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Getting started with Open Source at Hacktoberfest

Getting started with Open Source at Hacktoberfest

In the words of Helen Keller, “alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”. Open source provides us with opportunities to be a part of the growing innovative technological community, contributing one fix/project at a time.

Hacktoberfest 2022 presents the perfect opportunity for you to get into open-source. In this article, we will be discussing what precisely open-source is, who can contribute to open-source projects, how to contribute to open-source, and how to find just the right project to contribute to.

What is Open-Source?

A trendy term among developers is the word “open-source”. As beginners, we’ve all heard older developers say, this project is open-source, or that project is open-source… What, then, does it mean for a project to be open-source?

In straightforward terms, open-source projects are projects with public source codes available to everyone to be modified and enhanced. It provides a collaborative way for developers to review, use, modify and distribute projects under a permissive license.

More companies have recently opted to open source, including popular companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google. A good number of projects are hosted on Git providers like GitLab and GitHub, allowing developers to discover, fork, and contribute to them.

Why Open-Source?

Open source provides an opportunity for young developers to get involved in the community and collaborate with other engineers to improve the innovation of various projects. This broadens their scope, improves their experience, and aids their learning.

Here are some reasons why contributing to open-source is essential:

  • Improving existing skills: Open-source provides a better way for you to practice your skills and exposes you to smart contributions made by other contributors.
  • Becoming a part of a community: There is nothing as exciting as being part of a group interested in the same things as you. The open-source community is a big one and very welcoming to all contributors.
  • Finding mentors and teaching others: The open-source community is the best place you can connect with those who are more skilled. Also, with every contribution, you share knowledge with other contributors.
  • Career boost: Open-source provides the best opportunity to increase your reputation and display your skill. A lot of career opportunities come from contributing to open-source projects.

Basic Open-Source Elements

A typical open-source project comprises beneficial elements that make contributing easier. These elements are basically documentation, and they include the following:

  • Licence: Every open-source project has a Licence; this helps protect both the users and contributors. An open-source license guarantees that others can use, copy, modify, and contribute to your project without repercussions. It also protects you from sticky legal situations. You should avoid projects without a license
  • README File: A readme file explains all a contributor should know about a project. A good readme explains what the project does, why it is useful, how contributors can get started, and where exactly help is needed. README files are usually encompassing and self-explanatory, ensure you understand the README before contributing
  • Contribution Guidelines: A contribution guideline tells what is expected of a contributor. It explains how an audience can participate in a project. It includes information on how to file a bug report, suggestions for new features, the type of contributions that should be made, and the project roadmap. For effective contribution, follow the project’s stated guidelines.
  • Code Of Conduct: Like every other characteristic of a community, there are rules on what is expected of individuals in the community. The code of conduct helps set ground rules for the behaviors of all project participants. Enforcing a code of conduct ensures healthy, constructive community behavior. Be civil in your interactions within the community, and keep to the community-listed code of conduct.

Getting Familiar With GitHub

There is no talking about open-source without talking about Git and GitHub. Git is an open-source version control system that handles everything from small to very large projects. GitHub is an online software development platform for storing, tracking and collaborating on software projects.

A well-set-up GitHub environment is easy to navigate and friendly to interact with. Here are some go-to options for ensuring that your GitHub environment is organized correctly.

  • Issue Tracker: This is where all project developments are tracked. The issue tracker shows all new issues identified in a project. Where there are identified problems in a project, contributors can create an issue and link it to a pull request so that other contributors can opt-in to try and fix it.
  • Pull Requests: This allows contributors to tell what contributions they have made concerning certain issues. Once a pull request is opened, you can discuss and review the potential changes with a collaborator and add follow-up commits before they’re merged into the base branch
  • Chat Channel: Like everything else, communication is vital, especially if you want to make good contributions. Where chat channels exist in a project, ensure to take full advantage and share your thoughts and ideas with other collaborators.

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How to Contribute to Open Source

There is a popular misconception that contributing to 1open-source is for only those that code. This isn’t factual, as everyone interested can contribute to an open-source project. Any time someone fixes a typo, adds an alert about a possible compiler warning, fixes a bug, or even adds detailed documentation to a project, they have contributed to an open-source project.

Here are various ways you can contribute to an open-source project:

  • Adding a description to a project’s documentation to elaborate on a certain point, mainly referred to as a README file.
  • Giving guidance on a specific project and how to use it
  • Fixing documentation typos and arranging a project work folder correctly
  • Writing tutorials for the projects
  • Writing translations in various languages for the project
  • For coders, it is as much as opening an issue, a discussion, or answering a question.
  • Proposing a pull request or submitting a pull review.

In truth, the list is exhaustive. However, now you know what is considered a contribution, and you can go ahead to contribute to your favorite projects.

How To Find an Open-Source Project To Contribute To

Deciding on what project to contribute to is every contributor’s first dilemma. There are so many open-source projects on GitHub (over 80 million); how does one tell what project is worth their time and effort?

Here are tips that can be useful for picking a project to contribute to:

  • Looks for projects connected to tools you use every day, and contributing to these projects helps you better understand the tools.
  • Also contribute to the programming languages you use. It provides a better way to understand your programming language better.
  • Search your interest. Do you enjoy designing, writing, or sorting out files and folders? You can find projects that match all your interest and contribute to them.
  • Every open source project has a /contribute page highlighting beginner-friendly issues you can start with.
  • If you experience any bug using a tool or any issues with a programming language, you can start your contribution right away by raising the issue and suggesting a fix if you have one.
  • If you find a project isn’t adequately documented or the documentation has missing links, that’s a good starting point.

Conclusion

Open-source is for everyone to participate in. There are endless opportunities to contribute to open-source. Regardless of your background, or whether or not you can code, you have something to contribute. There isn’t a better time to get started with open-source other than now; take advantage of the Hactoberfest 2022, and join the ecosystem as we all take technology more steps further.

A TIP FROM THE EDITOR: For more advantages of working with open source, read our Opportunities Hidden Within Contributing To Open Source article.

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