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Giving back to the community

by bprew (Monk)
on Dec 24, 2004 at 07:43 UTC ( #417275=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I recently got promoted to a more managerial position at my work (maybe like a technical lead). After I had been there a little while, I started thinking about ways I could improve my employees situations. You know, ways to make their jobs more enjoyable, or ways to expand their thinking. All in all, make them better software engineers.

The first thing I started was a "book club". We meet once a week and talk about the chapters we read last week.

However, I recently had the opportunity to give most of them reviews. And, I figured this was my chance to enact a little charity while learning. As part of their reviews, I said that before their next review, they should submit a module to the CPAN. They're experienced programmers, so I don't expect them to submit something incomprehensible, and my plan is to review their submissions beforehand.

As an individual developer, I participate in a few sourceforge projects and occasionally ramble on perlmonks, but I was wondering.

How do other developers give back to their communities? Either the Perl community as a whole, or a subset of (such as,, etc.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart."

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Giving back to the community
by Juerd (Abbot) on Dec 24, 2004 at 09:26 UTC

    Although there are many ways to give back to "the community", most programmers don't. Usually because they don't realise there is a community, or because they just don't want to be part of it. Being part of "the community" takes time, and if you want to make most out of it, lots of time, even.

    Everyone who is part of the community, also gives back. The thing that's given back most is time, to help people. This is good, because there's a great demand for help. CPAN modules are another thing, but I'm not sure if that's always a good for the community. Some who already donate time and/or code, also donate money to The Perl Foundation.

    The money thing is a good option if you don't want to be part of the community, but do want to help out. I think that especially more companies should donate. If only just 0.5% of what they earn with Perl. But that's just my opinion.

    But really, not giving back anything is also good. Perl is free software, and even if you hate sharing your code, experience, or money, you are still allowed to use Perl.

    I structurally "give back" in the form of CPAN modules (most importantly DBIx::Simple), help (in EFnet #perlhelp mostly), and money. Occasionally, I write something that people find useful, like perlcheat and perlpodtut. The latter still needs to be submitted to p5p. :)

    Juerd # { site => '', plp_site => '', do_not_use => 'spamtrap' }

Re: Giving back to the community
by perrin (Chancellor) on Dec 24, 2004 at 16:43 UTC
    Instead of telling them how to contribute, I'd suggest telling them your goal (to get everyone more involved in the community) and ask them to think about individual ways of contributing. Suggest CPAN, or documentation, etc.

    Personally, I think it's often better to contribute patches, especially documentation patches, for projects you use and like than to force yourself to start a new project of some kind. I only have one CPAN module of my own, but I've contributed patches to mod_perl, Template Toolkit, Class::DBI, Maypole, etc. over the years. I always felt like that was more useful to the community as a whole.

Re: Giving back to the community
by mpeppler (Vicar) on Dec 24, 2004 at 16:23 UTC
    I've always used freeware packages of various types - and I've always felt the urge to participate in the communities that I've been part of - first on BIX back in the late 80s, where I released a (fairly simple) C program to read/respond to BIX messages offline, and later in the perl/Sybase community with sybperl, DBD::Sybase, and now taking over the maintenance of sqsh (

    This all takes time, but I've always considered this as "paying forward" rather than paying back (I think I first saw that term in a Robert Heinlen novel) - that is "I've received help/source code/ideas in this forum, or from a particular individual - I repay this by helping others as best I can".


Re: Giving back to the community
by stvn (Monsignor) on Dec 24, 2004 at 17:04 UTC

    The Phalanx project can always use your help :)

    Just as perrin said, sometimes its better not to contribute another new module, but to contribute to an existing one. The Phalanx project is a great way to do this. Some perl monger groups have been "adopting" modules as a group, you could easily do the same with your group of developers. It is also a great way to promote a testing culture among your developers as well (if you don't already have one that is).

Re: Giving back to the community
by knexus (Hermit) on Dec 24, 2004 at 22:42 UTC
    Congratulations on your recent promotion! I also applaud your interest in having the developers "give back" to their communities.

    I managed software engineers for about 15 years after being an engineer myself for many years. Overall I mostly enjoyed being in the management role; however, I did learn several lessons the hard way. One has to do with good intentions being misunderstood. So, IMHO, I'd be careful about tying performance reviews to their doing extra work in the spirit of giving back to the community. While I agree with the sentiment, some people may surprise you in how they react. Will they get a smaller raise if they don't submit to CPAN? Of course if the company is paying them for this work/time... which I wish more would do, then I guess there would be no issue.

