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volunteer writing linux careerThe World Wide Web has become an extremely strong source of information. Job seekers search for jobs on online job boards, while recruiters search for potential employees by listing their Web profiles. Such head hunting is, in particular, common when looking for a Linux professional.

Numerous ways are available for an IT professional to establish their Web presence. One of them is writing about GNU/Linux or, in general, free or open source software. It is extremely beneficial for your IT career to publish on Linux related websites as a volunteer writer and, at the same time, enhance your Web presence. Jason Hibbets, a project manager at Red Hat and the lead administrator for opensource.com, in the interview for LinuxCareer.com underlines how opensource.com helps its authors in promotion of their articles, which, at the same time, promotes their name:

Before an article is published on the site, new volunteers work with our editors to finalize their article. After we collaborate on an article with our contributors, we optimize articles for search engine optimization (SEO) and then our team does a lot of work to promote the story after it's been published. (...) We try to do our part to make sure that the content we spend so much time creating with our volunteer writers gets promoted appropriately.

Development of Linux career through writing

Apart from such obvious benefits from writing about Linux as learning and gaining experience, you are continuously enhancing your chances of landing a dream Linux job by building your Web presence. In the age of professional social network sites such as LinkedIn we all have profiles on the Web, which can attract a potential employer. However, not everyone realizes that publishing articles on the Web can be much more beneficial for building your Web presence and, consequently, increasing your chances of finding your first Linux job or advancing your Linux career.

In the Linux community there is space for everyone. You can be a beginner writer and still contribute to the Linux community. For instance, if you are starting as a writer and you know a foreign language, it might be a good idea to develop your skills by translating articles from english to the other language or vice versa. You should contact a website of your choice and inform the administrator that you are interested in translating the website's content. They may be interested in including such translations on their website. For instance, GNU provides a guide to translating web pages, [1]. Additionally, you can get involved in translation of free or open source software, [2].

In particular, LinuxCareer.com encourages IT students to get involved in the Linux community as contributing volunteer writers. It has become a standard for an IT graduate to have some practical experience related to his/her studies. Your potential employer values your involvement in the Linux community. In the recent article, Linux Jobs Are on the Rise, [3], Ralf Flaxa, engineering vice president of SUSE, emphasises the value of the involvement in the Linux community:

Interaction with the community is almost mandatory for all SUSE employees. It’s actually a criterion for hiring. So our first question to an engineer is, “What have you done in terms of open source? Have you contributed to any community; do you know about open source developments?” And so on. These are the key questions in our hiring process.

It is also extremely beneficial to continue writing about Linux once you get employed. Technical article can be a form of notes that you will revisit when you need to repeat a given task. This makes your work more efficient. Many companies have their own Wikis that provide information to their employees. If this is not in conflict with your employer you can use your experience from work and compose a technical article that is publicly available. This gives you an extra benefit of promoting your name and experience. In the same article, Ralf Flaxa explains:

All the engineers at SUSE have two roles. One side of them is very business oriented, while the other side is very community oriented. So, we never forget that the success of Linux is not because of SUSE or Red Hat, it’s because of the community. We contribute heavily to the community and we will, forever, continue to do that.

Your writing will support Linux as a community project and promote free and open source software. The more of such articles the bigger online support exists for the Linux OS and people are more likely to use Linux as an operating system of their choice. Indirectly, Linux employment opportunities grow and you are advancing your IT career.

Submitting articles

A variety of Linux related websites provide an opportunity to join their team for potential article writers. Apart from linuxcareer.com, such portals as:  opensource.com, linux.com, linuxinsider.com, linuxforums.org, osnews.com or dice.com will consider publishing your articles. These include technical documentation, tutorials, news related articles and career advice articles. The procedure for submitting an article on Linux related websites is usually similar.  LinuxCareer.com has chosen the main steps leading to article submission, which is outlined in this section. 

Register

Most of the Linux oriented websites require you to register before you submit an article. For instance, if one wants to post an article on linux.com or linuxforums.org, he/she needs to be registered first. Other websites, such as opensource.com, ask the potential author to create a profile page with a photo and display such information about the author with the published article. Sometimes, simply by registration you may gain access to website's content not available otherwise.

