Contributing to an open source project

You don’t have to be a software developer to contribute to an open source project – there are all sorts of ways you can get involved, whether you are experienced or a newcomer, technically minded or otherwise inclined. In our forthcoming briefing note (update: now published and called Roles in open source projects), we identify and describe just some of the other roles you could fulfil:

  • writing documentation
  • translating
  • supplying graphics and artwork
  • providing user support
  • providing feedback on the user experience
  • assisting with testing and quality assurance
  • evangelising about the project and marketing
  • providing monetary donations and developer support

The exact roles and mechanisms for contributing will be described in an individual project’s governance document, and will vary between projects. But all open source projects welcome contributions and attempt to make the process as easy as possible. The Ubuntu project website, for example, gives very clear guidelines on contributing, explaining exactly how to get involved in whichever aspect of the project interests you.

Participating in an open source software community may seem an intimidating prospect at first, but remember that the community is ultimately made up of people, and those people are all working towards a common goal. Taking the time to plan your involvement by consulting the project’s website and getting to know the community will smooth the path to a successful and fulfilling collaboration.

2 thoughts on “Contributing to an open source project

  1. Debianero

    Nice article.

    Everybody can contribute to an open source project even if s/he doesn’t have time, v.g. seeding (I’m talking about p2p) he/r favorite distribution or application or whatever as long it’s free software.

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