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Ideas of March - Think About the Little Guy

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 16 March 2011.
Planet PHP

When I first started diving head-first into the open source community, the blogosphere was by far the most helpful resource around. I tried to consume as much of the information as I could by visiting individual sites directly, but as the number of awesome blogs out there increased, I had to start getting my daily dose of near-overwhelming programming goodness through RSS. Shortly after doing so, I'd have hundreds of articles to browse through every single day; this was truly a great time to get involved with open source.

Since then, something has changed. Writing blog articles is almost as time consuming as reading a couple dozen active blogs a day, and authors feel compelled to write only when they have a lot to say on a subject. Microblogging services such as twitter and identi.ca have made sharing thoughts and ideas much quicker, and they give the appearance of more active discussions because it is just so damn easy to write 140 characters about pretty much anything.

In recent years, and especially in recent months, my RSS reader has slowed down significantly. I have no less subscriptions than I did years ago, but there are only a fraction of the numbers articles each day in my feed. Since blogs had such a significant impact on me, this recent trend is absolutely crushing.

A lot of people are talking about Chris Shiflett's Ideas of March plea. Chris Cornutt rightfully points out that blogs are a fantastic way for people to archive their thoughts and experiences and share their knowledge. Elizabeth Naramore emphasizes that blogs help spur great conversations, and I personally believe these conversations can be as useful, if not more useful, than the articles themselves.

One key point that I feel like many people are missing is how unbelievably important blogging is to the new guy. When you're getting involved with any community, the first thing you do is start reading what those community members have to say. You look for aggregator sites such as PHP Developer and Planet PHP, and that immediately gives you access to the complete modern history of the community. At your fingertips is all of the shared knowledge that the best minds in the community have to offer.

When the community archives its collective knowledge on blogs, then new community members not only have an invaluable resource, but they also have the means to get involved in a real way. When you post a comment on a blog, it does not matter who you are; you do not need to prove your worth in order to get well-known "followers" so that your message gets heard. A person's contribution to the discussion is valued strictly on its quality rather than how prominent the individual is in the community. When that happens, the whole community wins.

Like many have already pledged to do, I will try to do more blogging this month in the spirit of the Ideas of March, and hopefully that habit will linger for some time to come. At the same time, I eagerly await the onslaught of blog articles in my dwindling RSS feed.