What is the first image that comes to your mind when I say, Bollywood? You know, the Indian cinema where people dance in the movie, have bright coloured clothes and dramatic sound effects?
Ask that to someone who has never contributed before. The answer will be black screens and some coding gibberish.
Having been part of both, I can assure you both the mental images are far from truth. And that brings me to the very first point.
1.Let go of the myths you hear.
Most people out here assume, the only way you can contribute is through making changes in the source code. Recognising this as a barrier for newcomers is solving half the problem. In an open source community, you can contribute to design, marketing, documentation or simply helping to spread a word about it. Fedora’s what can I do will provide you the confirmation you need.
2. I need to be a super-human first.
All you need to start contributing to open source is a willingness to learn and be humble while you do that. Agreed there are large codebases, complicated bug trackers, different contributing guidelines and all that. But there are also an amazing set of people, who truly consider open source as a means to change the world. And they will be more than happy to get you started. Now read the first line again.
3. Become a part of the troupe.
You will be amazed at how in Bollywood movies, random strangers just pop in from nowhere and start dancing in complete sync. Open source is no different. It’s just a bunch of people, passionate about a project, coming together to build it. A few days in, you will soon find yourself catching their rhythm and the song they are dancing to!
4. Be nice, help others.
The moment you type in a “Hi” on an IRC channel or a discussion thread, you become a part of the community. Which also makes you capable of start helping out others. Help the other newcomers. Paste the same links someone did for you when you started out. Find ways to help others overcome the problems you had when you started. This goes a long way in preserving the spirit open source communities survive on.
5. Stick it out.
Finding that first bug you can fix, getting your first PR merged, making an impact..all of this takes time. It is very easy to get intimidated by unusual IRC nick names, not getting prompt replies, having problems setting up the project locally, outdated codebases, and so on. Stick it out. Your contributions, however small they be, will be valued by the open source community as a whole.
I hope this helps. Happy Open Sourcing Sorcery to you!!
We at Fedora have been doing some awesome work at building a more inclusive open source community. Do drop by, if you want to start helping out :)