"I contribute to Ember" with Michelle Santarsiero

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

This week we’d like to highlight the work of contributor Michelle Santarsiero @lonelyghost. Michelle talks about her work on Ember Observer, her journey into open source, and her tips for making incremental progress when doing open source on the side. Thank you for your contributions to the Ember community, Michelle!

What have you been working on recently?

My Ember contributions have mainly been to Ember Observer. I’m currently working on a feature to show how many bytes an addon adds to a project when installed. I actually started working on this way back during EmberConf 2017, but due to various blockers it’s taken quite a while to finish. Some of the changes required for this feature were split off and released as separate features to show an addon’s dependencies and dependent addons. (The dependent addons part isn’t released yet.)

What made you interested in working on that particular project?

A few years ago, I wanted to start contributing to open source but wasn’t sure what to work on. Katie Gengler mentioned she had a lot of features she wanted to add to Ember Observer, and since we work together that seemed like a natural fit. I also enjoy “off-the-wall” features that collect or organize data in novel ways, and Ember Observer has lots of that kind of work. For example, for the addon size feature I’m calculating size by installing addons into a clean ember app and diffing the size after install with the base app size. I’ve done a lot of CRUD work over the years and it’s always fun to do something very different.

And do you remember your first contribution to the community - what was it?

I fixed failing tests on the Ember documentation back in 2015! My first significant contribution to Ember Observer was full text search for addon READMEs. I think the most well-known contribution has been code search. You can read more about code search on the Code All Day blog:

What’s your biggest motivation to contribute to Ember?

Initially I wanted a side project to work on for fun and to brush up on skills outside of work hours. I thought it was neat that my contributions might help other people in the community, but didn’t imagine any of the work I did in my spare time would end up having a big impact. Now that I realize how wrong I was there, I’m pretty excited to see what other features I can work on that actually make other people’s jobs easier. The original motivation to have a side project still stands, though: we see work codebases come and go over the years (especially true if you’re a consultant) and it’s nice to have a project that I’m personally committed to and can continue to come back to.

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

I have a whole new level of respect and appreciation for the people who work on Ember itself, and on other open-source software I’ve used. It is HARD to balance open source work with paid work and other life commitments.

Is there any piece of advice you can lend to first-time contributors?

I’ve found the Ember community incredibly kind and welcoming. If you’re on the shyer side like me, you might want to look for a mentor or other trusted person who can help you get started. I never would have felt comfortable contributing in the beginning without guidance from Katie.

Looking to get started in open source? Check out Ember Help Wanted!

How do you make time for open source?

I’m pulled in many directions in my work and personal life (aren’t we all!) so whenever possible I like to break projects down into very small tasks. I keep a stack of index cards with these tasks visible on my desk, and that helps both with organizing them and as a reminder that I should work on them. I feel more motivated this way because I know I can accomplish something even if I only have a little chunk of time. Sometimes the pieces are as small as “figure out why that test is failing”. I’d rather move forward in baby steps and have a sense of progress than stagnate.

Editor’s Note

Michelle Santarsiero is a kickass web developer at Code All Day with a pragmatic approach. She brings a decade of experience building and architecting apps that solve customer needs. You can find her on GitHub @lonelyghost and on Twitter @flippyducky.

Ember Observer helps the community converge to using maintained addons! Ember Observer was built to be a better way to discover and compare Ember addons. The site has a secondary goal of promoting quality and sustainability in addon development. Ember Observer’s code is open sourced at emberobserver/client.

We enjoyed this Ember Map video detailing “a look into Ember Observer’s Code Search feature”. They think that Michelle’s code search feature is incredible! :exploding_head:

We also wanted to share this tweet from Katie Gengler about the Ember Observer team: