Varun Nischal - Mining the Blogosphere for Cool NetBeans Tutorials!

The NetBeans Community Docs Program has acquired a new coordinator: Varun Nischal! Learn more about him, how he contributes to the NetBeans Community and why great blog entries about NetBeans make him happy.

Varun Nischal, NetBeans Community Docs Program CoordinatorWelcome Varun! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a third-year Computer Science undergraduate student, studying at the Jaypee Institute of Information Technology University, Noida, India. I am also a Campus Sun Club Coordinator. In that role, I organize various NetBeans-related events to increase adoption of NetBeans in my university. I love coding in C++ and Java and I am an open-source enthusiast with a passion for NetBeans! Apart from programming, I enjoy sketching, computer gaming, sports and biking.

How did you get started with the Community Docs program and eventually become the program's new coordinator?
In August 2007, I took part in a Sun Microsystems contest for Indian students called Code For Freedom Contest. My entry into the competition was to write documentation, and while working on this I met Amit Kumar Saha, then the coordinator of the Community Docs program, and he became my guide. Initially, my goal for writing was just to win, but along the way I developed an interest in the Docs program as well. I got involved on the mailing list, helped out with new contributors and of course, submitted material of my own. Amit was hired by Sun and his coordinator spot was open. James Branam asked if I would be interested in helping to run the program and I happily accepted his offer. (For the Code for Freedom contest, I was acknowledged as a Significant Contributor.)

As the Community Docs Coordinator, what will be your tasks?
Well, there are various tasks: Blogging about the latest happenings in the program. Inviting bloggers to turn their fantastic entries about NetBeans into tutorials, tips & tricks, or screencasts. Reviewing contributions and tweaking them if needed for the program's format. Spotlighting deserving contributors and promoting the program whenever possible.

How many contributions have you made to the knowledge base? What type of topics are you drawn to?
To date, six contributions. Four Tips & Tricks, one article and a quick start guide. Since joining the NetBeans Community and becoming an open-source enthusiast, I have started to explore the technologies that I use, such as MySQL Server, SCM, Web 2.0 and many more. I try to gain a deeper understanding of these technologies and in the process turn my experiences and discoveries into documentation.

As a frequent contributor, you must have tips to share for others about writing tutorials. What makes a good tutorial?
Since becoming a coordinator, I have already seen some amazing blog entries that we have turned into tutorials for the Community Docs program. What they have in common is ease of use even if the stated technology in the tutorial is unfamiliar--you would learn quickly and start to expand your knowledge base confidently. But in general, a good tutorial is one that emphasizes what its audience should learn from the subject matter and how the topic could help them get started with NetBeans comfortably. Recent examples are: Creating EJB3 Sessions Beans Using Netbeans 6.1 and Glassfish by Jair Rillo Junior and Cloning Using Mercurial In NetBeans 6.1 by Tushar Joshi.
Will you continue to contribute tutorials? What are you currently working on?
As mentioned earlier, I contribute documentations based on my exploration of technologies; since this is ongoing, naturally I will continue to submit tutorials, especially for the Tips & Tricks category. These days I am looking into MySQL using NetBeans 6.1 and would love to produce docs related to it. But there are already two very good examples out there: a tutorial and an amazing screencast. I will need to dig a bit deeper before I can come up with something unique and useful beyond what is already available.

Are there projects that you have in mind for expanding the program?
There are two in progress. During the Code for Freedom Contest, I started a Community Docs Mentoring Program in which I gave sessions demonstrating the Wiki Wizard. (The wizard is an applet that provides a rich-text editor, with wiki-syntax highlighting features that make writing documentation easy.) The program will resume again once university reopens. Second, I am working on a plugin with Jay Mahadeokar, a Community Docs contributor, that would enable NetBeans Wiki users to work on their documentations off-line! Amit and I started the first draft in January and then took a break from the project. Now, Jay and I have resumed work on it and I will soon blog about our progress. For those interested in the program's current and future projects, please join our and visit our blog to get updates.

Speaking of blogs, you write three! Please give brief descriptions and tell us how you find time to manage all three.
Actually, I have four blogs. Three of them are technology or NetBeans-related. The fourth one is about sports, which I love as well.

Developer's Kolektiv -  My first-ever blog and originally named prOgramming bOnds. It was a collaborative blog comprising of five authors, where we wrote about any technology (not necessarily NetBeans-related) that we explored.

NetBeans Guru – I created a NetBeans specific blog where I could present my experience with the NetBeans community, mailing lists and supported technologies. To “Learn NetBeans, the NetBeans way”. For example, I have started a series in which I will compare the features of NetBeans IDE to Visual Studio .NET. Another is a bi-weekly report of the ongoing NetBeans Quiz contest. Also, through this blog I have worked on entries that have been turned into Tips and Tricks documentation for the Community Docs program.

NetBeans Community Docs Blog – A blog specifically for the Community Docs program and which only members of the Community Docs Team can write for. We blog about the latest we have from Community Docs program, to share with the community. Everyone's invited to browse and leave comments and suggestions.

ManUtd Back With A Bang – I guess the blog tagline is enough to give an overview of this blog: “Fans that have gone crazy to see Man United make a fabulous comeback in English Football”. My friend and I blog here about events related to Manchester United.

You also asked about time management. I'm often glued to my computer, whether studying or blogging. Initially, it was tough but I gradually worked on my time management skills. For example, I develop a raw idea for a blog entry, save it as a draft and refine it in stages before publishing. This way, I am able to devote other hours to my studies and other activities.

Any closing thoughts?
Open source projects exists because of the kind of community support they get. Some of that support  comes in the form of users documenting their experiences with that project, via blogs, articles or reviews. I am happy to be a part of that process through the Community Docs program.

Thank you Varun and good luck in your new role!
(June 2008)

More Links

NetBeans Community Docs Program
NetBeans Community Docs Mailing List: dev at usersguide dot netbeans dot org
How to Write a Tutorial for NetBeans
Community Docs Mentoring Program (JIIT University)

Not logged in. Log in, Register