'But It's Broken!' Advice for First-Time FOSS Project Patch Submitters



You've found a critical error in a widely-used FOSS system, you write a great fix, you submit it... and it is bounced, and you think the reason is lame. What to do? We'll guide you through the political minefield that is submitting your first patch to a FOSS project.


FOSS projects thrive on (indeed, depend on) a constant stream of patches from participants who are not part of the core team of committers. From the outside, the group of people whose patches are selected can appears as exclusive a club as the Order of the Garter. But every core member was a first time submitter once, approaching with their first patch in hand.

We’ll go over how to join and participate with a FOSS community, whether functional or dysfunctional. Every commit has its mores, standards, and quirks, as well as more objective requirements on how to get a patch (whether a feature or fix) into the codebase. Knowing what each community likes to see in a patch, what kinds of features will be well-regarded and which ones will be dismissed out of hand, and learning how to mesh with a group of people just as smart and opinionated as you are all of the essence.

Speaking experience