    Personally, I have found many people will do this on their own accord because they love what they do. Others will do it with a little encouragement... helping them see the bigger picture. Anyone who has to be coerced (not that you are doing that) probably is not going to produce what the community needs/wants.

    Just some thoughts for your consideration.

Re: Giving back to the community
by Arunbear (Prior) on Dec 25, 2004 at 02:07 UTC
    As part of their reviews, I said that before their next review, they should submit a module to the CPAN.
    I find that highly abhorrent. You want to make the jobs of your employees more enjoyable, yet you treat them like children. CPAN is the fruit of a volunteer community, not a conscripted army (but of course those may be the same thing if you subscribe to communism which your approach reeks of).

    If you want to broaden their horizons, why not give them some time to work on any open-source project that interests them, or send them on a course of their chosing. Making it compulsory takes out all the joy, defeats the spirit of the open-source adventure, and just plain sucks.

      Whoaaahhh! I think maybe you are overreacting. I highly doubt that the OP wants to force his developers to contribute to CPAN. Instead, it sounds to me more that he is trying to foster some kind of community involvement with his developers.

      Making it compulsory takes out all the joy, defeats the spirit of the open-source adventure, and just plain sucks.

      Well, philosophically I agree with you, it should be all about the "spirit of the open source adventure". However, for some people, a small push is needed to help to get them involved. I don't see that as "forced labor" at all, but instead as the encouragement of a boss/mentor/group leader.

      There is a business side to open source that some people fail to recognize.

      My company, and many of the companies I have worked for over the past few years, have all made use of open source software to some degree. Without it, our development costs/time would have been much higher, and that would directly correlate to our companies success (if it costs too much, or takes too long, no one would buy it and we would be out of business).

      So in my mind, I (my career and bank account) have benefited directly from open source software and the volunteer efforts of others. My boss (and the owner of the company I work for) very much agrees with my viewpoint and allows me to spend company time on open source software. He knows that time I spend giving back to the community will ultimately benefit our business (what comes around goes around, kharma, etc).

      So while it might be nice to think of the open source community as this grand adventure of community development for the greater good of mankind, devoid of all the sins of business and commerce. It is completely ignoring the pragmatic business end of things. In order for open source to survive it needs to be funded in some way, open source developers must eat too. IMO any business which makes heavy use of open source software should give back and I support the OP's idea to make that "giving back" actually part of the job.

      Get a grip or your rhetoric, dude. Rape, murder and torture are "highly abhorent." Asking people to contribute to Open Source, even if the request is out of line or poorly thought out, is not. You need some perspective on your self-righteous indignation
Re: Giving back to the community
by dorko (Parson) on Dec 24, 2004 at 21:38 UTC
Re: Giving back to the community
by martinvi (Monk) on Dec 25, 2004 at 13:18 UTC

    Disclaimer: I'm not much of a developer, but more of an admin.

    In my eyes, it's not so easy to "give back to the community". There is the money part and that is, where I usually end up. About the remainder ... either I'm too bad to do it or the (social) procedure to get it done is way to "red taped" for my liking. So, I stay out of the kitchen.

    The things, I do, didn't matter for the OpenSource communities. Ex.: next year, some co-workers will work through the Camel-book and I'll be some kind of tutor. That's a Good Thing(tm), but of little consequence to the perl-community.

    As I like to say: If you can't do the splendig work, there's a lot of drab work.

      You never know, if you tutor them well they may very well become new valued members of the community, maintainers of well known modules, people known for helping others, perl porters, ... We owe a lot to the often nameless teachers of the giants, the men and women who entranced Pasteur for Chemistry, Darvin for Biology, Newton for Physics, ... They might not make any big discovery/invention themselves, but I would not consider them of having little consequence to the community ;-)

      We'd like to help you learn to help yourself
      Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes
      Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home
         -- P. Simon in Mrs. Robinson
      P.S.: I guess this node shows English is not my native :-)

Re: Giving back to the community
by ggg (Scribe) on Dec 27, 2004 at 01:39 UTC
    That's too close, in my eyes, to asking your employees to donate to your favorite charity. Yes, donating work is a Good Thing, but I don't think I would have much respect for a manager who used his influence that way very often.

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