Saturday, October 18, 2014

Getting involved with FOSS

I mentioned in my last post that the GNOME OPW page was a great place to find information on how to get started in contributing to open source, regardless of your gender. It wasn't that long ago that I was at a total loss of how to get started, and now I'm almost overwhelmed by the list of resources at my disposal.  When I asked others about contributing, the advice I received was to look through the list of projects on github, particularly the trending repositories. Github is a very useful tool in finding open projects; however as a beginner it was like finding a needle in a stack of needles, without knowing what the needle looked like.

Before I forget, I wanted to highlight a few pages that I found very helpful. The first one is kind of a no-brainer It matches your interests with prospective projects in a much friendlier format than other sites. Simply put, their mission is "lowering the barriers to entry into the open source community and increasing diversity." I have to say, I felt a shade of crimson rising up into my face when I admitted that I had never heard of this site. You would think that this might be the first place you'd find when searching "how to contribute to open source." In my defense, that exact google search did not display the OpenHatch result on the first page.

With so many projects available to work on, how do you find a good match? My own personal advice would be to find a project with a very clear developer's page and list of resources on how to contribute. A good, basic "how to contribute" page has information on how to build the system, where to find tasks or bugs to work on, and how to submit these patches. I'll use GNOME Love as a great page for newbies seeking to contribute, GNOME love has the previous attributes but it also has tutorial pages, a list of mentors to contact, and most importantly a mailing list and irc channel devoted specifically to those needing additional help. More than that, they even have a mock bug that you can report, fix, and patch with step by step instructions on how to it. Here's another page that I liked, An experienced developer takes us through a five minute tour of what she looks for in an evaluating a prospective project that she is interested in getting involved. I like this page because it's pretty helpful if you're looking at several projects and you don't want to spend all day deciding if one of those projects is for you.

The last resource is from a previous wikimedia mentor to a former OPW student. She's clearly thought deeply about mentoring and she has a lot of useful advice. She is also a prolific writer and you may find her blog of general interest, She has several entries that include help for new open source people, what a good mentor/internship relationship should look like, choosing a young versus older open source project, etc... You could spend several days exploring her blog.

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