It’s never been easy to learn programming. But despite tons of ways to learn how to code, we believe that the best way to improve your skills is by contributing to open source projects.
The open source community provides a great opportunity for aspiring programmers to distinguish themselves; and by contributing to various projects, developers can improve their skills and get inspiration and support from like-minded people. But most importantly, they can prove that they can build fantastic experiences that people love.
Everyone wants to work on big projects and contribute to them so that they can learn and help others who need them. The problem with everyone is that no one is able to find the projects or the repositories that are compatible with them. Sometimes, even after finding the right project or repositories they won’t find any issue that might be suitable for them.Something that they might not be able to solve at that moment.
- A strong understanding of Git and Github.
- A intermediate level in any programming language that you are comfortable with.
These are all the things that are required to work on Open-Source.
Why contribute to Open-Source Projects?
There are a number of reasons to contribute to Open-Source.
First, there are a lot of programmers who simply believe that code should be open. They’re idealists who want to make the world a better place, and it drives them to contribute code. The desire to share can be a powerful motivator.
Second, OS(Open-Source) gives you a great start to the beginners. Beginners might start by fixing minor things, such as a bug in a library, sending a pull request, or even writing a piece of documentation. However, beginner developers can also learn to write so-called “clean code” – code that is readable and maintainable – while contributing to open source projects. When developers realize that their code is exposed to the world, it makes them focus on making that code easy to understand and support. Programmers stick to generally accepted rules within a team, which include norms for indents, descriptions of methods and classes, variable names, and following the don’t-repeat-yourself rule(DRY). In a nutshell, when contributing to free projects you’re obliged to conform to the norms of a project.
Third, you get the chance to be part of an active open source community where you can meet like-minded people and supporters. Moreover, if you’re a freelancer and actively contribute to open source projects, you increase your chances of being noticed by potential employers.
The main reasons why developers go for free-for-modification projects are to be recognized, to sharpen their programming skills, and to become part of the vibrant community. Now let’s look at what you should consider before you start contributing.
How to Start?
1. Create your own open source project
Every project should start with an identified need. If you feel that existing projects on GitHub or Bitbucket don’t offer the functionality you would like to build, then create your own open source solution. Besides an initial project draft, you should consider the following set of questions:
- What skills do you need for your project?
- How much time are you willing to spend on your project?
- What problem(s) does your software solve?
- How many potential users are there for your product?
2. Create open source alternatives to commercial software
Today’s commercial projects actively engage open source solutions. Many companies base their projects on free tools. When there’s a huge selection of software, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. This is why it’s useful to play around with free software that can replace similar proprietary software, or that fixes an issue you’ve recently faced.
Another reason for replacing commercial solutions with open source software is eagerness for real innovation and growth. Commercial software claims to be innovative, but its final goal is turning a profit. Open source software unites best practices, great quality of code and passionate developers willing to code just because they like to.
3. Contribute to existing open source projects
You can find many projects you are free to participate in on GitHub – a developer-oriented platform with a simple but essential set of functionality. GitHub attracts developers with public APIs, a sleek and frequently updated UI, gists (Git repositories) that allow you to share pieces of code or even whole applications, and much more. You can contribute to free software in many ways. Developers can fork projects, make changes to code, and send pull requests. And quality assurance is always appreciated. Sometimes developers are too busy or too lazy to check the quality of their code. So go ahead and report a bug or try to fix it – your help is appreciated.
You can reach the hottest GitHub projects by following the “Trending” link. And in order to make your search more relevant, use advanced search: select the language you would like to code in and choose “best match” criteria. Best match ranks projects according to relevance, taking into account the number of forks (which represents how actively the project is updated) and stars (“likes”, in the language of Facebook). Most projects have known issues (however, some don’t) with labels like “bug”, “discussion”, “security”, or “refactor”, or other labels according to the level of difficulty: “easy”, “medium”, “hard.”
How to find bugs/issues in Open-Source Projects?
There are various websites that help you finding bugs throughout the Github.One of them is Issuehub.io
On this website you can easily find issues. You just have to select a label and enter the language you want to work on. It will give you all the issues that are present with that label. It saves a lot of time and also helps me in exploring various repositories at the same time.
Join The Developer 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 Open-Source project, you are likely to get quick replies to your questions.
Open source projects bring many benefits to those who participate in them, and such experience is great for your CV. By joining a community of like-minded people and polishing up your skills, you can give yourself a step up as an aspiring developer. We’ve listed common reasons why people contribute to Open-Source projects, and described various ways to get started. If you would like to read more about contributing to Open-Source projects, check out our previous articles about how open source projects penetrate the IT market and about the security of free software.