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It's Not About The Number Of Hours You Put In
There's been a lot of talk on twitter about the 501 Manifesto. Be sure to read it if you haven't, because it's got some very good points, though I don't like the dig at people who contribute to open source since these people are having an ever increasing positive impact on our jobs. Anyways, the manifesto is about being a software developer without being defined by it. I actually think it's a healthy point of view.
I've always disagreed with this seemingly popular point of view or opinion that every developer should spend a lot of time outside of his/her working hours blogging or publishing their code on Github or contributing to open source. Those activities can be important but aren't necessarily so and the people doing them aren't inherently more valuable or important than developers who choose not to contribute to open source software or who don't feel the need to make a name for themselves. I also disagree with the notions that developers who are only involved with software development during their 8 working hours a day must be inferior or that they can't be passionate about it or that they'll never be great at it or any of that other crap that you'll sometimes hear people say.
I know some great developers who put their code out there and/or their thoughts by blogging. I also know some bad developers who put their code out there and/or their thoughts by blogging. I know some great developers who aren't involved with software development outside their working hours. I also know some bad developers who aren't involved with software development outside their working hours. There are good and bad developers on both sides of every situation you can come up with.
I think it depends a lot on what people do during their 8 working hours. Can we really say that developers who work 8 hours a day on challenging projects with strong co-workers in teams where knowledge is passed around continuously are missing out on anything if they don't really spend any other time on software development outside of work? That just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. If I look back on my own career so far, I've typically been rather passive outside of working hours in periods where I felt like I was working on cool things, where I was challenged, where I was learning a lot on the job. Conversely, I've always been much more involved with software development outside of work when I was working on things during working hours that I didn't find challenging or interesting or where I wasn't learning anything new. I'm guessing that this holds true for a lot of people, though certainly not all.
Of course, if you're not working on interesting things or continuously learning and improving on the job, it's your own responsibility to make sure that your skills and insights stay up to date. You don't have to put in the effort to do that, but if you don't, you don't really have a reason to complain either when you're not happy with the kind of work that you're doing. Your employer is not responsible for your career and your future, you are.
And if you are working on interesting things and continuously learning and improving on the job, you don't need to pressure yourself to do more outside of your working hours because certain people in the community say you should. A lot of people get involved with blogging and open source with the hope that it'll end up leading to more interesting work in the long term. Who knows, you might just be a step ahead of them already.
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