- Copy/paste these rules and questions into a blog post, answer the questions, then tag some other people (however many you like) and encourage them to do the same.
- Include a link to the original post.
- You don’t have to be tagged to take part — if you see this post and want to play, just dive on in. Simple!
The questions (and my answers):
- How (and when) did you originally get involved with an open source project? Which projects have you contributed to?
- Why did you choose to contribute to an open source project?
- If you were to pick one or two people who have had a major influence on your involvement with open source, who would those people be? Why?
- How have you personally benefited from being involved with open source projects?
- What advice and/or encouragement would you give to someone who is considering getting involved with an open source project?
I originally got involved with open source projects as a student in Toronto doing a 4 year bachelor’s degree in Software Development. I was a mature student, looking for a ‘career’ path, and soaking up everything I could about this world of creating software. My experience prior to going to school was mostly teaching myself web design and some text games programmed in Basic when I was in high school. In the first year of the four year degree program I learned about open vs. closed source and was instantly drawn to the politics and principles of FL/OSS. I had been using Firefox already for a few years (cause IE 5 for Mac sucked), but didn’t make the connection with open source until a ton of Mikes (and a Johnath) came to my school to talk to us about Mozilla right before FF 2.0 came out. They were so engaging, humourous, and full of excitement for the potential of this project that thousands of people worked on, and I knew right away that the Mozilla project was the one for me to get involved with. It combined technical superiority with an incredibly friendly user/contributor community and most importantly it’s a product that helps a lot of people be safe on the web. In my third year I took two classes with Dave Humphrey that got me working on actual code for Mozilla. My contributions led to being offered an internship with the Build team in the summer of 2008 which resulted in a part-time contract while I did my last year of school and a job offer to go to full time with Mozilla’s Build and Release team in May of 2009 when I graduated. Since getting involved in open source, I have contributed to the Miro and Drupal projects in small ways and I look forward to getting more involved as my experience and abilities improve.
I was drawn to contribute because I could – even as a student with relatively little programming experience – I helped with documentation, support, anything I was able to do. It’s great to be able to participate in something while learning at the same time and open source project models are great for this since they are largely volunteer-based.
What keeps me contributing is knowing that my contributions help people, and because open source software is something I believe in. My leftist, anti-capitalist, activist sensibilities fit well with a not-for-profit enterprise, a free software project. Oh, and I like sharing.
Dave Humphrey none of this would have happened like it did without Dave. If there is a church of open source, Dave is the preacher. He pushes his students to get involved and to jump in feet first. No coddling, Dave has high expectations and expects you to get really involved with open source, not just do the minimal amount of assigned work. In fact, his class is structured in such a way that you cannot do a mediocre job. In or out – it’s your choice. He’s amazing at matching up students with projects, and his enthusiasm for his own learning is contagious.
Ted Mielczarek is an incredible mentor and worked with me on my Mozilla student project of adding source server support to the Windows symbol server. He is very available in the student IRC channel outside of regular work hours, is willing to answer newbie questions, is a great communicator and patch reviewer who would help test my patches when that was needed, and he made me feel very welcome as a new contributor to Mozilla.
Angie Byron is a Drupal contributor I heard speak at the first Ontario Linux Conference that I attended. She spoke about being a woman in open source which interests me as a topic but more importantly she did what I hope to do – she got involved with Drupal through the Google Summer of Code program, had a great experience, and now she encourages other new folks to participate. Her testimonials are all over the GSoC wikis, and her positive reinforcement is really needed in an environment that can be intimidating or have barriers to entry for some folks.
See question #1, I work full time for a project that I love and am excited about. I work with an extremely talented global community of people to make the web the best it can be. I love the web and I get to work on it every day. Also, I’m learning a lot about the process of creating and releasing software in the open and because we’re open, I can share my learning with everyone. This isn’t something I take for granted, from what I hear it’s not like that everywhere :).
Find a project that excites you because then you will honestly want to work on it, in any capacity. Don’t be afraid to take on something you don’t know how to do (yet). Work on whatever it is you have taken on regularly. I can’t stress this enough. Picking up a bug, taking months to write some intensive fix, and then resurfacing looking for feedback will not likely not ingratiate you to the community. Blog, get on IRC, submit patches of your work in progress, ask questions – be a persistent contributor. Even if you fail at reaching your desired solution, by failing publicly you will have shown your skills in sticking to the problem, and will have made connections with the community in the process.