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I'm part of a small software development team. It happens that one of my greatest hobbies is actually, software development. In my free time, I enjoy contributing to several open source projects.
When I'm at work, we always go out for a break the same five people: me, three of my colleagues, and our boss. While we're having coffee, a usual conversation subject is about our hobbies, what did we do during the weekend, that kind of things. And when I'm asked "what about you?", I usually answer something like "Well, I went out for beer with my friends, you know." I always avoid talking about my open source stuff, because I'm afraid my colleagues might think that I'm an arse-licker desperately trying to get a promotion if I say that I spent that rainy sunday afternoon coding just for fun.

Do you think it's a good idea? Do you think I should keep it secret or not?

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, Jan Doggen, Jim G., jcmeloni, mhoran_psprep Dec 18 '14 at 12:46

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • And just to be clear, you're a software developer in the team and not another role? – Telastyn Dec 16 '14 at 21:27
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    Yes, sorry. We're all software developers. – Ander Juaristi Dec 16 '14 at 21:29
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    I don't see why answering honestly about your weekend when asked would be considered brownnosing, but if you really feel that they would interpret it like that you can avoid the question, "I played around on my computer all day" rather than outright lying. – IllusiveBrian Dec 16 '14 at 21:34
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    Sorry you got a -1. +1 from me. If coding is fun then share it or not. I enjoy exercise and I volunteer at a dog shelter but I don't share that to people that don't get it. – paparazzo Dec 17 '14 at 2:26
  • 1) I would make sure first that your boss knows (does he?) 2) Genuine enthousiasm has nothing to do with arse-licking. If you have colleagues that don't see the difference, that's their problem. 3) Voting to close your question as 'primarily opinion-based' – Jan Doggen Dec 17 '14 at 7:36
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If you lie about what you do in order to appear "normal", then aren't you actually being an "arse-licker" desperately trying not to appear like being an "arse-licker"? Be yourself. The rest will sort itself out. Worrying about what other people think in this context is counter-productive.

If they show disinterest in the details of what you did, then leave it basic. "Eh, I stayed in, worked a little on OpenFooSource. Did some cool stuff with it, really." If they ask questions and show interest, dive deeper.

If you look at it from the other perspective, what if the topic that interested you was not software related? How would that impact how you would talk about it? I'd think the same way. If your colleagues show disinterest, keep it simple and undetailed. Otherwise, let them have the brunt of your enthusiasm.

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    I think there is another side to this story, in that he doesn't want to come off as one-dimensional because his interests do not appear to be diverse. – Chris C Dec 16 '14 at 22:22
  • @ChrisC: I can see that point, but in his question he says he usually answers Well, I went out for beer with my friends, you know. This leads me to think that's not really an issue in this specific case. – Joel Etherton Dec 17 '14 at 13:13
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No stranger than the session musician who also composes his own stuff on his spare time, or the artist who creates/keeps a few things for their own use rather than for sale, or for that matter the homeowner who does some of their own maintenance rather than hiring someone to do it...

Seriously, in my experience any programmer who didn't come to the field ONLY because they heard it paid fairly well will have a pile of personal projects that they may or may not be actively pursuing depending on how much time they've been able to give this versus their other commitments/interest. I really don't think that any techie type would consider you weird, or even be particularly surprised, that you do some programming on your own time as well. (They might consider what you're actually writing weird, but that's a separate question.)

One of the positive definitions of "hacker" is "someone who does for pleasure the same thing others do only when paid to do it." By that definition, almost any hobbyist is a hacker at one level or another.

If it's worth doing, do it proudly. If it's FUN and not bothering anyone (note that I consider violating copyright to be "bothering someone"), do it proudly. If others are confused, they probably need some confusion in their lives.

Just don't force it on them if they aren't interested in hearing about it. Boring them (as with any hobby) is a larger risk than confusing them.

  • Terrific identification on the musician/artist angle. Not something I'd really considered. – Joel Etherton Dec 18 '14 at 13:25
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Yes, tell them. I don't see how you'd conclude that they would think you are sucking up to the boss when you were working on non-work related open-source projects. That makes no sense.

If the other programmers are not coding in their off time, and they are threatened by your doing so, its really their problem. Professionals should be learning on their own. That is default state for programmers.

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    If only that were the default state of professional programmers... – Telastyn Dec 16 '14 at 21:54
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It depends.

In some work cultures, it's common to share your personal projects, and it's "weird" to not have some. In some work cultures, it's common to have non-computer hobbies and it's "weird" to not have some. And sadly, interpersonal relationships largely depend on being like others.

Also, it depends on your perception within the company. At my last company, I was described as "intimidating" without talking about how I code up programming languages for the fun of it in my off hours. That story wouldn't have helped me sell the version of myself that needed to be sold there.

I wouldn't keep it a secret per se, but how you frame the stories you tell goes a long way to how people will react.

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Do you think it's a good idea? Do you think I should keep it secret or not?

I think it depends on the culture at your job. Some companies would prefer if their Software Developers didn't work on any side projects, especially if you are salaried.

For example, if you don't finish a task on time, one may wonder: "Maybe he/she didn't finish on time because they were busy working on their side project."

I am very cautious about these things; so if you don't hear anyone else discussing side projects, it may be because they already know something about the company culture, rather than they don't code in their off time.

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