Tap into the PowerShell Community for Fun and Education
Summary: The Windows PowerShell community offers many enjoyable learning opportunities. Guest blogger Tome Tanasovski explains how this works, and how to become involved.
Hey, Scripting Guy! How can I get involved in the Windows PowerShell community?
Microsoft Scripting Guy Ed Wilson here. One of the best things about Windows PowerShell is the strong, vibrant, and active community surrounding the product. One reason I spend time talking to user groups, hanging out in forums, on Twitter, and on Facebook is because I believe in the power of the scripting community. I have directly benefited from these experiences. Tome Tanasovski volunteered to be our guest blogger today.
Tome is a Windows engineer for a market-leading global financial services firm in New York City. He is the founder and leader of the New York City PowerShell User group, a blogger, and a regular contributor to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell forum. He is currently working on the PowerShell Bible, which is due out in June 2011 from Wiley.
Getting yourself involved in the Windows PowerShell community is a huge investment in you. There are many motivations you may have for giving yourself to the rest of us:
- It looks great on your resume.
- It’s the necessary release when you have a desire to give back to a community who has helped you so much.
- You want to make new friends who have similar interests to your own.
- You want to have your voice heard.
Regardless of your reasons, your involvement will make you a better Windows PowerShell scripter, and it will help us grow the amazing support system and idea pool that is the Windows PowerShell community.
So how can you help?
Answer questions in the forums
Learn by teaching! You may not know everything, but you will know an answer to one or two questions. Take the time to subscribe to the RSS feed for the forums of your choice and read each thread as they come in. If you do not know the answer to a question that sounds interesting you can try to tackle it through some Internet research or mark it so that you can read the follow ups when people start commenting. I personally like to lurk in the Hey, Scripting Guy! and Windows PowerShell forums, but there are plenty of other forums out there. You will not only start building a reputation for yourself, but you will make contact with other people who share your passion.
Publish your scripts and modules to the repositories
This is one of the easiest things you can do to contribute to the Windows PowerShell community. I mean, you are interested in contributing to the community because you like to script in Windows PowerShell, so what better way to contribute than by writing scripts. In my opinion, you should take the time to convert your functions into thorough advanced functions, generate a psm1 file, and make sure you include full inline help. It is my prediction that modules will eventually have a robust Internet repository along the lines of what Perl has with CPAN. You might as well get ready for it now by developing with that in mind.
You can post your scripts and modules to poshcode.org and the Script Center. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t post your code to both.
Join a Windows PowerShell User Group or Script Club
User groups and script clubs are great for people of all levels. If you are new to Windows PowerShell, you will find a world of resources available to you and plenty of people to give you advice. If you are an intermediate or advanced Windows PowerShell user you will have the opportunity to hear about the latest trends and tools. You will also have an opportunity to speak about topics both formally and through discussion with your peers.
User groups usually have a speaker that will talk about new Windows PowerShell technologies or will provide you with free training on a Windows PowerShell subject. Both types of meetings are equally great resources that you should not miss. Most groups provide giveaways and door prizes on the day of the event, and you will get discounts and special pricing from vendors. If you really want to get involved, ask your leader for an opportunity to give a presentation at one of the future meetings. You do not need to put together a level 400 deep-dive into regular expressions; you can take a technique or script that you think is interesting and put together a ten to twenty minute presentation. Make sure to follow up the presentation with some Q and A. You may find that you have enlightened others or you may hear of other methods people have used to solve similar problems that you did not think of or know about. Either way it is a win.
Script clubs are freeform meetings that follow the tenants of the Script Club:
- You always talk about script club
- If someone asks for help, and you can help, you help
- Two people help one person at one time
- One module per person per night
- All scripts, all Windows PowerShell
- Scripts will be as short as they can be
The intention is to get everyone involved and coding at these meetings. You bring your latest project(s), and put down some code while helping others.
You can see if there is a user group or script club in your area at http://PowerShellgroup.org.
If you can’t find a user group in your area then start one!
This is not a task for someone who does not have a lot of energy and time to spend, but it can be a truly rewarding process. Your first step will be to find a venue. Training facilities and Microsoft are usually supportive in having you host your event at their location. Next you’ll want to reach out to the other groups on PowerShellgroup.org. We have a private mailing list and wiki you can use to help you make contacts and generate ideas for your club. You will need to reach out to all of the vendors, sign up for support services, and try to find a Microsoft evangelist who can help you along the way. Make sure you have a presentation in mind for the first meeting. The bigger the topic or guest the better to get you started.
Most clubs are small, and even the bigger ones can have problems finding a speaker every month. If you are tackling this endeavor you should expect to put together a presentation and speak at every meeting if other members don’t step forward. I did warn you that you will need a lot of time and energy to do this.
Join the Virtual Windows PowerShell user group
Hang out with MVP Joel Benet amongst others in the group’s IRC channel. You will be amazed at how easy it is to get immediate response to questions from some impressive script writers. It’s also a great opportunity to speak your mind when you have one to speak. In addition, Joel hosts an occasional Live Meeting presentation that covers a wide range of Windows PowerShell topics so it’s worth signing up as a member to receive notifications when there are new presentations.
Start a blog
Everyone who works in IT should have a blog. If you do something new, take an hour and write it down. Even if others have already written about the topic, there can be value in your investment:
- It forces you to work out the small minutia you would normally forget.
- It gives you a quick way to search for resources you know are important when you need them again. I call this the light-bulb-oh-I blogged-about-this-already-let-me-find-it moment.
- It helps you become a better technical writer for your job. It may not be why you got into this profession, but it is a necessary evil.
- It helps you retain what you have learned.
People will find your site. The more you post, the more you will see visitors coming from random Internet searches. Make sure that your articles are accurate and detailed. Helping us build this database of articles that are indexed by the search engines is a huge help to the Windows PowerShell community.
Get on Twitter
Okay, Twitter is not really cool from a social perspective unless you like watching pictures of @DannyDeVito‘s feet. However, when used for keeping up to date with the IT world it becomes an essential resource. Follow the #PowerShell hash tag to see what everyone in the world is saying about Windows PowerShell. It is a great way to find new websites and people in the community. Feel free to post your tweets with the #PowerShell hashtag to publicize your blog postings or interesting forum posts that the world should know about. You can follow me, @toenuff and you can follow the Microsoft Scripting Guys @scriptingguys. Beyond tweeting for your own personal publicity feel free to reply to the people you follow. It is amazing how friendly and accessible everyone who likes to talk Windows PowerShell is.
Listen to the Powerscripting podcast
This is an absolute must for every Windows PowerShell user. You will learn something new every week. They have amazing Windows PowerShell celebrity guests who give real in-depth conversations about specific technologies and the capabilities of Windows PowerShell. They will also keep you informed about what is going on in the Windows PowerShell community. They will tell you the who, what, and where about Windows PowerShell so you can make sure you don’t miss out on anything that happens.
Listening, however, is not enough. Every Thursday night you can sit in on the live taping. The audience is a revolving door of the who’s who in Windows PowerShell, and it’s a great opportunity to ask questions that you may come up with during the interviews. Join Jon and Hal.
I am looking forward to hearing all of the new voices who are inspired to pitch in this year! You’re joining a good group of passionate people who can’t wait to meet you.
Thanks, Tome, for an excellent article. Join us tomorrow for the Weekend Scripter as we delve into the mysteries of Windows PowerShell modules.
We would love you to follow us on Twitter and Facebook. If you have any questions, send email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your questions on the Official Scripting Guys Forum. See you tomorrow. Until then, peace.
Ed Wilson and Craig Liebendorfer, Scripting Guys