2012/29 Ways to Get Started in Open Source Today

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Learn how to get started in open source. You can help your favorite open source project, even if you don’t think you’re “a good enough programmer”. You just have to know where to start, and here you’ll learn 29 different starting points where you can pitch in and make a difference in the software that you use every day.

Speaker: Asheesh Laroia

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Contributed notes

(These notes are some key points from Asheesh's slides, interspersed with some of his comments that were not on the slides.)

"A bunch" of ways to get started in open source


  • Identify specific ways people can get involved -- real things you can do today.
  • Experimental version of this talk.

Items formatted like this are takeaway to-dos! (They're underlined in the slides)

Example: Greg Grossmeier(?)'s experience with Ubuntu

1. Pick a project. What's a good project to help out with?

Best project to help on: one you use.

2nd best: one you want to use. (But it needs some tweak)

Listen and learn

Get a sense of what the community for that project is like. What is the project's workflow? What's being worked on? What does the project value? Is the project active?

(Most open source projects have ONE contributor. Many are not being actively developed.)

  • Join a mailing list
  • Read blogs of leaders, or the "Planet".
  • Join IRC channel
  • Attend a user group meeting.

... or start a new user group.

Greg started one in Michigan. Created group online.

Introduce yourself (and have a plan).

Greg looked at where everyone who signed up was, suggested they should meet in Western Detroit. Said "we don't need to be drunk in 10 minutes, maybe 30."

 cf: http://markmail.org/thread/yyczvz7g5io74wyf

Welcome a newcomer.

Part 2. Bugs

Bug management

Enhance a bug report.

  • Confirm reports (verify it's a bug on your machine too)

Thank someone.

Isolate a bug.

In other words, determine how to reproduce the bug.

 cf: http://sscce.org/

A bug ticket is not a static document.

Part 3. Publicity

Tweet/dent some news.

Or blog. Etc.

Talk at a user group

Do you know anything? Do you use any software? Talk about it.

Part 4. My path as a newbie

Learn that open source exists

Learn to use some open source software

Aasheesh was excited to find an operating system he could run that didn't crash every 20 minutes like Windows 98 did for him. But couldn't mount ReiserFS; it almost worked but needed filesystem check, which kept crashing. Sent email to kernel developer list, spent time on the phone with someone in Russia (probably), who eventually sent a patch that worked. Aashish was 15 and was amazed by this. (Rightly so.)

Test a beta or release candidate

Answer a question

Document a process

Aasheesh documented "hard-drive hot swap" for running Linux on Xbox without making hardware changes.

Fix the website

Part 5. Even more ways

Silence a compiler warning.

For example, silence a deprecation warning.

Document an API: Examples!

Write a test

Translate something.

cf. http://translatewiki.net/

Ubuntu has a page for this.

Part 6. If you are still feeling intimidated

You are invited. That's why everything is done in public; e.g., bug trackers.

Training missions: http://openhatch.org/missions/

openhatch.org has a tool for finding Open Source projects.