Saturday, October 25, 2014

There's so many projects, which one should I choose to pursue?

I want to switch gears and talk about my own experience in starting to contribute to an open source project. First I want to make a big disclaimer. Applying to OPW and choosing from active projects with vetted mentors made things A LOT easier. An advantages of this is that you have someone to contact who is first and foremost interested in mentoring someone, and willing to do so for a substantial amount of time.

OPW has several participating organizations to choose from, and under each of those organizations there are several projects with available mentors. The choice of projects is slightly overwhelming, since they all sound interesting. Since I am not an experienced developer, I thought it would be better to choose an organization whose product I was currently a user, thus providing me with some familiarity. My next selection criteria was language proficiency in the project's source code. Goodbye javascript projects! This narrowed the projects down to a reasonable amount to explore and subsequently make an educated choice. I found several suitable projects and honestly I would be more than happy to work on any of them but GNOME Keysign sparked my interest the most. It's a small project with less infrastructure than some of the other projects, which I initially had some concerns about but now I see as a potential strength. My previous post has a link to the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a small versus larger project. For me, I think there will be a lot of valuable insights into learning how a newer project is developed. I contacted the mentor of the project, Tobias, and found him to be prompt in responding and a very agreeable fellow. :-) After discussing a feasible project timeline, the advantage of working on a smaller project really shined. There was a lot of variety, which I think will maximize the amount of things that I could learn. So far, things have worked out really well. The application process requires at least one contribution and I have been able to submit a few and hope to submit more, which brings me to the realization, "Look at me! I'm contributing!" Regardless of being accepted into the program, I've already achieved my goal of getting involved in open source.

I hope, however, that for someone who is reading this who is either not eligible to apply or not obsessed with OPW like I am, finds that my experience is generally translatable. Had I not found OPW, I would most likely either be at the Mozilla or GNOME bugzilla page facing similar dilemmas and wondering where to go next. It probably would have been more of a hit and miss, but I think I would of followed a similar path as above.

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