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Contributing to open source is not what I thought it was

When I was younger at the beginning of my career, I was fascinating by the idea of open source projects. I thought that contribution was unreachable for me. I still think it is difficult to open a pull request that modifies the code of a complex project like Apache Spark. But I have also realised that open source is not only about modifying code.

What can you do to contribute to open source?

Create a new project

This can seem the common way to do open source. But it’s not the only one. You can share any kind of projects. To my opinion, lots of professional projects we work on every day could be open sourced. It’s a question of mindset.

You can also fork a project to add new features or even remove ones.

Open a pull request to modify the code of another project

This is also something we think a lot when speaking of open source. From my point of view, it can very hard.

We all already work on difficult projects. Diving into a new project that is not ours can be challenging. Though it’s possible.

Fix typos

Here we have an easier way of contributing to open source that is still useful. Typos are everywhere. If you spot one, you can add a pull request to fix it.

Add documentation

Another easier way of doing open source is by contributing to the documentation. A great tool without documentation is nothing. Documentation is then worthwhile. You can add a pull request for that.

Translate documentation

You can also translate documentation. It’s a way to give access to people that don’t speak well English. For that, you can also open a pull request.

Share tutorials or views about a project

You don’t have to always open pull requests to contribute to open source. Sharing tutorials or views about a tool or framework is also very valuable. It contributes to make the project grow.

Reviewing pull requests

You can also just review pull requests. You can even review pull request about documentation or translation.

I don’t thing it’s an exhaustive list, but I wanted to share with you different ways to contribute to open source.

Open source and the free work

It’s impossible for me to talk about open source without speaking a bit of politics.

To say the truth, now I don’t know what to think of open source from a political point of view.

There are some companies behind some projects. Databricks supports Spark for instance. Yet, there are also some projects that are built only thanks to some volunteers. It can be very important projects such as Composer, a dependency manager in PHP. And I know that it can be very difficult to maintain an open source project.

Finally, when you look at open source projects, you realise that it’s work. Normally you are paid when you work.

Forcing companies to pay for these projects could help. But, there’s a risk that these will not be free of their choices any more. It’s a tricky topic. I would be very glad to hear your opinion about this subject.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to contact me on Twitter if you want to discuss that.