There are always people keep asking me the same question: “Why do I actively join free community like Stackoverflow/BarcampSaigon/MobileDevCamp/My Blog/Top Coder? What is the value and the benefit?”. It is nice that people ask this question and actually think about it. And I hope that I can answer them fully with this post somehow.
It is fun. Really? Yeah, it is actually fun. Wait a little bit, why is it fun for working? I love playing game, I love to see my level going up and my mark changes everyday, I love beating the top challenging problem. It is just so fun there. If you still suspect this for somehow, I would rather ask you why you play football and play guitar in the church outside of working time. If you think this is not a good example because people don’t have headache over those things, then we take a look at some others. Do you play chess? Why do people play chess and what is the value and benefit when playing chess? If you can figure out the answer at this point of time, then we are done. It is fun, that should be it.
At this point of time, if you still don’t feel anything fun to do so, I don’t know if you should continue reading about other benefits: brand advertising, learning and contributing. If you don’t get fun out of the work, especially the overtime work, it is hard to persuade the goal just by other visible benefits. Moreover, these benefits are only long-term seeing and require lots efforts and time.
2/ Brand Advertising/Social Networking & Trust.
Brand Advertising and Social Networking is important. When you actively join communities, you get to know more people and more people get to know about you. Nobody knows if these people turn out to be your next employer or your next friend that can help you out in the difficult situations.
I partly believe in the theory that sometimes, we should hire people that we are familiar and can trust rather than hiring some talented stranger. So, when people can see how you engage to help the community, people started to trust you. The more people know about you, the more people may trust you. And when people can trust you, they can give you the chance to work together or hire you as an employee or even work for you.
Moreover, these things are not built overnight, there is no overnight success. It may take you couple of months, or even years to write a blog and only your friends read it. It is the same with answering on stackoverflow, topcoder. It takes years for you to reach to an acceptable point that people start to recognize your name/your company’s name.
3/ Learning & Contributing.
GNU Open Source
Now, we go to the last reason. It is the last not because it is the least important reason, it may be the most important reason for many people. However, many people want to see the something visible, something that either gives them lots of money or reputation to move forward to their career first. So, I just leave them read things they want to read first.
It is so obvious. When you answer something in stackoverflow, it is either help you to solid your knowledge or help you to think deeply to debug. I really like debugging on stackoverflow, it is challenging. You have to find the bug as soon as possible, and sometimes, you don’t have debugger, you don’t even have IDE to help you. You just read over the code, verify each line of the code and try your best to guess the part that can create the bug. That’s challenging and fun, actually.