Saturday, November 1, 2008

6 Easy Ways To Get Started Programming Open Source

Open source projects can be a good way to geek out and do what you love, and having a side project can help improve overall job satisfaction, keep you at the top of your hacking game, and can often lead to other opportunities. The problem is a lot of people have trouble making that first step because they don’t really know where to start. Here are 6 easy tips for getting started with F/OSS.

1. Get Involved With the Projects You Use

This may seem obvious, but don’t try to jump into a project that you don’t use and don’t know anything about. Make a short list of open source software projects you might like to contribute to based on the software you are already using. Don’t forget about the potential for contributing to libraries and modules - there are advantages to developing on a project used by other developers. Do you use a framework, file converter, graphing library, or build tool that is open source and in need of bug squashing, optimization, or new features? These are prime candidates for a first F/OSS project.

2. Do What You Love

Look for a place to contribute where you can do something you are genuinely interested in. If you have a special place in your heart for parsers, a compiler isn’t necessarily the first project you want to start with. Don’t rule out parsing configuration files in a webserver or build tool.

3. Learn the tools

Every project uses different methods for version control, bug tracking, patch submission, coding convention, feature requests, user troubleshooting issues, building, and development discussion. Take the time to learn about them and how they work. A developer mailing list is not the place to ask how SVN works. A user forum is not the place to submit a bug report. Reading the developer docs and learning the tools saves everybody time and gives contributions a better chance of being accepted.

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