Friday, 22 January 2016

Contributing to Open Source in a Non-Code way

Contributing to open source is a fruitful undertaking but when software engineers ask other software engineers to contribute to open source they usually mean code contributions. There are numerous ways to contribute to open source without writing any code:

  1. Evangelize:  sharing your expertise in a technical talk. This is a great way to develop your own reputation and to attract more users to the project. For example your experiences with Open JDK since Google's fallout with Oracle over Java.

  2. Report bugs:  More users means more bug reports. More bug reports means more bug fixes. More bug fixes means better software. You’ve now indirectly, but meaningfully, contributed to the improvement of the software without writing a single line of code. 

  3. Write: Informative blog posts about the particular project are useful and once again attract more users to the project. If blog posts are too extensive an effort for you, consider answering questions about the technology on mailing lists, StackOverflow, or Twitter. This is a great way to not only develop your own knowledge about the technology, it contributes back to the collective pool of information available about it.

  4. Host a meetup: Consider hosting workshops or starting a Meetup in your town around the specific open-source tool. This gives you a chance to build non-digital communities around the project. These communities can be valuable for individuals who can’t afford to be online all the time (yes, they exist and yes, they matter) and for individuals who prefer to put a face to an avatar when interacting with other users about software.

  5. Improve security:  If you have experience with cybersecurity or security testing, consider donating your skills for the improvement of the project. Finding and providing fixes for security holes is a direct way to improve the software and the user experience around the project.  

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