Getting back to that ROI thing. I’ve found success from being attached to the ui-router project, in particular writing good documentation. Having that under my belt has opened up so many opportunities to me and helped to expand my network. It isn’t why I contribute, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t nice to get that payoff.
There are lots of stories of others who’ve experienced documentation success. Joel Hooks, told me his story. He got his start by writing the documentation for the RobotLegs framework for ActionScript. He stumbled onto his project just like me. After researching it he felt like he found a diamond in the rough. Here was this obscure yet beautiful project. In his heart he knew it needed documentation to become popular. Writing the docs for that one project kickstarted his entire career! He was propelled into an evangelism role for the project and started speaking at conferences (even though speaking was absolutely nerve wracking to him). Writing docs compressed his five year career plan into about one year. Ha, I knew there were kickbacks! He ultimately became a consultant and even wrote a book and now he also teaches important concepts online via articles and video tutorials.
The key point is that he would have never written the RobotLegs framework—it was the stuff of legend—but he could write the fucking docs. I’m crying right now, it’s too beautiful.
I also spoke with Matias Niemelä who found success in a similar fashion. He blogged for a while, mostly about MooTools, hence his site’s name yearofmoo. He started to learn Angular and wasn’t really finding good learning materials on the web (back during the pre-1.0 days). So he made an article on SEO and it was really popular. So he wrote another article and the popularity continued, more and more. This caught the attention of the core team and somewhere between Matias’ third and fourth article Misko (an angular core team member) asked him if he’d be able to help revamp the Angular docs as well as create ng-animate as a contractor for Google. It paid off for Matias.