Ever since I have been associated with Mozilla community I have been interacting with a lot of people involved in the development of the Mozilla products, mainly Firefox web browser. I have learnt so many things from the community and have interacted with several extremely modest people who despite being extremely knowledgable and busy too, often helped me with my stupid questions. And in several occasions I see people younger than me who are so bright and have contributed much more than what I have done. All these situations just keep reminding me that no matter how much of Computer Science I know, how much of coding and design I have done there is still so much to learn and there are a lot of people who are simply better than me. The second part especially motivates me and always keeps ringing in my head in case I start thinking big of myself. Not that I am boasting about myself, but it’s true that I was a pretty good programmer back in the college. I was one guy who did a few things others did not do or others did not consider doing, though there were several who were way ahead of me in knowledge and intelligence and had much more capacity than me. Basically I am trying to say that I was somewhat good amongst the guys in the college. And this had given me a feeling of satisfaction (to some extent) that I have indeed learnt something and achieved something. I knew that a lot of real good punters lurked around in the open source community through my frequent visits to IRC. That to some extent kept me glued to earth and prevented me from being complacent. But I always carried around a thought that I am some good.
That was clearly a crappy thought. And it became more and more clear when I was formally involved with an open source community and interacted with the folks there more and more. I, like any beginner in the community (Mozilla community), had several things to learn during the initial stages and always had a lot of questions. Probably in my case it was a little more than any other beginner. Luckily I had several people in the community helping me out and always ready to answer my questions. Whenever I came across a new nickname in any channel I am observing I would just try and find out more about the person. That way I got to know about different people pretty well. I came across people who have been there right from the time Mozilla originated or even before when it was still NetScape. But none of them carried any air of pride and were very modest all the time. The credentials of the person answering my question used to be so high that I often feared asking anything thinking that I would just get some scolding for putting in a silly question. But such a thing never happened. Be it a regular developer or QA guy, employed or a volunteer, young or old, they all helped me. It’s not just the modesty, but their technical knowledge also is worth speaking. They were so precise, they considered situations that never occurred to me, they thought of performance, usability and several such things simultaneously and every word of theirs carried weight, every bit of it was informative. Sometimes things went way above my head and I had to ask them to explain the same things again and again and in simpler words. They did that almost every time. If I was not ready to understand what they were talking about someone would point me to a nice document which would clearly explain me the basics, after reading which I could understand the discussion easily.
All these things always told me one thing: World is really big and it has some really big people, so be modest and be ever receptive. This means that there are a lot of heights yet to be scaled by anyone and hence one should never stop learning because there is always something new to learn. It is in this OPEN SOURCE COMMUNITY that I realized what computer science and programming is. It is because of the PEOPLE IN THIS COMMUNITY I realized that there is so much to learn. If not for this community I would probably have been a complacent guy who would have shut his doors for new knowledge and considered himself a "GOOD PROGRAMMER". Thank you OSS.
That is why I would say that exposure to the open source community and affiliation with one of those is mandatory for any computer science student who aims at being a successful and worthy programmer. It is here people will get a look of the ocean named programming and the several software applications that are churned out continuously. I hope this becomes the order of the day very soon and every computer science student will learn programming real world applications right when he/she is in college. This would also lead several success stories coming from our Indian academic institutions and we will be leaders, intellectually, once again.
Jai Shree Yalaguresh Prasanna.