Contributing to Open Source is no Rocket Science!
There is always a first step in every process, no one is a born genius. It would be wrong to believe that only a genius can be a part of programming. Many people want to be a part of open source but lack knowledge of what their first step should be and also with no confidence they turn their wish down. This blog will guide you how to be a part of open source even if you are no technical expert.
What is Open Source?
The term ‘open source’ refers to something that can be modified because its design is publicly accessible.
When we think ‘Where is software development headed in 2014?’, let us know that ‘Open Source’ originated in the context of computer software development, and today ‘open source’ designates a set of values. Just like software development has progressed all these years, open source- an origin of software development too holds a lot of value today. Open source projects, products, or initiatives are those that embrace and celebrate open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community development.
Open source software has changed computing and the world and this as a result has attracted a lot of you to contribute. Unfortunately, many people are discouraged because they think there’s a high barrier to entry into a project. Three probable reasons why they step back to contribute are:
- Not a very good programmer
- Not enough time
- No knowledge of the project
The core principles that you can grasp to contribute can be as these:
- Projects need contributions from everyone of all skills and levels of expertise
- The smallest of contributions is still more than none
- The best project to start working on is one that you use already
It is certainly not true that you have to be some sort of a genius programmer to contribute to open source. It is devastating to consider this as an obstacle. Certainly, there are those in the open source world who are seen as rock stars, and they may certainly be genius programmers. However, the vast majority of us are not. We’re very ordinary people who just get stuff done. Sometimes we do a little, and sometimes we do a lot. Sometimes it’s programming, and sometimes it’s not. Let’s leave it this simple rather than complicate it.
What actually makes an open source work is real work, time spent making things work out for the project. Designing a new language or a web framework may be taken inspiration from experts but the rest of what makes projects successful is perspiration, your own hard work. This work may not get all the honour, but it’s still necessary, and after a while, your contributions will get acknowledged.
Be a Good Listener
Open Source is open and it is all about people, people are greatly involved. You have to understand the people and the community and know how they function. Negative attitude is not accepted by people. So, talk and more importantly listen to know the requirements of the project.
Bank on Tickets
Code is the catch of any open source project, but here again don’t think that writing code is the only way to contribute. Maintenance of code and the systems surrounding the code often are neglected in the rush to create new features and to fix bugs. Take an easy route to get your foot into a project. Most projects have a publicly visible trouble ticket system, linked from the front page of the project’s website and included in the documentation. It’s the primary channel of communication between the users and the developers. Keeping it current is a great way to help the project. You may need to get special permissions in the ticketing system, which most project leaders will be glad to give you when you say you want to help clean up the tickets.
Modify the code as per existing standards
It’s not an essential criterion to be a coding genius to make real contributions to your favorite project. If your contribution involves modification to the code, investigate the method that the project uses for getting code from contributors. Each project has its own workflow, so ask about how to do it before you set out to submit code. Make sure you represent yourself as a responsible member of the community and keep your code style to match the rest of the code base. Make sure the code you change or modify should match the existing standards.
Community – a key factor
Code contributes a little in open source. It’s the Community that actually makes open source work. Listed below are ways you can build upon it:
- Participate in online forums
- Write a blog post
- Talk, Listen & Discuss
We hope blog has educated the newbies that contributing to open source is no rocket science! Be a part of the community and bring your skills in an open source where you need not be a rock star or a programming expert and just contribute in the ways as mentioned above.