Know your website

Before you start writing your articles you need to be familiar with the content published on the Linux website you have chosen for your article submission. Make sure that the subject of your article suits the content presented on the website and that the topic you are planning to write about is not yet covered by the website. It is often possible to use website's forum to communicate with other volunteer writers or someone who can help you with the topic choice.

Get your topic approved

LinuxCareer.com provides an IT skills watch service, which may help you to choose your article topic. For instance, if you would like to develop skills that are currently on demand by employers write technical articles relevant to those skills. The current, quarterly updated top 40 IT skills on demand are published on our IT skills watch page. Once you have decided on the subject of your article submit the topic for approval with the editor. This step is very important, since someone else may be already working on a similar article. This also protects you from putting your effort into an article, which from the beginning had no chance of being accepted. It is also recommended that, at the same time, you provide a short overview of the article you are planning to prepare to avoid misunderstandings.

Study article guidelines

Usually, websites have standards related to article formatting, its originality, inclusion of images, external links, etc. They may also explain some legal rules that need to be followed when expressing your ideas. In particular, a comprehensive set of rules is outlined by osnews.com. Osnews completed Rules and guidelines for publishing and participating on OSNews, [4], which can be very helpful for authors in the process of article writing.

Prepare first version of the article

Assuming that you have done relevant research and are familiar with the topic, you might be ready to prepare the first version of your article. At this point, it is important to discuss your writing style with your friends. It is helpful if your friends can proofread your article and give you feedback before you submit it to a Linux website.

Submit your article 

You can now work in the corrections and submit your article to the website of your choice. The editor may still provide feedback and ask you to improve your article. Do not give up, just continue working on your article until it is ready for publication. It can be very rewarding to see your first article published and to follow arriving comments from the readers.

Interview with Jason Hibbets, Red Hat and opensource.com

LinuxCareer.com asked Jason Hibbets to present his comments on volunteer writing in relation to building an IT career. Jason Hibbets is a project manager at Red Hat and the lead administrator for opensource.com. He wears multiple hats for his project, including editor, community manager, and other tasks that come with running an online publication. Therefore, his experience and opinion on volunteer writing contributions is greatly valued by LinuxCareer.com and, thus, is presented in this article. He's been with Red Hat since 2003 and finds interesting ways to apply his knowledge of open source both in his job and outside of his career. He recently self-published a book, "The foundation for an open source city", that outlines how to implement an open source city brand through open government.

LinuxCareer.com: What kind of experience, education or background do you expect from a volunteer writer?

Jason Hibbets: One of the tasks I handle with opensource.com is to identify contributors from the open source community and curate content that we can publish on the site. We look for all sorts of experience on a variety of levels. This includes project maintainers and contributors, but also folks who are applying their knowledge of open source in interesting ways. In that sense, our volunteer writers come from all walks of life, some technical, and some far from technical. The common thread is a passion for the open source way. Our mission is to highlight how the open source way is being applied beyond technology--and our contributors are a big part of that mission.

 

LinuxCareer.com: What is your recommendation for those who do not have writing experience but would like to publish on opensource.com?

Jason Hibbets: For those that do not have a lot of writing experience but are interested in sharing their story with opensource.com, we have editors on staff that can help. As an engineer turned writer myself, I know the hardest part is writing things down. Working with one of our editors is part of the community service that we provide. I can attest that my writing has been enhanced from working with members of my team. I would encourage anyone that is looking to get into writing to find a good editor and a trusted circle of friends to bounce ideas around with.

 

LinuxCareer.com: What kind of support do your new volunteer writers receive in order to get their article published on opensource.com?

Jason Hibbets: Before an article is published on the site, new volunteers work with our editors to finalize their article. After we collaborate on an article with our contributors, we optimize articles for search engine optimization (SEO) and then our team does a lot of work to promote the story after it's been published. Beyond the editorial assistance and content preparation, we send out a weekly email highlighting content on the site and distribute content to other sites that may find the topic interesting. Many times, articles from our volunteers end up in our social media streams on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. We try to do our part to make sure that the content we spend so much time creating with our volunteer writers gets promoted appropriately.

