Posted on 11th August, 2016 by Emily Blake
An open source project is a living and breathing ecosystem. Projects rely on community contributions to ensure long-term sustainability and rapid innovation. At LEO Learning, we have a clear ethical policy around open source. This includes a commitment to sharing knowledge through local and national events, reporting bugs, contributing to forums and documentation and publishing back to the community. But it’s not limited to developers, here’s how you can help too.
Report a bug
All open source projects have a bug tracker. If no-one report bugs, they simply wouldn’t get fixed. It’s the simplest thing you can do and will be a real help to the team.
Write some documentation
Most projects have documentation in the form of a wiki so if you spot any errors or omissions then simply change it! Development teams are sometimes so focused on their own tasks that they don’t spend enough time on documentation, so this is a simple but hugely valued way that you can help.
Answer forum posts
Major projects like Moodle have countless forum users. If you see someone else has a problem that you know the answer to, submit a response and help them out. You’ll probably rely on the forums yourself at some point, so it’s another really simple way you can make a difference.
Knowledge share at events
Over time you may become an expert or use the tool in interesting ways. Share this knowledge widely by setting up a local user group or speaking at regional or national conferences. It’s also a great way to network and meet like minded souls.
This is the entry point for developers. Often you’ll fix bugs for a project you’re involved in. Send your fix back to the developer who wrote that component, so that thousands of people can benefit from that new line of code you changed.
The next step for developers takes a greater investment of time: there will be coding guidelines to adhere to, documentation to write and a submissions process to follow. You’ll become the maintainer for the plug-in too. Mature projects have thousands of plug-ins and how much time you invest is up to you.
Become a core developer
You’ll probably have been fixing and writing plug-ins for some years by this point and getting ever more involved in the project. It’s not just for developers though, there are usually test lead, design lead and community manager roles in the core team, all of whom have risen through the community meritocracy and earned their place. Well done!