Tuesday, September 15, 2020

How to become an open-source contributor

Looking to contribute to an open-source but don't know where to start? Here are some tips.
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Open-source software is everywhere! Today, it's highly probable that many of the tools you use and love are open-source. For example, the internet runs on Linux, SmartTVs, drones, cars, super computers, Android phone and yes, even your iOS device (which's based on BSD, a decades-old open-source project) runs some sort of open-source software. There are hundreds thousands of projects you probably use without knowing that are available for free.

But don't think you need to be a technical genius to help. On this post we will learn why and how to support free/open-source communities around the world.

Why contribute to Open-Source projects

Why contribute to open-source? Here are some reasons:

  • You would like to help your favourite project grow
  • You would like to participate in a broader community
  • You would like to gain experience in a specific field
  • You would like to make that project better
  • You would like to fix that annoying error you keep getting
  • You would like to give it back to your project of choice 
  • You would like to learn new things

Different Types of Contributions

And before jumping into the real actions, we'd like you to understand that open-source projects do not only need programmers! There's real need for volunteers in other areas such as translators, writers, designers and much, much more. So let's review them.

Contributing to Open-Source Projects

Let's review some concrete actions you can take today to help with your favorite open-source project. Feel free to skip to section that makes more sense for you.

How to help as a Programmer

If you know how to program, here are some ways you can help the community: writing code, submitting pull requests, reviewing code and even fixing typos in the documentation. But before modifying the code, it's important to understand the project requirements, philosophy, workflow and communication channel.

How to help as a Writer

Like writing? There's definitely gaps in documentation on free/open-source software. Anyone can help as a writer by creating/updating documentation, writing tutorials and even fixing small typos.

How to help as a Designer

For designers, there are lots of opportunities to contribute. For example creating logos, badges, UI mockups, event banners, designing fonts, improving the user experience and even creating custom t-shirts! How cool is that?

Helping in Events

You're a social person? So why not help in the events? You can always participate in small events on your community, school or even on install fests and release parties.

Participating in Events

Open-source communities tend to be very active. They frequently organize events (in-person/online) which will get more interesting with more people. Look for events in your project's page for more information.

    Testing the software

    Know well some specific software? Why not help the project by testing if it installs and runs successfully as per the documented notes. Found an error, report it in the available channel which could be on a website or on Slack/IRC/Disqus.


    Speak more than one language? There's lots of projects looking for volunteers to help with translations. Search for information on your project's translation team.

    Supporting other Users

    You can always support other users by answering their questions on StackOverflowAskFedora or AskUbuntu for example.

      Helping with Infrastructure

      Know systems and infrastructure? You definitely could help by maintaining servers, maintaining the build systems, donating servers.

      Packaging Software

      You know technical stuff but not exactly a programmer? Why not package software for your Linux distro.

      Helping others

      On your school, university or company? What about educating people on how to use free/open-source software? Help people use your favorite project.

      Writing posts

      What about blog posts? Even those as simple as as this one help people around the world! 😊


      Finally, if you got no time or think you got no skills, have you considered donating to one of those organizations? Here are some tips:

      Reaching Out

      So go ahead, visit for your project's website, talk to the community and reach out for more information.


      On this post we reviewed multiple ways you too can become an open-source contributor. Most people think that contributing to open source is just about code while it is not. There's tons of ways we can start helping others out there.


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