Six ways to give back to open source code and communities

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Contribute to open source! It will look great on your resume! It is rewarding work!

You may have heard people make these statements, or similar statements, many times throughout your career. They’re not wrong: contributing to open source is a rewarding endeavor in many ways.-corn, When software engineers advise other software engineers to contribute to open source, it usually means code contributions. It’s a fair assumption to make, but the reality is that there are plenty of opportunities to contribute to open source without writing a single line of code.

How? ‘Or’ What? Let’s review some of the non-code opportunities to contribute to open source.

Evangelize

Uncoded contributions to open source often involve evangelism on behalf of the project. If you’re in love with the latest JavaScript plotting library and use it for all your data visualization needs, consider sharing that expertise at a tech conference. It’s a great way to build your own reputation and attract more users to the project.

Report bugs

More users means more bug reports. More bug reports mean more bug fixes. More bug fixes means better software. It’s true! You have now indirectly, but significantly, contributed to the improvement of the software without writing a single line of code.

Mentor

Sometimes these bug reports can be a bit… well, sparse on relevant information. It can take a long time for the main developers of a project to work with the author of the bug report to fully understand the scope of the problem. This precious time can instead be devoted to the development of the project. It’s there that you intervene ! Guiding first-time bug-reporters through the process of writing a good bug report is a valuable and nuanced process that can save the core team of any open source project a lot of headaches. This may involve you writing some code, but ideally you would mentor another developer through the process.

Write

Now, if you don’t like public speaking and you don’t like bugs (and I can’t blame you), you can write words, not code, in the name of open source. Informative blog posts about the particular project are helpful and bring more users back to the project (and all the goodness that comes with it) again. If blogging is too much of an effort for you, consider answering tech questions on mailing lists, StackOverflow, or Twitter. It’s a great way to not only build your own knowledge of the technology, but also contribute to the collective pool of information available about it.

Organize a meeting

If you’re an outgoing, obsessive project manager like me, you might consider hosting workshops or starting a Meetup in your city around the specific open source tool. It gives you a chance to build non-digital communities around the project. These communities can be valuable for people who can’t afford to be online all the time (yes they exist and yes they matter) and for people who prefer to put a face to an avatar when interacting with it. other users about software.

Improve security

Finally, something that is often overlooked in some open source projects is security. If you have experience in cybersecurity or security testing, consider donating your skills to improve the project. Finding and providing patches for security vulnerabilities is a direct way to improve software and user experience around the project.

Conclusion

I never liked the term open-source because it forces developers to think within the tight confines of bytes, bits, and 80-character lines. Open source is much more than that. It’s about open knowledge, open sharing, open growth, open learning, open debate, and a constant push forward. Most good software wasn’t created in front of a computer, and there’s no reason you should limit your ability to contribute open source to a text editor and keyboard.

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