Better Coding Through Community
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As a developer myself, it can be difficult to stay up on current technologies. This is especially true with .NET since the landscape changes and new things are added on a pretty regular basis. Be it Azure, Silverlight or whatever, there is always more to know than one person could possibly learn. Community events such as user groups and code camps can be an awesome way to learn about technologies that you may not get exposure to in your day to day job. If you are reading this, then there is a good bet that you are interested in growing your skills and going to a community event can be an excellent medium for doing so.
Community events such as user group meetings and code camps are run by developers just like you who are in the trenches getting the real work done. Chances are if you go listen a talk at a community event, the person giving the presentation works with the technology on a day to day basis. This can be a huge help if you are interested in a topic or are already working with it and need some help with a specific part of it since the person talking about it uses it regularly. On several occasions, I have attended a session somewhere on a topic that I had heard about but hadn't done any real digging into it. When the session was over, I almost always had a basic understanding of the technology and enough information to get me started learning on my own. Sometimes you just need someone to give you a nudge in the right direction to understand something new.
User groups generally meet one a month during the week and code camps are on Saturdays. Depending on the time of the year and where you are located, there may be a code camp with in traveling distance three or four times a month. I would strongly urge you to get plugged into your local user group as the information and contacts you gain there can be worth a great deal. I have a few friends that I met at a code camp somewhere that I can call on a moments notice if I have a question about something I know they are a wiz at. And I have had people contact me looking for help with Entity Framework. All in all, that network of people is invaluable.
While the technical content at a community event is generally awesome, my favorite thing about it is the networking. It is not just the people I have contact with, but the conversations I get to have and hear. Sometimes it is the conversations that happen after the event that can be the most beneficial. I got interested in doing dependency injection because of a community event. It's something I would have trouble living without, but didn't really get it until I was introduced to it by a friend at a community event. I can't count the times I have been sitting there listening to people discuss the technology they are passionate about and just overheard enough to make me really want to dig into something new.
Getting involved in the developer community can be one of the best things that you can do for your career. The contacts alone are worth the time spent. True you have to give up a night or Saturday here or there, but it is well worth it. If you are not sure you want to spend the time, ask yourself if programming is just what you do to pay the bills or is it your passion. If you want to meet some programmers that are passionate about their craft, you need to check out some community events.
In a nutshell, the developer community can help make you a better programmer. I know it has for me.
If you want to check out events in your area, you can go to http://communitymegaphone.com for a good list of events in your area. I hope to see you at a community event some time soon!
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