Vishwanath Krishnamurthi's blog

A blog on Java EE, clean code, open source and TDD

Contributing to open source projects

with one comment

Recently I was voted as a committer at the lovely OpenEJB project !  Am I excited ? You bet !
For a long time I had wanted to contribute to Open Source projects that I love. Like everything takes a start somewhere, my start was at the OpenEJB project a few months back. Thanks to the friendly folks there who are great at mentoring, I’ve come to understand a few things  about “contributing to open source projects” in general, which I thought I’d share.

So which project to contribute to ?

The answer is pretty simple. Whichever project/projects that interest you.

But the project looks daunting.

Yes it might be. But there’s no rush to understand everything all at once. There’s always a small piece of work, to start from. Building an understanding is a gradual process…

What are the first things?

Get in touch with the folks at the project.

Almost all projects have a mailing list. Subscribe to the mailing list and observe what’s going on.. But without being shy or hidden for long, pop out a “Hi” to the folks there, just introducing yourself. You could ask them to suggest simple pieces that you could start with.

Mental Todos versus Saying a Hi ?

We make mental todos like “Wow.. This project is so good. I must get involved and contribute..” but never really start at it. I think saying a “Hi” and getting in touch,  works better than making mental todos.

Mailing lists are great and essential because members work from different timezones and there’s a need for asynchronous communication.

But that’s not the only way to get in touch. Most projects have an IRC chat,.. so you could chat up !

Contribute ? But I am not an expert… 

You don’t have to be !  Whether you are a beginner or an expert in that technology is not a factor for contributing to an open source project.

Just ,

1) Your interest

2) Time you could afford

would be the factors.

Don’t have hours to spend ? No big deal…

It’s of course great if you could have a few hours everyday to spend at the project. But even if you don’t, there are things you could to with the limited time. Like

1) Answer a user’s question

2) Document something

3) Blog a “how-to”

4) Read up some project docs and get better.

It’s not all about patches and code !

A must read…

I hope to add more to this post later on, but check out the awesome  “contribution tips” OpenEJB doc.   Excellent tips there !!

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Written by Vishwanath Krishnamurthi

December 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Thoughts

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. Fantastic post! You captured it quite well. Most people wait to make contact till they have something “important” to say or they have a patch for review. With a really good community, a simple “hi” can do wonders.

    David Blevins (@dblevins)

    December 11, 2011 at 9:39 pm


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