I am ashamed that I have never committed to an open source project. As a software developer, contributing towards open source is a natural way to fill that “good karma” itch. Commit some lines of code and you have made the world a better place, right?
In my own particular case, here are some of the barriers which prevent me from finding a project to commit code to. There may already be solutions to these barriers that I have just not discovered yet. I would love feedback if that is the case.
Projects aren’t caused-based.
Sure, Mozilla has the ‘improve the web’ cause. I am talking more about projects that are directly related to saving someone’s life. Are there open source projects out there dedicated to reducing human trafficking? Improving health in third world countries? Animal rights?
Even if there are projects which directly relate to a specific cause (and there probably are plenty), I don’t know about them because I am unaware of a central repository of all-things open source. Some might argue that GitHub fills this role. The discovery engine for GitHub is mostly based on trending repositories. This does not lend itself well to stumbling upon the project which is utilizing mobile devices to help track down missing and exploited children throughout the world.
When you reach an open source project, it is not always immediately apparent how to best start contributing. Are there low-hanging issues that would be easy for a new individual to tackle to come up to speed on the code? How do I introduce myself to the active community? Where could I use my skills most effectively? What accounts do I need? I would love to always see a big green “Get started here, dummy” button that I could push to learn anything that I should know before I start to contribute.
These seem to always be the reason that I fail to start volunteering time towards an open source project. Maybe I am crazy and no one else has these issues, but I would love to know what other people’s barrier to contributing to open source projects are. Maybe the best way for me to start contributing to the open source community is to start solving the above issues.