Contributing To Open Source

April 18, 2017

Open Source Contributions! Ahhh! Scary! Well, at least that is what I thought six weeks ago. Contributing to an open source project is one of the requirements for graduation at Turing and something I was equal parts anxious and excited about.

Wanting to have the opportunity to add something useful AND not get in over my head was at the front of my mind as I shopped around for a good project to contribute to. My criteria were:

When all was said and done, however, I decided to take a bit of a different approach and start attending Code for Denver project night Meetups where I could work on open source projects in person with others and still get my contributions in. Getting involved with Code for Denver had been on my to-do list for a long time (basically since the time I started at Turing last October), so volunteering in order to get my contributions in seemed like a perfect win-win for all involved.

Since I was able to work on projects and make my contributions with people I could meet face-to-face, I’m sure that I skipped out on a lot of the challenge that comes with trying to communicate primarily through Github project cards or PRs and may have missed out on a good learning experience. However, seeing how the Code for Denver organizers had put in place orientation sessions and workflows to allow anyone of any background to be able to contribute on their very first night was eye-opening. Through this process they are able to effectively open up the world of open-source contribution beyond developers, which is both poetically democratic and totally in line with their mission. (Needless to say, I am a fan :))

By the end of my first night, I had put in my very first contribution: an incredibly underwhelming drop-down input field in React. However, my goals for the night had been accomplished: I learned something new! I submitted a PR with my first open-source contribution! I learned you could made templates for PR comments in Github! I made new friends! I ate free pizza!

And most importantly, I learned that contributing was not the scary thing I had made it out to be.