent a lot of time solving and documenting some of CSS’ classic problems. There is a massive need for this work, and there’s always more than can be done. And we the masses always want more ;) I personally have found my high-exposure contributions (on CSS Tricks for example), and the ensuing conversations extremely rewarding, but a bit exhausting. I only do this a few times a year at best. Harry does this constantly. That’s kind of scary.

The percentage of people contributing to the community, and the seemingly unceasing efforts of a few may not be completely related issues, but I wonder. If more of our lurking peers came out of the woodwork and started sharing would people like Harry would feel less compelled to constantly be pouring themselves into the standardization and evolution of our medium? It may be a flawed bit of logic, maybe these driven types would work just as hard in any situation! In any event, our community could be stronger with more great minds sharing.

There are so many opportunities and outlets for these contributions:

  • You can setup your own blog within minutes. Don’t over think it. Dead-simple, clean, flat sites are all the rage these days. The content is king. Don’t obsess and put this off for the sake of having the best site on the planet.
  • You can sign up to be a forum contributor at countless forums like WordPress, or many Stack Exchange forums like Stack Overflow. This is probably the fastest and easiest way to make someone’s day.
  • High profile blogs that already have an audience are always looking for quality content (a handful of examples; Six Revisions, Web Designer Depot, Codrops, Smashing Magazine)

If you’re shy, create a pen name! If you’re worried you don’t have any content worth of its own post yet, comment more. You also don’t have to feel pressure to create the earth shattering level of work that some web heroes produce. There are only so many big ideas like Object Oriented CSS (OOCSS) out there; but more often it’s the little things that people are looking for. A year ago I wrote about wily compatibility switching in IE9. Only a handful of people have said that this saved the day, but it continues to be one of the most visited articles on my site. I’m sure it’s useless to some of the visitors, but I like to think it’s helping developers. It’s a small tip that I shared without even going into much detail. Obviously anyone can do this.

A Call to Action

We make websites; and our community is online constantly. This is a unique scenario for us: Our medium is our message, and our messages are on our medium in a meta/ironic way. It’s so accessible, easy to do, and vital to the progress of our craft.

You could go write something today and change the perspectives of countless peers and colleagues you’ll never meet. You might share a small idea or tip that will spark something with someone else, and snowball into the next big thing. Even if it only helps a few person, it’s worth it. We’ve all been there: helplessly scouring Google for the solution for what seems to be the most obscure unsolvable issue. There are millions of us, if you solve the issue, share it. Someone else will have the problem soon enough.

Don’t work yourself to death in doing it though. You’re human, and need time away from the Internet thinking about other things. The meaning of life has a lot more to do with the people closest to you than what you’ve given back to the art and science of making websites.

The Internet is so new that we’re still pioneering. There is so much left to solve, discover and invent; and we’re so much stronger together.

We can’t let guys like Harry have all the fun ;)

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This post was written by ArleyM