James Dixon’s Blog

James Dixon’s thoughts on commercial open source and open source business intelligence

12+ Ways To Contribute To Open Source

with 5 comments

Writing code is one way to contribute to open source. There are many more ways.

Here is a list:

  1. Create a new project – start a new open source project around something you are interested in – ‘scratch an itch’
  2. Use Cases – use open source software in new domains, see if it works or not.
  3. Peer Review – review specs, designs, architectures, user interfaces, and code and provide feedback
  4. Testing – provide any kind of testing assistance – including usability testing
  5. Documentation – create documentation where it is missing or lacking
  6. Translations – translate not only documentation but also web sites, wikis etc
  7. Features – create new features or plug-ins
  8. Forum Help – Learn how to use an open source package and then help out people who are new to the project
  9. Bug Fixes – take bug cases from the case tracking tool and fix them
  10. Scalability – perform soak testing, load testing etc and publish the results
  11. Configuration Diversity – test and use the software in less common configurations
  12. Tell the world – use press releases, blogs, twitter, conference presentations, barcamps etc  to let people know that you are using open source software and that it works for you.
  13. Building and packaging (thanks AHinMaine) – build the software for your platform and make it available

Written by James

May 5, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Posted in open source

5 Responses

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  1. I think there’s another one that’s important enough to include on the short list. Packaging. If you’re adept at compiling and packaging software on your favorite platform, help out by contributing a package. Then the software becomes more accessible by more people. Things like the opensuse build service are extremely helpful and go a long way towards making robust packages for a variety of Linux distributions.


    May 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm

  2. […] from: 12 Ways To Contribute To Open Source « James Dixon's Blog This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 at 8:43 am and is filed under Linux, Software, […]

  3. I would extend point #7:

    7. Features – create new features or plug-ins. Extra points if the features you develop undermine one or more commercial products. Extra extra points if the project you’re contributing to is controlled by an open-core vendor and your contributions would undermine the sponsoring vendor’s flawed business model, forcing the vendor to have a serious and uncomfortable look at its claims about its licensing and its relationship to its community. If you go this route, be sure to exercise your right to distribute the contributed code on your own terms.


    May 5, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    • I don’t agree that open source is about making people uncomfortable.

      Think of it like this: a group of dedicated, smart people starting a new software business have two choices – start a proprietary company, or start a commercial open source company. The open-core option, so far, is one of the more viable options for commercial open source. You seem to propose that we should fight anyone who chooses this model.

      The sponsoring vendor that you are fighting against is the group of people (yes they are people) who created the core software that you find so useful. If you succeed in your fight, that business will disappear, and the engineers who create and enhance the software you are using will dissipate. How does that help anyone? You actually lose in this scenario.

      In my lifetime I don’t see any potential future where all software is open source. I do see a potential future where all new software is either open source or commercial open source – there is no new proprietary software.

      Open source proponents fighting commercial open source vendors makes no sense. You are fighting the enemy of your enemy. The enemy of your enemy is your friend.



      May 5, 2009 at 6:40 pm

  4. I personally believe that finding how to contribute is the biggest barrier that prevent a contribution from new volunteers.
    Opensource have to be a fun experience first and I am pretty sure that there is room for any kind of contribution. Unfortunately is hard to find the place where to look for projects that require helps.


    February 11, 2010 at 6:52 pm

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