If you are a beginner in the field of technology, open source projects can look overwhelming. Some people think it requires knowledge only experts have. The truth is anyone can contribute to an open source project if they have the right attitude, and their computer has the right programs.
Hey all! Today, i will be sharing with you everything i have learned about contributing to open source through my experience. I am not an expert in this field and still learning a lot of things myself, but the best way to learn something is by doing it. So, I am willing to contribute as much as possible to help beginners like me just get started.
Find a project
However, if you still struggle to find a repository, you can check my OSS Contribution repository. I created it a while ago to help people learn the workflow they use when they make changes to a bigger codebase.
Get to know GitHub
GitHub is the most popular platform for open source collaboration, so you’ll probably use it when exploring the world of OSS. First, you need to create a GitHub account and read the guide that helps you get started. On GitHub, you can contribute to projects by submitting issues and contributing code. Submitting issues means sending messages about errors in applications and suggesting ways to fix them. Contributing code involves sending pull requests with your corrections and improvements.
Improve software you rely on
Lots of open source contributors start by being users of software they contribute to. When you find a bug in an open source software you use, you may want to look at the source to see if you can patch it yourself. If that’s the case, then contributing the patch back is the best way to ensure that your friends (and yourself when you update to the next release) will be able to benefit from it.
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.
Fork the project
After choosing a project, you need to fork the project. But what does “forking” mean? When you fork a project, you make a copy of the original project. That means you can make any changes you want to the forked repository, without affecting the original one.
How to fork a project? To fork a project, you need to go to the repository’s main page and click on the fork button, on the right-hand side.
Find mentors and teach others
Working with others on a shared project means you’ll have to explain how you do things, as well as ask other people for help. The acts of learning and teaching can be a fulfilling activity for everyone involved.
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 branch
Before making and pushing any changes, you have to create a branch. The branch you create holds all your changes. Thus, everyone working on the project can work independently, and without getting into conflict with each other.
When it comes to naming your branch, all open source projects have a naming convention. An example could be your name/ issue fix. For instance, let us say I want to fix a broken article image. My branch would be something like catalinpi/fix broken article image. Alternatively, you can use a branch name like issue-[issue number]. However, make sure you read the rules and guidelines from each project. Every project does it differently.
It’s empowering to be able to make changes, even small ones
You don’t have to become a lifelong contributor to enjoy participating in open source. Have you ever seen a typo on a website, and wished someone would fix it? On an open source project, you can do just that. Open source helps people feel agency over their lives and how they experience the world, and that in itself is gratifying.
Make your changes
After creating the branch, you are ready to make changes to the project.
At this point, you can make code changes, update the documentation, organize the files, or anything else. Always remember that all contributions are important. Whether you add a new feature or fix errors in the documentation, both are important and valuable.
Now that you made the changes, we can move to the next steps – committing and pushing the changes.
All skills are welcomed
Even non-programmers can contribute to open source projects! Documentation is needed for all projects, and sometimes this is poorly written and maintained. Thus, you can help by writing, updating or even translating documentation. Also, your design skills might come in handy: every application needs an interface, after all. Finally, you can contribute by managing a community by replying to questions and guiding newcomers.
Commit and push your changes
Congratulations! You made the changes, and now it is time to create a pull request. However, you still have to do a few things before opening a pull request.
First of all, run git status to see which files you modified. Once you see the files changed, and after you decide what you want to commit.
open source has become a common practice nowadays, and almost every software you use is not just free, but also open.