1 Apr 2009

Unexpected benefits from even small contributions to Open Source

Once long ago I had a problem with Kopete ((KDE's instant messaging client http://kopete.kde.org/)). The problem was that the notification dialog got in the way and it didn't hide it self, if the user didn't react to it. This was especially a problem while I was playing a game, since the dialog got on top and covered the game.

After a while I decided to fix the problem myself and I took the time to look into Kopete's notification code and wrote a simple patch, which added a timeout which hid the dialog and added a settings interface to set the timeout delay.

I submitted the patch to the developers of Kopete, after a while one of them got back to me. His name was Jan Ritzerfeld, he improved my patch which were added to Kopete in KDE3.5. Something I'm extremely proud of :).

This is my original bug report about this: http://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=108967

When I made this patch, I was looking my first job after finishing my education as a "datamatiker" and my job hunt wasn't going all that well for me.

In 2006, I got called in for a job interview with a company called Sapio Systems. For this interview I got a theoretical problem to solve and my solution was to be presented at the job interview.

At the interview we talked about my education, the few projects I had been involved with since my graduation, the time I used helping other Linux users online, my patch for Kopete and finally my solution to the problem I'd been given.

Well, I had misunderstood the problem and my solution was wrong. During the interview I was so nervous that I sold my skills short and having solved the problem wrong, I was sure that I had completely blown my chances at getting this job.

To my great surprise they called me back and I got a second chance which meant a week to solve a practical assignment, writing a small application which looked for unknown words in a text file and a web-interface for it.

This task I handled much better and they gave me my first real job as a developer and I had the job for almost three years. Which gave me a lot of experience and I had a lot of fun developing ScioSphere.

For a long time I didn't understand why I got this important second chance. I recently found out they were very impressed that I had code in Kopete and thought that I'd sold my skills short at the interview.

I hadn't actually thought that this patch was all that important and had mostly mentioned it because I had so little to show, but without this contribution I don't think I'd got that second chance to prove myself.

The lesson I think can be learned from this is that unexpected great rewards can come from small contributions.