We’re kicking off our “Developer Spotlight” series with a feature on Spree open source contributor, Dana Jones. Dana began working with Spree a few months ago by contributing to the Spree Guides. Since then she’s made 45 commits to the Spree Guides and has become a well known member of the Spree community. I had the pleasure of meeting Dana in person at SpreeConf in May. Here’s a picture of the two of us on SpreeConf – Day 1. Dana is on the left.
How did you get started as a programmer?
My first interaction with web programming was a long time ago – around 2000. I was a new mother and a quilter at the time. Some of my quilting friends had trouble finding sites that were selling the particular quilting products they were looking for. So, I made a site that recommended where to find quilting materials. That site was written first in pure HTML, then later refactored into .NET/C#. In 2007, I wrote my first application in Ruby on Rails – a shopping cart for some of the quilt stores who were by then my advertising clients. I freelanced from then until 2011, working on a variety of projects, all in Rails. In 2011, I decided to take a break from programming and focused on trying to launch a new craft business called Hey Betty Studio, which failed spectacularly. I have four kids who generate a lot of expenses so in 2013 I decided to return to programming.
How did you find out about Spree?
Ryan Bigg introduced me to Spree when I came back from my hiatus. I had known him from the #rubyonrails IRC channel from years past. When I came back to the community, I asked him for suggestions of a small project to start making open-source contributions to. He mentioned Spree. Maybe next time, I should define “small” a little better.
Why did you decide to contribute to the Spree Guides?
Spree is an enormous project and it’s a lot to take in. I decided that working on the documentation for Spree was a good way to familiarize myself with the project. Early on in my career I used to work as a technical writer so I felt comfortable working with documentation and I see a lot of value in it. It was also a good way for me to build my resume on GitHub, learn some new tools, and get to know members of the Spree community.
Have you contributed to any Spree extensions?
I contributed to the spree_wishlist translations. The spree_wishlist extension allows store visitors to add a product to a wishlist that they can then review and purchase at a later time. The translation piece of the extension allows you to display the text in different languages. I contributed to the French translation for the wishlist.
This was just the beginning for me. I’m eager to make more non-documentation commits. I’m trying to figure out the best place to fit into the gem to make useful contributions, and have already made a few commits to Spree core.
You gave your first lightning talk at SpreeConf, correct?
Yes, some of the folks in the Spree IRC chat room talked me into it. I discussed the value of documentation and of learning software by documenting it for other people. I was nervous, but I’m really happy that I did it and can check that item off my list. The community was amazingly supportive and encouraging, which has been my experience of Spree users from the beginning.
What do you have planned next to continue improving your programming skills?
I try to spend at least one day a week just doing technical reading. It’s tough in this business of constant changes, but I think it’s important to keep up on trends and developments, plus to get fresh perspectives and ideas on solving coding problems. I’m also planning to continue moving Spree’s user documentation forward, which can only make me a better consumer of the code. There will always be new things to learn and try in software development, so at least I never have to worry about getting bored.