One of the first pieces of advice I got before graduating from bootcamp was to get involved in open source. I browsed around GitHub. I looked at issues. I peeked into code bases. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t quite feel like I had the capabilities to jump in and start working on an issue. Skill-wise, could I? Maybe, depending on the repository. Confidence-wise? No way. I was a career-changer with ten years of expertise in English and zero years of expertise in coding. But, if someone would have told me that I could start where I was most comfortable, without writing code, I think I could have eased my way into the open source waters sooner. Open source projects don’t always require code contributions; in fact, non-code contributions can be as valuable as code contributions.
Good documentation helps users understand how to use the software, troubleshoot issues, and contribute to the project. Contributing to documentation is a great way to get involved in open source without needing to know how to code. Sometimes documentation needs to be updated. Other times directions need to be clarified–if you’re struggling to understand something as part of the documentation process, chances are that someone else is too. Sometimes it needs to be written.
Project Highlight: The Odin Project
One way to contribute to The Odin Project is by helping to improve their documentation. You can contribute to their curriculum repository by suggesting improvements, reporting errors, or adding new documentation. They also have a great Contributing Guide to help onboard new contributors.
User experience (UX) design is another valuable non-code contribution. UX designers can help OSS projects improve their user interfaces, making them more intuitive, accessible, and user-friendly. This could involve reviewing the project's design and identifying any accessibility issues, such as color contrast or font size, and suggesting improvements. You could also help create accessible design elements, like icons or buttons for the project.
Project Highlight: WordPress
WordPress is an open source content management system and has a dedicated team of UX designers who work on improving the user experience of the platform. They advertise their vision for getting designers involved in their all-volunteer team and highlight ways to do that on their Make WordPress Design page.
They also have a Make WordPress Accessible page that outlines how volunteers can get involved to improve accessibility.
Because so much of the code we write is for a global user base, many repositories actively seek translations to reach a broader audience and provide a better experience for non-native speakers.
OpenStreetMap is a collaborative project that aims to create a free and editable map of the world. It’s built by a community of mappers who contribute and maintain data about roads, buildings, landmarks, and other points of interest around the world. Within their documentation on how to contribute, they include a section on Translate! to provide access to more users and provide directions on the translation contributing process.
Supporting open source projects is more than code and documentation. There are users who need supported and developers who need to learn more. There’s always a way to create a safer and more stable space for the community. You can do this by sharing projects you enjoy using, writing blog posts that include their product, speaking about their product at meetups and conferences, and providing feedback to the maintainers.
Project Highlight: Appwrite
Appwrite is a backend platform for developing Web, Mobile, and Flutter applications. Their CONTRIBUTING.md file highlights all of the different non-code ways that contributors can help to support their project.
A strong and welcoming community often leads to a healthy open source project. Community can be one of the most time-consuming parts of maintaining a project. Questions need answered, examples need to be created, clarifying information, and creating clear paths of communication are all important to supporting a community. Often open source projects rely on volunteers to ensure the community is supported and thriving.
Project Spotlight: Directus
Directus is a real-time API and App dashboard for managing SQL database content. Within their contributing doc, Directus shares that one way to contribute is by Helping Others.
You don’t have to know how to code to get involved in open source, and contributing isn’t just for developers. We all use products that use open source software. Finding ways to give back that’s within our skillset benefits the projects, the tech community, and everyone who’s using products that use open source software. This is a short list of projects and examples that accept non-code contributions. If you want to see a longer list, check out the Twitter thread here. If you want to explore more repositories, check out OpenSauced Insights.