How to Become a Contributor

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If you wish to contribute an item or comment on any item, please read through the details on this page. If anything is unclear or you have any further questions, please contact me. Please be aware that you are only supposed to edit your own work — this is 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know, not Wikipedia.


Kevlin Henney
Site editor

Setting Yourself Up

  • Create an account. To create and edit a page or to comment on an existing page, you will need to create an account. You don't need an email invitation to create an account, just click here.
  • Sign up to the announcement group. Please sign up here. This is for notifications on state of progress, changes in guidelines, and any other news related to the site and book that could affect contributors.
  • Provide an author's profile. When making a contribution, please also include an author profile page. This is simply a page named after you (i.e., .../Firstname_Lastname) and that holds some details about you. Here is a Contributor Profile Outline that offers some guidance and a starting point from which you can copy and paste. You may also want to take a look at other contributors' profiles to get a feel for what you should (or should not) included. Here's mine.
  • Add yourself to the list of contributors. The list of Contributors is alphabetically ordered and links to each author's bio.
  • Please read the example contribution. I've provided an example contribution to provide further guidelines on content style and to show you an example of what you will see when your are ready to add your own tip/axiom/pearl/guideline/contribution. Reading this example contribution won't take long, but it clarifies a number of important points. Also read some of the existing Edited Contributions to get a feel for the form and range of contributions.

Rules of Engagement

  • Each contributor is asked to provide one or more items (tips or bits of wisdom) that each have a title and associated discussion. Edit the Contributions in Progress to add your item — do not add your item to the Edited Contributions. The title should only be a 2 to 10 words long if possible and should summarize or capture the essence of the advice. In print, we want each contribution to fit on a two-page spread. Keep your discussion between 400 and 500 words. Any contribution under 400 words is unlikely to make it to the Edited Contributions, let alone the book. And much more than 500 words will need to be edited down. There will be a limit on the maximum number of items that can be accepted from one author for the book (as yet to be decided, but probably 3 or 4), but there is currently no hard limit to the number of items that can be submitted to the site.
  • Edit your work only. You have the ability to add or change your contributions at any time. To be a good participant, please edit your own contributions only. Be very careful that you don't accidentally alter someone else's work. You are, however, free to add comments on the discussion tab of any contribution. As editor, I will limit most of my editorial changes to basic copy editing (spelling, punctuation, grammar, and formatting). I will discuss any other suggestions or comments on a contributed item directly with its author.
  • Creative Commons license. All contributions made to this site are required to be made under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. This means that by making a content contribution, you are agreeing that it is licensed to us and to others under this license. If you do not want your content to be available under this license, you should not contribute it.
  • Submit only your own work. You warrant that all work that you contribute to this site is your original work, except for material that is in the public domain or for which you have obtained permission. Feel free to draw from your own existing work (blogs, articles, talks, etc.), so long as you are happy with the Creative Commons licence.
  • Volunteers only. Contributions are made on a volunteer basis — in other words, contributors are not paid for their contributions. The contributions will be made easily available to everyone on the World Wide Web for free. However, remember that those of you whose contributions are chosen for publication will get your name attached to your work, your bio published next to it, and a free copy of the published book. Any item you contribute you can also reuse in any form you wish, such as in a blog posting.
  • Free of commercials. Please keep contributions free from references to specific products or technologies that compare their worth, or paint them in a positive or negative light.

Further Guidelines for Contribution

  • Minimize work in progress. Although it can appear useful to put a place holder for an item, such as just its title or a couple of lines of content that are notes, please try to keep this to a minimum. It is more valuable to have submitted one or two items that are complete and are of high quality than a long list of suggestions or partial submissions. Reducing work in progress makes it easier for you to see your own progress and for others to see the progress of the whole project.
  • Check spelling, word count, and formatting. Such checking seems an obvious part of the professional attention to detail encouraged by the 97 Things books, but it is worth a reminder — sometimes it seems that it is honored more in the breach than in the observance. US spelling is used for the contributions, which should be between 400 and 500 words in length. Formatting can be checked using Show preview (but don't forget to Save page) or by looking at the saved page.
  • Please read the example contribution. Already mentioned, but please look at the example contribution. If you are unfamiliar with MediaWiki markup, take a look at the underlying markup of the page. You may also want to look at this.
  • Ensure changes are consistent. If you rename a contribution (using the move tab), please make sure that you rename the corresponding entry in the Contributions in Progress.
  • Remember to sign your work. Your name and the rights message should appear at the bottom of each contribution. A contribution should be able to standalone, so having your name listed by a link on another page is of little use if someone arrives at the page via a more direct route.
  • Don't link to or discuss other contributions in your own contribution. Each contribution is intended to be standalone. It should not require the reader to read anything else first or, if selected for the book, require the inclusion of another contribution.
  • Keep an eye on your contributions. For two reasons: (1) make sure your article is not edited by anyone else and (2) watch for any suggestions and comments in the discussion tab. The site editing policy is that you don't touch other people's contributions. Some users, however, don't make the effort to find out what this site is about and how it's run. They assume that contributions are like Wikipedia articles rather than individually authored pieces that follow an editing lifecycle, so they may, with the best of intentions, modify wording. You can check whether this has happened to an item of yours by clicking on the history tab of a page. If you see any mods that did not originate with either your account name or mine, then someone has introduced an unsolicited edit. These can be undone. I try to keep an eye open for such transgressions, but I can't guarantee that I will catch them all. Site users are, however, encouraged to offer comments on items, which they can enter in the discussion tab of a page. You can track and edit these, as you see fit.
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