How to Create Open Source Project in Github

Creating open source project in github has become easier these days. Open source licenses are important for developers to understand because open source is about collaboration and sharing of software code. This article aims at discussing the licensing aspects of creating a new open sourced project, which is hosted on Github.

Open source is for developers to work on a project and share it with the world. It’s easy to create a new Git repo in GitHub (and it’s free). This guide will walk you through the steps of creating your first open source project and sharing your code on GitHub.

Find Your Motivation

It is almost impossible to game the GitHub Trending section:

GitHub’s definition (of trending) takes into account a longer term definition of trending and uses more complex measurement than sheer number of stars which helps to keep people from farming the system.

Founders often create startups based on problems they have personally encountered. With open-sourced code, you will likely be trying to solve problems that developer commonly have.

And since gaming the GitHub Trending section is almost impossible, you need a strong motivation – a big, common developer problem – to work on. So how do you stumble onto a developer problem?

Well, for starters you can participate in hackathons, build projects, and experiment with other projects. And you will soon find something which could be made into a library, something you could make a utility out of, and so on.

Your motivation for building your project could come from anywhere. In my case, I explore new Machine Learning papers daily on arXiv (an open-access archive for papers) and read the ones I find interesting. One such paper I read motivated me to build my Python package.

Another time, I was in a hackathon training a Machine Learning model and wanted to participate in other festivities. Our team then decided to build another open-source project called TF-Watcher.

So you see, you’ll likely find all sorts of issues you can work on when you’re building a project.

And just to note – when I say you should have a strong motivation, I do not mean the project should be really huge or really complex. It could certainly be a simple project that could make developers’ lives easier.

Think about it this way: if there was a project like the one you want to develop, would you use it? If the answer is yes, you have enough motivation to build the project, regardless of the size or complexity.

Set a LICENSE file

The first thing you should do is choose a license for your project and ensure the license text lives in the LICENSE file. There are sadly too many projects on GitHub with a missing license and this makes it more difficult for people to use and contribute code.

If you are unsure which license to choose for your project, there are great resources online for choosing what is best for you.

Learn the basics

When working with GitHub, you should know how to use Git – one of the most popular version control tools (also known as revision control tools). Because developers constantly make changes to their code, they need a system that can manage those changes in a central repository. In this way, everyone involved in the development process can download a given piece of software, make changes, and submit updates.

Create a README.md

When you visit a GitHub repo for first time, the README.md file is rendered underneath the code. This is a fantastic opportunity to introduce your project, explain how you build the code, and explain how people can get involved and participate. Remember, .md files are Markdown files and you can use Markdown syntax to make them look all puuuuurty. OK, I admit, that was creepy.

Research Your Idea

Once you find a developer problem you want to solve and have enough motivation to start working on it, you’ll ideally want to spend quite a bit of time doing your research.

I believe it is a good practice to try and answer these questions through your research.

Join the community

You can easily join an open source project by subscribing to the mailing list for that project. You can find mailing lists on official websites or on GitHub pages. After being accepted to the list, you can communicate with team members and get support if necessary. Thanks to the vibrant communities present in nearly every OSS project, you are likely to get quick replies to your questions.

Create a CONTRIBUTING.md

In a similar fashion, the CONTRIBUTING.md file is designed to show how people can participate in a GitHub repo. When this file is present, GitHub will display a little note inviting people to learn more about contributing to your project. Users who click on that link will see the contents of CONTRIBUTING.md.

Again, this is a great opportunity to explain how people can participate. In this file you should provide simple step-by-step instructions for how prospective community members can clone and build the code, explore issues/features to work on, fork the code, contribute back their changes, and which communication channels they can use for help and support.

If something similar does exist, can your project make it better?

If something similar exists, your goals could be to make it more modular or more efficient. You could try implementing it in some other language or improve it in any other number of ways.

A great way to do so is to take a look at the issues for the existing repository. Try doing your research with existing solutions (if there are any) and find out what aspect of the project could possibly be improved. Your work could even be a derivative of the other project.

In my case, as I mentioned, I took inspiration from an interesting research paper I read (Fastformer: Additive Attention Can Be All You Need). I also discovered an official code implementation and a community implementation of the paper, both in PyTorch.

Label bugs as ‘Bitesize’

One of the most difficult areas for a new potential contributor to get started in is learning what they can work on to help with a project. Of course, the list of issues is often a good place to start, but many issues are riddled with context and nuance which can make this difficult.

A simple solution to this is to create a Bitesize label that you can apply to bugs that would be simple for beginners—this could include minor UI issues, string issues, translations fixes, and more. Simply label these bugs when you triage them and then provide a URL in your README.md and CONTRIBUTING.md files to point prospective contributors at the list to get started.

Conclusion

Open source projects are very popular and it’s a good way to learn how to program. Github is a great resource for open source projects, so you can easily find code snippets and make adjustments to them.  

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