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Contributing to OSS

mgh87 profile image Martin Huter ・1 min read

Hey guys out there! If you are like me you are using most of your time coding some bits of OSS. Have you ever thought about contributing to some of those nice frameworks, services and all this other cool stuff? Well I did, but I got to tell you I did not really achieve a lot.

I did some smaller pull requests on GitHub or tried to help to solve a issue with the investigation process. But that's it.

Whats your approach to contribute to OSS

I would like to know the stories of you guys and girls out there how you tackle this subject, or if you even tackle it? Have you any trick to select a good project that's worth your time?

How to improve my way to make a larger impact to the OSS world

Sooo, in future I want to sacrifice a hour every week to work on OSS, and try to report at dev.to about my progress, to have additional motivation to procrastinate this process anymore. This is about 0.5% of my time that should be doable.

Annex

First I wanted to thank @marek for his article about writing more, which motivated to put myself out there.

Second I want to thank dev.to that there editor is in markdown, since I use this language on daily bases to write documentation, it was really easy to adjust.

Image origin: https://pixabay.com/

Posted on by:

mgh87 profile

Martin Huter

@mgh87

Professional Java developer, who is really into DevOps. Playing around with all kinds of technology to get to know stuff.

Discussion

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I run an Open Source workshop, where attendees get guided help finding and submitting PRs. So far almost 100 people have attended 4 workshops. Attendees have successfully contributed to countless projects in the NodeJS, Ruby and Python ecosystems.

I've personally contributed to dozens of '10K+ Star' GitHub projects across many languages. JS, Ruby, Shell, Go, etc. Also I've written plenty of examples & fixes on Mozilla's MDN site.

The secret is: next time you find something broken, fix it. Next time a README lacked sufficient examples, causing you to reach for a new google search... Go back and fix it once you find the missing piece!
Specifically, copy-and-paste it in the place that would have made your experience easier.

I'm talking about documentation, as it's a great place to start. It's low commitment, high impact.

For example, a single-line commit I landed in the React Router docs changed the default home page content - I didn't write a line of content, yet potentially helped thousands of devs. I simply helped connect the dots for future devs. This led to a few increasingly substantial contributions, and a shout-out from one of the projects co-creators on twitter.

This is a clear demonstration of one of the biggest & most overlooked benefits: building out your network.

 

My approach doesn't focus on being an active contributor to Open Source, rather I contribute fixes back to the community as I encounter unresolved bugs with the dependencies I'm using. Instead of superficially solving the problem within my application code, I would acquaint myself with the code running the dependency, make the correction, and submit that fix back to the community.

Worth noting with the open source community: You're going to have expectations, and then there's going to be the reality for each project. Some projects might align with your expectations for collaboration, and some are going to feel like a ghost town when you try to contribute. In 2017, I submitted a fix to a critical (breaking) defect for an MDM plugin that Oracle authored. They never looked at the PR, and they haven't pushed any new releases to address the bug.

 

Yeah, not even rejected pull requests are a bummer!

Well often a proper bug report is even harder then the resulting fix ;).