Open Source Contribution for Beginners
Have you always been intrigued by open source collaborations but just didn’t know how to join open source projects? If so, I’m about to let you know that a beginner like you not only can join an open source project, you can also make invaluable contributions.

There are varieties of ways an aspiring programmer can contribute to an open source project.  Undoubtedly, As a programmer, you want to make contributions to the development of open source projects. However, don't feel discouraged if you think that your coding skill isn't proficient enough. Here are eight ways you can contribute to a project:
  • Writing
  • Organizing 
  • Designing
  • Assisting
  • Recommend features
  • Event planning
  • Coding
  • Testing 
But first, let’s take a quick look at how to become an open source contributor.

How to become an Open Source Contributor?

To be an open source contributor, you need to first find a project that you feel you have the skills to contribute to.

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A myriad of skills can be needed on an open source project. So, even if your coding skills are weak, there’s still a chance for you to contribute by documenting, organizing, writing, curating, designing or any other skill that may be needed to successfully fulfill the project.

You can also serve in multiple roles as a contributor. For instance, you can be a software developer and still help with documenting the project. It all depends on what you have to bring to the table.

Before you start searching for an open source project, there is one skill that you need to be proficient at it. You must be adept at using Git. Git is the most widely used distributed version control system in the world. It is basically a piece of tool that archive all of changes have been made in the software development.

The code history is stored in all of the developers computers and a server. Two leading web-based hosting service for version control using Git are Github and Bitbucket.

The discussion about Git, Github and Bitbucket is beyond this article. You can learn and master this topic by using Version Control with Git book. This book will make you fully grasp the power of Git for tracking, branching, merging, and managing code revisions.


Which open source project should I join?

Contributing to an open source project is a fantastic way to excel your Python skill. You will learn other coders style, get a mentor, hunting bugs and learning how to write a clean code in one process.

Nevertheless, finding the right project can be a daunting activity. Obviously, you shouldn't jump into a huge project like Python, Flask, Django, WxPython or Pytest. You must be aware that most of big projects have many plugins, one of them is a better place for you to start joining an open source project.

First of all, you need to check a list of available plugins for a big Python framework or library. This is easily done by searching it on Google, but some projects use different terms for plugins. Django uses 'packages' term instead of plugins and other projects may use add-on or extensions. When you type 'list of Django packages' on Google, you will find Djangopackages website.

Once you find a project that interest you, you can check the official website and git repository on Github/Bitbucket. If their official website provides detail instructions about how to contribute to their project, you must read it carefully and comply with their requirement.

You can also search on Google or ask in a forum which open source project that suitable for a beginner and what contribution in that project you can deliver.

Once you decided to join as a contributor to the project, you can start to clone the repository to your own computer. If you think you can start writing or modifying the code, go ahead and you can send a pull request. Otherwise, you may study the project and give contributions in different ways.

Ways to contribute to an open source project

You’ve just finished an article on open source contribution for beginners and have figured out how to join open source projects. Next thing is to contribute but you don’t know how. Relax. You can contribute to a project through any of the following ways:

Open Source Contribution for Beginners
Writing 

Do you have passion for writing? If yes, you can be a big help on an open source project by helping create content and/or the documentation of the project. This will be valuable for record purposes and much more.

You can write and build a list of examples that show the planned function and purpose of the project being worked on. Creating a tutorial or manual on how the project will be used will also be useful.
Your writing can also be used to sensitize the target market of the project’s finished product through well-written and informative blogs or newsletters. These newsletters can also be used to keep all those involved in the project updated about its progress.

Other ways your writing can be of service is by writing tutorials for the project or translating for the documentation of the project.

Organizing

Because of the many people involved in a project, most of them come from remote locations. Someone with the organization skills to help put stuff in order is invaluable. This will keep the project moving forward at a steady pace and reduce the occurrence of avoidable hitches.

You can use your organizing skills to help verify questions on recently opened issues and keep the project moving forward. If there are open issues that have not been resolved, you can bring them forward for resolution and suggest that old issues be closed.

Instances where there are duplicates of the same issue which can cause confusion, you can help make things simpler and more organized by suggesting new issue labels.

Designing

It’s not just about how great a finished product works but also how great it looks. You can contribute to the aesthetics side of things with your designing skills by restructuring layouts to improve user experience and visual appeal.

You can use information from user research to improve the project’s menus or navigation. Putting together a style guide will also help other contributors by providing them with a guide to work with to ensure a consistent look throughout the project.

You can also help with publicity by creating logos and art for t-shirts to sensitize people about what you are working on.

Assisting

If helping people gives you great satisfaction, you can assist with a project by answering questions about the project. For example, end-users might post questions on Reddit or Stack Overflow. You can actively provide accurate and enlightening answers on behalf of the project team.

You can also assist by moderating conversation channels and discussion boards on behalf of the team.

You can even take things further by assisting with the actual coding or reviewing coding submissions of other project contributors.

Naturally, you’ll need to know about Python Programming or some other coding skill to be able to fulfill this task effectively.

Recommend features

As you watch the project evolves, you can recommend features to make the end product more powerful, user-friendly and effective. This makes for a great source of fresh ideas for the open source team.

But of course, features you recommend have to be pertinent to the project and must add value to it.

Event planning

There will be workshops, meetups, and conferences regarding the project and somebody needs to set up these events. That someone could be you.

If you have experience booking and setting up venues, calling in speakers, registration of participants and all other skills that go into organizing an event, you can put them to good use conducting an event on behalf of the project team.

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Part of the event planning may also involve creating publicity about the upcoming event and helping community members submit speaking proposals and find the right conferences.

Coding

It might be too scary for a beginner like you to be involved in the development of an open source software. But it should become your ultimate goal to join a project. You will feel so great when a piece of your code makes life of thousands of users easier.

There are many things you can do to contribute to the actual development of an open source project. You can find open issues and tackle them thus contributing to the progress of the project. As your coding experience advancing, you should try writing a new feature for the project.

Another challenge you need to try is forking a project. By doing this, you copy a repository and you can do any modifications you like. Next, you can propose your modification to the owner of the project or you create a new open source project based on the project you copied.

Lastly, why don't you create your own open source project? You don't have to come up with your own brilliant idea to start an open source project. You can look around and find a proprietary software that provides a great solution. There are a lot of open source projects that was initially created to replace a commercial software.

In my opinion, the best thing about open source alternatives is reducing software piracy. People who have low income or only need simple solution rather than full features software do not need to get illegal programs anymore.

Nowadays, more and more tech giants including Microsoft are releasing open source solutions. It is becoming more reasonable that building an open source software will open business opportunity in different aspects. It could be advertisement, subscription for supports, training, integration services, sales of hardware or others.

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Testing

Software is tested numerous times before a final version is released. Even after release, updates for the software will still be put out to make it better. You can help make a software its possible best by helping test it and provide feedback.

Conclusion

Joining an open source project is an important phase of your Python learning journey. It could become the gate from a learner to a professional developer.

Don't let anything holding you back from contributing to an open source project. Start your contribution by providing tutorials, books, events and much more.

The time will come when you finally send your first piece of code which enhances the functionality of the software. In the end, you should build your own project by forking another project or build it from scratch.

So, go find the project that resonates the most with you and be a part of it.


2 Comments

  1. Really enjoy these articles!! Just getting into learning Python myself. Glad I stumbled onto your blog!

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    1. Thank you for your feedback. Glad to hear that you like my articles.

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