Getting Started in Free and Open Source Software


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Many people are interested in contributing to Free and Open Source software projects, but they are not sure how to get started. In this talk, Leslie Hawthorn covers the basics of engaging with the Open Source community, gives practical advice on retaining new contributors and explores the successes of some of the attendees at Free Software and Linux Days in Istanbul, April 2-3, 2010.

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Getting Started in Free and Open Source Software

  1. 1. Free and Open Source Software for New Contributors: How to Get Started and Stay Involved Leslie Hawthorn Free Software & Linux Days, Istanbul April 2, 2010
  2. 2. The Standard Disclaimer “These are my opinions based on my experiences with the FOSS community, not those of any past or future employer.” </legal speak>
  3. 3.
  4. 4.
  5. 5. Step One Choose a Project
  6. 6.
  7. 9.
  8. 10. So You Have a Few Ideas Now What?
  9. 11.
  10. 12. Understand Project Values <ul><li>Codes of Conduct </li><ul><li>Ubuntu's is widely referenced and remixed </li><ul><li>Be considerate, be respectful, be collaborative </li></ul></ul><li>Unwritten “Codes of Conduct”
  11. 13. Does this project share your values? </li></ul>
  12. 14. Understand Project Values (cont'd) <ul>Diversity Statements “ We welcome people of any gender identity or expression, race, ethnicity, size, nationality, sexual orientation, ability level, neurotype, religion, culture, subculture, and political opinion. We welcome activists, artists, bloggers, crafters, dilettantes, musicians, photographers, readers, writers, ordinary people, extraordinary people, and everyone in between. We welcome people who want to change the world, people who want to keep in touch with friends, people who want to make great art, and people who just need a break after work. We welcome fans, geeks, nerds, and pixel-stained technopeasant wretches. We welcome Internet beginners who aren't sure what any of those terms refer to.” </ul>
  13. 15. Spend Some Time on the Project's Website <ul><li>Start with the “About” Page
  14. 16. Find (or Ask For) Newbie Documentation </li></ul>
  15. 17. Source Code & Developer Documentation <ul><li>Observe How Developers Use Comments
  16. 18. Review Style/Coding Guidelines </li></ul>
  17. 19. Mailing Lists are Critical <ul><li>Browse the archives </li><ul><li>You can't read everything – search! </li></ul><li>Determine the key players
  18. 20. Asking Questions </li><ul><li>Write a useful subject line
  19. 21. Show you've done your research
  20. 22. Wait for an answer </li></ul></ul>
  21. 23. Basic Netiquette <ul><li>Choose a Reasonable “Handle”
  22. 24. Don't Use Text Speak
  23. 25. Be Formal in Your First Few Posts </li></ul>
  24. 26. What is Top Posting? <ul>I really want a pink and yellow pony!! >> What kind of pony would you like? </ul>
  25. 27. Learn to Love IRC IRC = Internet Relay Chat <ul><li>Read Channel Topic
  26. 28. Observe Traffic
  27. 29. Don't Ask to Ask
  28. 30. Wait for an Answer
  29. 31. Lurking ++ </li></ul>
  30. 32.
  31. 33. You've Found Your Tribe Ways to Get Involved
  32. 34. For Everyone <ul><li>File Bugs
  33. 35. Write Effective Bug Reports </li><ul><li>What you were doing
  34. 36. What you thought should happen
  35. 37. What happened instead
  36. 38. Software & hardware specs </li></ul></ul>
  37. 39. For Developers <ul><li>Check the Issue Tracker for “Easy” or “Beginner” Bugs
  38. 40. Submit a Patch </li></ul>
  39. 41. For Everyone <ul><li>Triage Bugs
  40. 42. Answer Questions in IRC
  41. 43. Point People in the Right Direction </li></ul>
  42. 44. But Wait, I'm Not Technical (Enough) Free and Open Source Software Needs All Kinds of Contributors
  43. 45. For Writers Hint: Not Just for Writers <ul><li>Offer to Document Information You Get
  44. 46. Press Releases and Newsletters
