Getting started with Open Source Contribution

The best thing about FOSS projects is that fact that it enables us to contribute back and it’s a rewarding experience both in terms of the way you can help yourself and projects you are working on, as well as the countless number of others you may help with your contribution. Contributing to open source for the first time can be scary and a little overwhelming. And  majority of people are stuck at taking initiative or that first step. This post is mainly aimed that specific group of people.

The baby steps
Once you have made your intentions clear, you can lookout for projects that need help. GitHub Explore is a good place to begin with. The obvious way is to contribute to the code base. Perhaps you have been fixing bugs in a particular piece of software that you use in your projects. Maybe you have created a new addition to a library that you think will be helpful to others as part of the larger project. These and many other types of everyday tasks that programmers do are perfect examples of ways to give back to the open source community.

But you don’t necessarily have to write code to contribute. Projects are almost always looking for help with creating or updating documentation and the web sites and other items that accompany them. If someone doesn’t know why a project exists or how to use it, what reason would they have to give it a try? Telling someone in an effective way what a project is for and how to use it is just as important as providing the code for them to use. And it doesn’t end there. From helping to maintain infrastructure to event planning, projects need help in many areas beyond the code.


Projects and project maintainers vary, so the best way to contribute will also vary. Keep your eye open for a doc labeled CONTRIBUTING. Contributing docs detail the specifics about how a project’s maintainer would like to see patches or features contributed. This can include what tests to write, code syntax style or areas to focus on for patches. Read more

In the beginning look out for issues which are labeled #beginner-friendly, #first-timer-only #new-comers #beginners which are tasks easier to try. Firstly, use and get familiarized with the project you want to contribute to get a fair understanding of how it works. As mentioned earlier, it’s not always about coding – you can work on making the documentation better or add better ‘Getting Started’ tutorials – which all essentially counts as a contribution.

These are websites/projects which lists various projects which have curated tasks specifically for new contributors :

Open Source isn’t as scary as it seems. Go out there now and offer your help, time and assistance to your favorite project. Promote them, use them, fix their spelling and bugs. Good luck everyone! May the #FOSS be with you 🙂

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