Thursday, April 12, 2007

How to contribute to the open source community

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I just got into the open source trend. You know, where people write software just for fun, and if they like it they make it available for the rest of the world... Some of it is not so good, actually, and you might get lost in their code, and you might start wondering what are you doing with that code after all... Come on, you would say, I could have written a much better code than that. And even contribute it to the community...

But there a lot of very good pieces out there, that you should be using instead of writing from scratch. They have good quality of the code, well architected and flexible, and also good documentation that teaches you how to best use it, and they allow you to post bugs, and even to fix the bugs if you know how...

All this good stuff is usually made not by only one person, but a whole team that has been working in their spare time just to make everything better.

And the best thing is that any of us could be contributing to make it better. It doesn't matter if you can't write code, in the same language or in any other language for that matter. It only matters if you have good ideas, and you are willing to share them for free.

So most of us could be contributing to the open source community. The best synthesis on how to contribute I found it here: http://www.nongeekperspective.com/2006/09/5-ways-to-contribute-to-open-source.html

In summary, the author identifies 5 ways to do it (actually they are 6):

  1. Contribute quality: help to make a better project, better looking and with new features
  2. Contribute documentation: Some Open Source projects have a poor or insufficient documentation
  3. Contribute support: everybody need it at least once. Let programmer do their work while you help other people
  4. Contribute money: many Open Source projects have a donate button or a shop where to buy related products, but there are other ways to contribute money
  5. Contribute publicity: If the project gets popular there will be more people wanting to contribute
  6. Contribute appreciation: it's an extra way to contribute but may be the most important.

Well, enjoy your reading, and send me your comments!