  45. 47. Testimonials & Developer / User Interviews </li></ul>
  46. 48. For Artists <ul><li>Logos
  47. 49. Project Banners for Conferences
  48. 50. Web Design
  49. 51. Fan Art ++ </li></ul>
  50. 52. For Marketers Hint: Marketing is Not a Dirty Word <ul><li>Project Presentation
  51. 53. Collateral: Data Sheets, Project Brochures
  52. 54. Social Media
  53. 55. Swag! </li></ul>You Don't Have to be This Dude to Do Marketing //
  54. 56. For the Socially Inclined Also Known As People Who Like People in Real Life <ul><li>Join or Start a Local User Group
  55. 57. Offer to Staff a Booth or Table
  56. 58. Volunteer to Help at the Next FOSS Conference </li></ul>
  57. 59. For Teachers <ul><li>Create Training Materials: How To's, Tutorials
  58. 60. Bonus Points for Video or In Person Training
  59. 61. Give a Talk about Your Project </li></ul>Anyone who can share knowledge well is a teacher.
  60. 62. My Project Doesn't Do Any of This Stuff.... Wonderful! Time for You to Do Something New and Exciting!
  61. 63. For Those With FOSS Experience A Few Tips on Attracting and Retaining Newbies
  62. 64. Check Your Tone
  63. 65. Share Your Mistakes Source
  64. 66. Recognition = Retention Source
  65. 67. Recognition = Delegating Source
  66. 68. Coders: Other Ways to Get Started <ul><li>Improve FOSS
  67. 69. Get Valuable Employment Experience
  68. 70. Learn from an Experienced Mentor
  69. 71. Become Part of a Vibrant Global Community
  70. 72. Get Paid </li></ul>
  71. 73. Local Google Summer of Code Participants Hopefully in the Audience So We Can Ask Them About Their Experiences <ul>Pinar Yanardag </ul><ul>Sarp Centel </ul>
  72. 74. How to Participate <ul><li>You Must Be 18+ Years of Age
  73. 75. You Must Be a Student
  74. 76. Submit an Application Through 9 April 2010
  75. 77. More than 150 FOSS Projects to Choose From
  76. 78. Apply now at </li></ul>
  77. 79. Recap <ul><li>Getting Started Means Being a Good Citizen
  78. 80. Jump in Where You Can Do Well
  79. 81. Know You Will Make Mistakes
  80. 82. Have Fun! </li></ul>
  81. 83. Questions? Many Thanks to All of You for Coming! Leslie Hawthorn @lh Twitter: @lhawthorn
  82. 84. Licensing & Copyright Information <ul><li>These slides are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
  83. 85. These slides are available at
  84. 86. All logos are the property of their respective owners.
  85. 87. Many thanks to all the kind folks on Flickr who provided their photos for remixing! </li></ul>
  86. 88. Resources <ul><li>Producing Open Source Software: </li><ul><li>This guide for starting a FOSS project provides a good overview for newbies, too. </li></ul><li>Guide to GSoC Mentoring </li><ul><li>Documentation for Google Summer of Code Mentors that will also be of general use to folks looking to add new contributors. </li></ul></ul>
  87. 89. Resources (cont'd.) <ul><li>Mentoring in Open Source Communities: What Works, What Doesn't </li><ul><li>Excellent article interviewing several FOSS developers on their mentoring methodologies. </li></ul><li>How to Ask Questions the Smart Way </li><ul><li>The often cited guide to asking questions effectively in the FOSS world. Not always gentle in tone – your mileage may vary. </li></ul></ul>
  88. 90. Even More Resources <ul><li>The Free Software Definition </li><ul><li>The document for understanding the concept of software being free as in uncensored speech rather than no cost </li></ul><li>The Cathedral and the Bazaar
  89. 91. </li><ul><li>Seminal piece on the early history and fundamental concepts of the Free Software movement </li></ul></ul>
  90. 92. The Last Resources Page <ul><li>The Open Source Definition </li><ul><li>Document used by the Open Source Initiative to determine whether or not a particular license can be considered Open Source. Useful for understanding the differences between Free Software and Open Source. </li></ul><li>Please suggest additional resources! </li><ul><li>Ping @lh on or @lhawthorn on Twitter </li></ul></ul>