On 21 January 2011, Francois Marier tackled the topic
…as part of our Xero Summer Seminar Series.
Francois has kindly made his slides available for download, which is highly recommended for anyone wanting to get started on Open Source projects. Here ya go:
Francois PDF (it’s approx 16MB of pdf)
In the meantime, here are some highlights and key learnings from his presentation:
First, a definition of Open Source, including the 4 Freedoms
Why should open source be of interest to new software developers? It helps you build a professional portfolio. Contribution to open source projects gives potential employers tangible evidence that you can code, that you can work with others. The stuff that’s really hard to tell from a CV/job interview.
You can build a public portfolio on a site like Ohloh, that tracks the quality and quantity of your contributions.
Participating in open source projects gives you a chance to work with (and learn from, and connect to) some of the worlds best software developers. You’ll develop technical and social skills, and, if you start up your own project, you’ll get to create a solution to a problem.
How to get started? One of the most common pathways is to transition from “user” of a piece of software to “developer” via the sweet spot that is “super-user”.
Use it (familiarise yourself with the software). Blog about it. Download the source code. Find a bug. Reproduce the problem. Fix it. Put a patch on the bug-tracker. Key thing here: fix a problem or add a feature that you care about.
So, you want to start a new project? Here’s some things to think about:
- a good idea + a good name
- a licence (pro tip: don’t write your own one, pick one that people already know about, like Apache/BSD/*GPL)
- think about your user, what questions they’ll have (write simple installation instructions, a Readme, your contact details…)
- build community (be responsive)
Francois shared some tips on useful tools for managing projects, like using a mailing list/forum (not just email), a bug-tracker (like Launchpad, which is a good roadmap & project management tool, too), and using a wiki for managing documentation.
Highly recommend you check out the full slideshow: Francois PDF (it’s approx 16MB of pdf)
And for more information/to learn more, check out: