Chef: Top 10 Ways To Get Help

This blog is one of a series of blogs on the challenges of learning Chef, ops, and the technical world of IT all in one motion. Jeff Carapetyan is an Ops consultant concentrating on basic Chef work, and is sometimes available for contracts in the Austin area.

The first step is admitting that you have a problem

So you're finally attacking that Chef problem head-on, and you're not having all the luck you need. How did I know such things? Well, for starters you are visiting this site, so you are looking for help. Second, I went through the same thing. So without further ado, here is a list of resources that have helped me along the way on getting over Chef troubles.

  • Not just a good site, but THE site to start off with. While this wasn't necessarily true a year ago, it has dramatically improved, and is an excellent resource for learning the basics of Chef.
  • If you want more in-depth explanations on pieces of Chef and code examples, this is the place to go. As a warning, in a lot of cases you have to have a good understanding of Chef and Ruby to work your way through some of the examples.
  • Chef office hours: This is one of the little known secrets that Chef for some reason doesn't broadcast too much. For two hours every thursday afternoon, a Chef onboarding engineer answers your questions regarding basic pieces of how to get started. What's more important, is that it is all FREE! That is a big thing for small shops like mine. Need to have Google Hangouts to use though.
  • If you are looking for better real-world code examples, then feel free to check out a lot of advanced community cookbooks and see how more production ready code is written. As another warning this will only be a short-term solution, as it being replaced by an open source option called Chef supermarket. Caution: please note issues mentioned in separate blog on problems with community cookbooks.
  • IRC channel: Yes, people still use IRC channels. This is the center of advanced topics and specific questions regarding Chef (A lot of which can go over my head). This can be a good place to meet and discuss what you are working on, and find a lot of solutions. Results highly variable though.
  • github: There is an endless supply of cookbooks, plugins, gists, and discussions regarding Chef on github. All you have to do is search and include the word 'cookbook', and odds are, you will find something helpful.
  • Food Fight Show: This a great podcast that covers not only the discussion of Chef, but the approaches and principles behind DevOps as a whole. There is a huge backlog of content on the site, so while they don't always do a weekly podcast, you shouldn't run out of episodes to watch anytime soon.
  • Okay, it isn't an exclusively Chef oriented thing (Platform agnostic as far as I know), but for those of you who plan on testing your code sometime in the future, it is a great place to start. This is something that you should start looking at after you figure out the basics of Chef. Don't overload yourself.
  • Meetup groups: When I started with Chef, I had the good fortune of being in a city with a monthly Chef meetup group. It got me more involved in the Chef community, and alowed me to get answers to questions face to face. If you don't have one, don't worry, there are plenty of other groups out there that have Chef users who can help you. Or start your own! 
  • Ask me: As a person who loves teaching and helping, feel free to contact me regarding what you are going through. I might actually be able to help out.