There is a misconception amongst developers and companies alike that contributing to open source means writing code. Although there is certainly a lot of open source that revolves around the code, there is so much more work that can be done on an open source project to make it truly successful. No matter your skill set, your position, or even if you don’t know how to write code— there is a way you can contribute to open source.
This post is meant to show the many ways anybody can help out with an open source project and, hopefully, give you an idea of how you can contribute to your favorite open source projects.
Every project on the internet needs its own branding and most need a frontend of some kind. Huge progress can be made simply by lending a design hand to a project and helping get a web presence finalized. Una Kravets (@una) has been doing amazing work in this area helping several open source projects with design needs.
Helping create and maintain documentation goes a long way since no project is complete without accurate documentation written and edited. I know, from my own work, that documentation can easily fall to the wayside in favor of creating more functionality. Just getting the framework of documentation started is hugely helpful, even if more comprehensive technical notes need to be added later.
There is a constant need for people who can train others on the software. Whether an in-depth training on Drupal 8 integrations, or even a base PHP training for beginners, all are essential to bolster the number of people in the community that can help in the future. My experience training at several DrupalCons and other events has shown me how personally rewarding helping others can be.
There are a bunch of people joining open source communities every day and most just need a little help to get themselves started. During DrupalCon Latin America, I saw Cathy Theys (@YesCT) doing amazing work helping others get started on their first patches to Drupal’s Core. Some ended up working on critical issues, others helped write documentation, and all because of Cathy’s able leadership and mentorship helping others dig in.
Host / Sponsor events
From simple meetups to weekend long hackathons, there is always a need for hosts and sponsors. We also need money to help pay for meetup accounts, getting our members some dinner, or even just to get the word out about communities that are being formed. Find some local events and sponsor them or open up your space to community groups in your area that need support. As a founder of a local meetup myself, I can tell you that a little sponsorship or support goes a long way in helping the community help each other.
Use open source software (and submit bugs!)
Just using the software helps the community immensely. It helps uncover better ways of using the software, more use-cases to help develop for, and even bugs that need fixing. The more people that use the software that open source developers create, the more the snowball forms around the software – helping push forward new development.
Talk about using open source software
If you are using open source software, talk about it! Most of us use at least some form of open source software. Just letting others know that about it helps both the project and open source as a whole. Blog posts, tweets, and mentions in talks all go a long way in helping out the many projects that sometimes just need a little traction or acknowledgement.
Budget for open source software development
A huge percentage of the work on the Linux kernel is provided by paid professionals in companies that support and develop it. That is a rising trend and more companies are allocating time for developers to work on open source projects. Whether it’s a few hours a week to shepherd patches your team created, or a full time person making open source development, a budget item is something that management can do.
And always, thank them
As a last bit of advice, if you are using somebody’s software, give them a shout out or thank you one day. So many people are working hard, many on their own time, to help make the world a little better. A simple “thank you” can go a long way to make somebody feel appreciated for the work that they do.