26 April 2021

My experience with contributing to Open Source

by Shaun Lawrence

I have recently entered the world of contributing to Open Source. It was such a great experience that I feel I need to share it with you. To be clear, I have run my own Open Source project for a number of years but this has been to support my own needs with the option of allowing others to use it. It was only in 2021 that I have contributed to others.

I hadn’t initially planned to but I noticed a tweet asking for help and it just triggered something in me to want to help:

What did I expect?

I am not sure I have a complete answer for this. Sure I expected some pointers on what needed to be achieved and probably some level of gratitude.

What I did not expect

Just how helpful and welcoming Dan was! He provided assistance in many forms; messaging, voice chat and even some screen sharing when things went wrong or I wasn’t sure on the best route for the framework.

I also did not expect how powerful the positive feeling I felt knowing that I had helped someone else out that really needed it and that I have been able to give some value back to the community would be. I am already planning more :).

Why am I sharing this?

At the time of writing this a simple search for Help wanted on GitHub yields roughly 311K+ issues.

From talking to maintainers it has become clear that it is not really a case of Help wanted but more a case of Help needed.

If I have learnt anything from the ongoing global pandemic, it is just how important community and support really is! Let us try to remove some of the burden on those that built the libraries that we use, heck choose one that just sounds interesting if you like. Let us stop raising an issue which blocks our work and assume the responsibility has been handed over to someone else. Let us show those maintainers our appreciation by giving back.

Thank you so much if you made it this far! My hope is that this post will help to inspire at least one other person to provide the help that is so desperately needed to keep our wonderful community alive.

I assure you that if you try contributing, even just once, you will be surprised by how much you will learn and how much of a warming experience it is. It does not matter what experience you have, there will always be a way that you can help others.


What can we do?

There are a number of good starting points (please if you find others do add them to comments and I will happily update the list):

If you are new to contributing or feel like you might like a gentle introduction then another great label to look out for is the Good first issue label (here’s a handy search I created to help).

Other options if the initial set doesn’t help. I find some of these can provide a lot of ‘noise’ in that you will see a LOT of issues and it could be difficult to find the right one.

tags: contribution - development - mobile - open source - xamarin