December 14th, 2015
Perhaps you hesitate to contribute to an open source project because you think, “I’m not smart, experienced, or skilled enough to do that.” Wrong! If you’re good enough to use open source, you’re good enough to contribute. What’s more, there are plenty of projects looking for a wide variety of skills. You have something to offer. As a new contributor, a new perspective alone can be incredibly valuable to those who have spent their time looking at a problem “from the inside.”
One of the biggest misconceptions about open source is that you have to be a guru-level programmer and understand how every line in the project works. That’s not true though. Many of the code-related things that need to be done involve the “code that builds the code” such as unit tests, build systems, and release scripts. If you use those tools in your work every day, you can bring that experience to help a project with those tasks, even if you’re not an expert in how it works internally.
Then there are the non-programming tasks that some programmers put off (or flat-out just can’t do), but make a huge difference in usability for developers. These are tasks like bug triage, documentation, web site design, and graphic designs. I’ve spent ten years now contributing to open source projects. The first five years were mostly spent triaging bugs, writing test cases and improving documentation. Doing these often-ignored tasks improved my understanding of the needs of project users.
Several Foundation projects have marked issues with the “help wanted” tag to make it easier for new contributors to find things the team thinks don’t require too much inside knowledge. Some projects have also tagged tasks they think are good “first contributions” for people new to the open source process. You’ll find direct links to their issues below. Take a look and grab a task, the projects will thank you for it!
If you don’t find a match with one of the jQuery Foundation projects, don’t let it stop you from contributing somewhere in the open source world. Sites like 24pullrequests.com can help with the search.
The jQuery Foundation would also be grateful for any contributions you’d like to make so we can continue to help open source projects grow and thrive.
Like many gifts that you can give, a contribution to open source can benefit the giver as much as the receiver. Open source software is about creating something together, where everyone contributes a bit and receives great benefits overall. In the process of helping a project you will improve your development skills, meet people with similar interests, and perhaps even hone your talents in preparation for a new job. It can take a bit of time to find the best project match for you, but the benefit to everyone will be much more than a drop in the bucket.