 

LinuxCareer.com: Except of the guidelines for authors published on opensource.com do you have additional tips or advice for article writers, which would help them to get their article approved?

Jason Hibbets: A few things come to mind for volunteers looking to get published on opensource.com. First, have a good story and headline. A great headline helps set the stage for a story. Our team is definitely available to help with headlines. Second, avoid the marketing fluff--we remove most of it anyway. Third, our audience really likes the behind the scenes stories and articles that show how open source is having a huge impact on society.

 

LinuxCareer.com: What is the ratio between the submitted and published articles on opensource.com and what are the most common reasons for dismissing an article?

Jason Hibbets: I don't have the exact numbers for how many articles that get dismissed. One reason is we get a lot of incoming SPAM from "guest writers" who want to provide us quality content. Sometimes it's hard to tell who is real in those cases. Most articles that don't make the cut are too vague, don't give enough details, or it's a vapor ware project. Sometimes, article proposals just aren't a good fit for our site or they don't have an open source angle. We like to report on things that are realistic, making a real change, or something that we think has a lot of potential.

 

LinuxCareer.com: There are clearly outlined moderator benefits on the opensource.com website. Do you offer any benefits to other volunteer writers?

Jason Hibbets: We launched a community moderator program earlier this year for selected contributors that have thrived in creating content for the site. [5] While currently informal, sometimes we'll send a t-shirt and swag package to our top contributors or volunteers going to open source conferences. We are investigating ways to use our points and badge system to reward community contributions on a more formal basis.

 

LinuxCareer.com: Do Red Hat recruiters see resumes, which list publications on opensource.com as more valuable?

Jason Hibbets: I would hope that any recruiter would value open source contributions no matter what form they take. It could be code, it might be commits, bug fixes, documentation, design work, or an article on opensource.com. The best part about open source communities is that a lot of our work is transparent and publicly visible, which gives it more value than a list of items on a resume.

 

LinuxCareer.com: Do you think that publishing articles on opensource.com helps authors to find a job or progress in their IT career? Do you have any particular experience within Red Hat?

Jason Hibbets: I think that opensource.com is a platform for both experienced and up-and-coming authors. Our platform can certainly help someone looking to advance their career by building their resume of work with quality content published on a respected publication. We have a global platform with a robust distribution system that can help to get someone's name and their story to the open source community and beyond. I don't know if someone has landed a job because they published an article on our site, but if they did, I'd love to know about it. I do know that some of our contributors have landed speaking engagements at conferences and other venues because of a topic they wrote about on opensource.com.

 

LinuxCareer.com: Would you like to share some personal experience in regards to publishing on the Web, which helped you in your IT career?

Jason Hibbets: I recently self-published a book, "The foundation for an open source city", [6] based on a number of articles that were published on opensource.com. I was able to re-purpose those articles and incorporate them into my book because the content was published under a Creative Commons BY-SA license. [7] Being an author of a book that has sold over 400 copies has opened up a variety of opportunities for my career.

Conclusion

Variety of subjects are covered by Linux oriented websites, therefore people with various experience and knowledge can contribute to such portals. Linux related websites are also prepared to accommodate beginner writers by providing relevant editing guidance. Moreover, to keep their volunteer writers motivated, such websites often offer rewards to their authors. By actively participating in the Linux community as a volunteer writer you undoubtedly enrich your resume. You use the power of the publishing website to promote your articles, which in turn promotes your name and enormously improves your Web presence. Consequently, you increase your chances in the competitive IT employment market.

References

[1] http://www.gnu.org/server/standards/README.translations.html

[2] https://translations.launchpad.net/

[3] http://www.efytimes.com/e1/fullnews.asp?edid=113209

[4] http://www.osnews.com/submit

[5] http://opensource.com/community-moderator-program

[6] http://theopensourcecity.com/

[7] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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