"I contribute to Ember" with Jen Weber

Hello folks and welcome to the fourth edition of the interview series “I contribute to Ember” , presented by the folks at The Ember Times :slight_smile:

This week we’d like to highlight the work of contributor @jenweber and talk about her work on the Ember Guides, what the next edition of Ember means for the framework’s learning story and which of her learnings from open-source work have turned out to become powerful skills for her own career.

What are you working on right now in regards to Ember?

Right now I am working on the Guides for Ember’s first edition, Octane, and on some improvements to our Guides in general. I am also working on the Ember Mentorship Program, especially the workshop event that is part of EmberConf this March. It includes a speed networking event and dinner. We’ll have some online activities and the weekly set of articles and suggestions that we’re going to be giving out to the participants. So I’m pulling all those resources together and circulating those around more applicants. The materials will be in a GitHub repository, so anyone can run an event like this, anywhere in the world!

What made you interested in working on the new Ember Octane Guides in particular?

Mainly, I really love learning, writing, and collaborating with other contributors! We’ve heard from lots of different people who’ve come from other frameworks that they really appreciate the quality of our Guides, but I do think that there’s still room for improvement. I’ve written an RFC that proposes some new changes.

The learning progression that exists in the Guides right now was created a long time ago when things like Components, Classes, and JavaScript Promises were new and confusing to many people. These aren’t as much of a mystery to the developer community anymore. I think we have an opportunity of reorganising the Guides a little bit and to suggest it in an order that makes sense for today’s readers. I see Octane as a very good opportunity to go ahead and do some of these refactors because we already have to change quite a bit depending on what features end up coming in over the next year.

To give you an example: Angle brackets component syntax is a thing that’s already available in Ember, and lots of people are using it even though it’s not in the Guides yet. While we’re going through and changing all the code blocks to accommodate for the new syntax, it’s also a great opportunity to review the learning content that’s there. This work kind of ties into something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

Over the past couple of years that I’ve been involved with the Ember Learning team, there have been a ton of people who have helped refactor individual sections or individual pages of the Guides to make them so much easier for new learners to read. I think that work has really been shining and the next big thing is to look at the overall learning journey and rearrange some of that good work that people have been doing, so it’s presented in the right order.

And do you still remember your first contribution to Ember and the community - what was that?

laughs Let me think, yes I do. As a contributor, I worked on a deprecations guide entry. The way this happened was because I had some trouble updating my Ember app from version 1.13 to 2.0. It was actually quite a straightforward upgrade, but I didn’t actually know what had to be done - I just thought it was about updating the version number in package.json but it needed more than that, and so I ended up on the Ember Learning chat asking for help. And then I found out about the learning resources. I said, “Hey I would love to see more of this stuff in the Guides. I can find out where the holes are and maybe do some writing." The deprecation warnings were suggested as a nice thing for a beginner to write because they are so isolated. You’re just writing up a few sentences and provide one code example. And so I got to give that a try, and I’m pretty sure that was my first contribution.

What is your biggest motivation to contribute to Ember?

In my previous career, I was a corporate trainer. I really enjoyed that, and I was very excited to find that there was an application for these skills within Ember. I started writing blog articles at first and this kind of grew to me realising I could help out with the official resources themselves, not just blog writing.

It’s really fun. I started by writing, but the chance to learn from others was what really made it worth staying. The things that I’ve learned from other people by participating here help me in my job every day, and not just on the code front… even on the team dynamic level, leadership strategies, and best practices.

What has been your most important learning from contributing to Ember so far?

Great question. I think it’s how to do collaboration effectively. Ember is like development on hard mode, with everyone spread across all time zones, around the world, with different time commitments, and different levels of knowledge. Yet we are able to move forward on projects and do amazing things! Remembering to communicate what you’re working on and how things are going, making sure to leave good notes so the people besides yourselves can catch up… these things are key. If you build up these good habits when you’re working in open-source, when you apply them to your day job, then things can only go better.

Add to this the idea that anyone can participate, and then intentionally building structures that make it possible - those are the ingredients of a healthy engineering team. Tech companies need to able to bring on new developers or even train up people who don’t have much coding experience. A lot of people would be lost in that situation, but in open source, we do that all the time.

Do you have any piece of advice for first-time contributors?

Expect to ask lots of questions and know that it’s ok and normal to do that!

Jen Weber, also known as @jenweber, is the Head of Product at BioBright and a contributor to Ember. You can find her on Twitter.