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How to find programming mentor?

I've been teaching myself basic programming (I can drink 99 bottles of beer with Ruby pretty fast) and I have a decent amount of experience working with simple web servers and deploying PHP based applications (Wordpress or Joomla anyone). I must say I'm quite excited to be learning and developing in the theoretical sense but wouldn't it be great to solve a real-world problem?

Well, I've been helping out a non-profit with some of their web management and have come across a real-world problem that is wildly tedious created by the previous tech volunteer. It involves duplicating 40 HTML files and 40 XML files and editing the contents in a repetitive format. AWESOME RIGHT!? I see an opportunity to make the world a better place by using my new learned skills. I know I can solve it with a script or Ruby application, but the opportunity is not to just build something that makes the computer work better, but the learn better myself. I know if I had the oversight of a mentor or experienced programmer to point out the mistakes or missed opportunities it would turn this golden learning opportunity into platinum. So does the programming community encourage mentoring via experience? Or are my only options: RTFM, pay a pro, or "just figure it out a hopefully it doesn't suck, newb."

So tell me how does a beginner programmer find a mentor for learning from doing?

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marked as duplicate by chrisaycock, S.Robins, Jarrod Roberson, ChrisF May 4 '12 at 7:40

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This is really not the right place to ask career advice. See the FAQ. –  chrisaycock May 4 '12 at 1:31
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Connect with people on LinkedIn, join programming groups on Facebook, post lots of questions, send friend requests and write to the authors of open source projects by showing an interest in their projects. –  Mathew Foscarini May 4 '12 at 1:31
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@ chrisaycock - I already have a career so I don't really need a programming career, sorry about the misundertanding. I'm more interested in the development of craft and problem solving with programming. Up until the last century virtually every craft was passed down from one craftperson to another. –  ChrisFM May 4 '12 at 5:28

1 Answer 1

Start working on the problem.

Break it down into the various high level parts, e.g.

open file 1
apply regexp
regeg should:
search for a
replace with b
etc.

Then try and write some code for each bit. Take each part and break it down into smaller parts and try to write code for them. Any code at all. Then for each part, post your code on one of the Stack Exchange Sites - Overflow, Code Review, Programmers, etc. to help get it working.

Repeat.

This way the Stack Exchange Community will work as your mentors! Think how many there are!

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Thanks Michael - I think you're probably right, I'll need to break it into bite sized chunks and filter through the communities to get a group mentorship experience. –  ChrisFM May 4 '12 at 5:33

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