October 23, 2012
All I looked at during the first-ever jQuery Developer Summit were UI tickets #8644 and #8646, two annoying little bugs in the Tooltip widget. By the end, my work amounted to two pull requests (the method by which contributions make it into the jQuery projects). These two pull requests contain four commits, which, not counting the unit tests, amount to less than a dozen lines of code. Still, I'm calling it a success.
These are my first contributions to that library I so adore. Now that I've got my feet wet, I can't wait to dive in. From what I've heard, the same is true for most of the participants—the community of contributors just exploded. I'd bet the core team is also calling it a success.
The summit saw about two hundred folks with widely varying skill sets collaborating on every aspect of the project. jQuery is a library that makes writing web applications a breeze. It abstracts away cross-browser issues, and it makes for clean code. But don’t take my word for it: almost 60% of the top 10,000 sites on the web make use of it.
There were, of course, tables like mine, devoted to finding and fixing bugs. There were those working on new features and new widgets. There were plenty of lively discussions about particular issues and the design of the library in general. There was a table devoted to testing (darn right!).
But, in true cross-functional form, teams also worked on documentation, something vital, yet often overlooked. Several tables focused on the new look and feel of the jQuery project websites. There was even a table hacking big data, looking for trends in the tickets and commits, page views and downloads, and even IRC chat logs.
The most inspiring part of the summit was rubbing shoulders with the jQuery team—people I've seen on Twitter and GitHub, or from afar at the jQuery Conference in June. There's nothing like getting a lesson in Grunt straight from "Cowboy" Ben Alman, or having Jörn Zaefferer (tech lead on QUnit) tell me (quite matter-of-factly) that I really need to let the post-commit hook close tickets on my behalf. Or arguing about filesystem security at two a.m. with Timo Tijhof and Daryl Koopersmith, or about widget architecture with Scott Gonzalez (tech lead for jQuery UI).
Open source projects take note: a dev summit like this can be a great way to make real progress while simultaneously building your contributor base. And if you've never contributed to open source before, now might be the time to ask yourself, "why not?" If you're worried you lack the technical chops, remember that every project needs documentation and a website.
And even if you don't close any tickets yourself, you can do a lot just by opening some. When you notice an issue in a piece of software, don't ignore it, rather file a ticket. All you have to do is find the bug tracker for the project (the jQuery projects are at bugs.jquery.com, bugs.jqueryui.com, or on GitHub). Clearly describe steps to reproduce the issue and the expected behavior. If you have example code or data, all the better—anything you can do to help the developers find and fix the bug will be much appreciated.
And so, to that end, I'd like to thank the reporters of UI tickets #8644 and #8646, who I know only by their handles, shnitz and josepsanzcamp. Thanks to you, I had a challenge on my plate at the jQuery Developer Summit, and together we've improved the global library.