20-Jan-2014 by Allison McMillan

Read Time: Approx. 3 minutes

Contributing to OSS

So, if I haven’t said it enough, getting involved in the community is so important. I’ve recently been looking for a job. The process has actually been more difficult than I anticipated. A lot of people will tell you it’s incredibly easy to get a job in this field. I’d say that while there are positions available in the field, it is still challenging to convince a company, especially as a newer developer, that you are worth it and that you’ll totally blow them away… if they just give you the chance. Additionally, I want to make sure that where I end up is the right fit. I feel fortunate to have years of professional experience that have allowed me to really know myself as a professional and give me a better ability to determine if a company is a good fit for me or not.

While looking for a permanent position, i’ve been looking for great, challenging projects that continue to expand my skillset and make sure I’m learning as much as possible while I have the time. A few weeks ago, I was approached by a friend at a meetup who had a little too much on his plate and felt he had some work that would provide me with some good experience. Because he’s a friend, he knows my level and therefore I’m very comfortable asking questions. He also thought this project would be a good one because he could provide support, the gem needed to be built but isn’t super so complex, and he felt it could provide me with a good opportunity to contribute to OSS… something that is on my goals for this time period and definitely something I’ve been looking to do. Conversely, as a solo freelancer, he hasn’t had the opportunity to often pair or to take part in code reviews, a skill he wants to develop. We saw this as a win-win situation and there I was... working on a ruby gem. The gem posts are a little post-dated because I wrote them as I was working on the gem but didn't have a chance to post everything!!! So, I'll try to get these posts up quickly.

The gem has some simple functionality. It is essentially a way to work with a company’s API and download additional information about email blast campaigns beyond what they currently provide. The gem involves writing tests, utilizing an http client, and working with the API.

I have to admit that a large portion of me is/was terrified. I’m building something new. I’m actually getting paid to do it. AND it’s then going on the interwebs… as a gem… and a part of OSS… for other people to use!!! But fortunately, I’m not terrified enough to shy away from the opportunity.

Geoff had gotten me started by giving me access to a private repo, creating the gem structure, and providing a few details and resources he had thought through in regards to the gem. I started by creating the spec file and thinking through what this gem would do in order to write some tests that could be used essentially as an outline. I put all these tests as pending, but I was able to scope out the major functionalities by thinking about what the output would be and what we would need to make sure is working.

I then started on the actual code. I started by taking the tests and looking at what classes those would create. Classes should each have a single responsibility so I looked at each action that needed to happen and thought about a class structure based on that. My intention is to write the code all in the same file and then do some refactoring to break it up. The next step was looking at the http clients. There is an authentication component to this gem and once the authentication happens, a cookie is received and that cookie needs to be stored in order for it to be used in future actions.

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