Turning Sharks into Minnows

Making Open Source Friendly for Potential Contributors

I came across an interesting blog post at The Daily Flux titled “Why I still don’t contribute to open source.” The author lists several reasons as to why he is not an active contributor to open source projects:•    No certification that you are ready to contributeAll open source project managers should look at this list to see what they can do to overcome these issues. I have some ideas that I want to share and I believe there are lots of other answers as well:•    Certification – how does a developer know they are ready to contribute? Communities should publish guidelines on minimum requirements needed for a developer to contribute. For example, programing language used and level of expertise required is useful.

•    Where to start?

•    Guidelines make contributions difficult

•    Open source is for people better than me

•    Feel stupid when failing to contribute

•    There is no time

•    Lonely

•    Start – projects should list open areas looking for developers with people willing to “mentor” newbies. Most developers are willing to help someone get started, especially if they will assist in their feature area

•    Guidelines – community members should regularly review the community processes to ensure they are kept simple and offer step by step guides for newbies

•    Open Source is for everyone – communities should work hard to project an open image that is welcoming to new developers and provide assistance for people trying to submit code for the first time

•    Stupid – all contributors should be acknowledged even if their code is not accepted with an explanation that can assist the developer in future submissions

•    Time – not much any of us can do about this; there are only 24 hours in a day

•    Lonely – most communities have active IRC channels or mailing lists with people communicating all the time; never be afraid to post a question or answer a question. The communication can actually be overwhelming and quickly consume you.

Remember that running a community is not just about existing members but also recruiting and welcoming new members to the project.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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