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Open Source

Getting Started Contributing Back To Open Source 99

Posted by kdawson
from the foot-in-the-door dept.
markfreeman writes "The one burning need I have felt over the last year was to get involved with open source as a contributor. I have wanted to help with documentation, advocacy, and most of all, with programming. Here's the story of how I got started, thanks to openhatch.org (which calls itself 'an open source involvement engine') and how you can too."
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Getting Started Contributing Back To Open Source

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  • by WarJolt (990309) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @11:01PM (#32232684)

    many people overlook the fact that the best thing we all can do for oss is to use it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      and support / promote open projects which don't get as much money thrown into the marketing department as certain commercial projects (link back to recently covered story onthe durian open movie project)
    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Sunday May 16, 2010 @11:07PM (#32232738) Homepage Journal
      And to demonstrate it to others without shoving it in their faces.
      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @11:23PM (#32232862)
        And to demonstrate what is better about it. Far too often OSS is portrayed as "I can't buy X, so I'll download Y" rather than "Y is better than X, so I'll download it". Look at Firefox, it didn't get to be popular by being a clone of IE, but by being better.
        • by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @11:54PM (#32233132) Homepage Journal

          And to demonstrate what is better about it. Far too often OSS is portrayed as "I can't buy X, so I'll download Y" rather than "Y is better than X, so I'll download it". Look at Firefox, it didn't get to be popular by being a clone of IE, but by being better.

          and being 'better' isn't necessarily always about OSS doing the job better than the proprietary alternative. Sometimes, it's just a better fit for a certain environment or situation, and that in itself is a reason to push OSS.

          Here is an example:
          A friend of mine teaches art. When they get to the photography units, he can have the class schedule their lives around access to 1 computer, he can require them to each pay hundreds of dollars for photoshop (good luck with that) encourage piracy (potential of getting caught/losing job), OR he can hand out burnt copies of Gimp to every student to use at home.

          is Gimp objectively better than photoshop? no way, but it does the job, and for that situation, Gimp is a much better fit. And the Gimp GUI for the last few versions has been similar enough that what is learned in one program will work in the other.

          but pushing a vastly inferior OSS project, who's only merit is that "it's free" probably does more harm than good. Lets not forget, the super expensive proprietary version is also 'free' to anyone with a high speed connection and some free time.

          • by Xest (935314)

            "Lets not forget, the super expensive proprietary version is also 'free' to anyone with a high speed connection and some free time."

            It's not even just that, all too often the expensive proprietary version is just that much better than the free version that it simply makes good business sense to splash out the cash on the proprietary version because of benefits in terms of productivity, shorter time to market and so forth.

            From a business perspective, there's often no point going free if you need more or high

            • by ThePhilips (752041) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:17AM (#32235314) Homepage Journal

              too often the expensive proprietary version is just that much better than the free version

              With notable exception of M$Office 2003/earlier and CADs, this statement relates to the reality very loosely.

              This is a fairly common problem with FOSS, and it's one of the downsides of the FOSS ideology- many FOSS projects often have great developers but tend to miss other things that proprietary vendors do not- good UI designers as well as investment into usability studies, good QA, etc.

              WTF?! I use corpoware on the daily basis and what you try to advertise here is applicable optimistically to 5-10% of the said software. And the same share of FOSS is well polished and nice/easy to use.

              A lot of FOSS software is developed for FOSS developers, anyone else be damned.

              FOSS model is "egoistic development model" - everybody develops for himself. And many corporation also "get it" and assign developers to FOSS projects to make the adjustments - either locally or in mainline - to accommodate their business cases. What is pretty much the same as assignment of specialists to customize proprietary systems and maintain the customizations.

              From a business perspective, there's often no point going free if you need more or higher paid specialists to look after said system, whilst the people who use the system are less productive.

              This is the most stupid thing I have read in months.

              I yet to see the aforementioned "productivity" anywhere else but marketing PowerPoint slides.

              Business goes for proprietary software due to long term support contracts. And that's about 75% of reasons. The remaining 25% of reasons revolve around backward compatibility.

              And assigning a specialist to "look after said system" is the same for proprietary software. With the notable difference that assigning a specialist to babysit a FOSS deployment might also result in the problems being fixed eventually - while with proprietary software that happens like ... never. (Needless to mention that licensing costs often eclipse the IT wages: often it is cheaper to hire extra IT guy than to buy another proprietary corpoware.)

              I could have called our IT for the examples, but I think it is redundant. The myth that proprietary software is somehow magically better for users is just that - myth. And was debunked many many times [lmgtfy.com] before.

              • by Xest (935314)

                "With notable exception of M$Office 2003/earlier and CADs, this statement relates to the reality very loosely."

                I guess you just don't use that much software.

                CRM software, ERP software, office software, corporate AV software, 3D modelling software, databases, development environments, audio editing software, games, accounting software, mathematics software to give a few examples- none of the FOSS options are as good as the best proprietary alternatives. Even in terms of the likes of e-mail servers and client

          • by radish (98371)

            When they get to the photography units, he can have the class schedule their lives around access to 1 computer, he can require them to each pay hundreds of dollars for photoshop (good luck with that) encourage piracy (potential of getting caught/losing job), OR he can hand out burnt copies of Gimp to every student to use at home

            Adobe give huge discounts to students. My wife went to art school and paid something like $50 for the full CS2 package. If you're just teaching for hobbyists then fair enough, but if

            • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward
              How about instead of worrying about what version of software they're using, you actually learn what's going on? If the class is taught well, then you should be understanding what the software is doing, so you can perform the same task in other packages.
          • by djdanlib (732853)

            It does the job okay until you need color profiles. When you need to print accurate colors, for example when printing grayscale on a specific full-color printer on specific paper with specific color inks without a color cast, Photoshop is well nigh impossible to beat. Printer drivers just don't handle it well enough on their own. GIMP still just wouldn't fly in any of the technical photography classes I had - we lost whole letter grades for the typical magenta or green color casts.

            If you just need to do som

            • GIMP still just wouldn't fly in any of the technical photography classes I had - we lost whole letter grades for the typical magenta or green color casts.

              To cover their ass and get the mark back, did anyone point out that Ansel Adams' prints all had a slight magenta hue?

              Of course, the instructor might point out that their is a slight difference between developing gelatin silver prints by hand, and printing out some Gimped jpegs at walmart.

              • by djdanlib (732853)

                Ha! No, they didn't. Of course, Ansel Adams was not using an inkjet printer. If we'd used Walmart, we probably would have failed outright. "Good enough" is ok for an art class, but technical classes are another story!

                We're not exactly talking about slight casts though - improper color management tended to make midtones and shadows very noticeably green or magenta.

                Profiling imperfect pigments and papers such that you can print grayscale is a laborious technical endeavor which is not for the faint hearted :)

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Jurily (900488)

          Look at Firefox, it didn't get to be popular by being a clone of IE, but by being better.

          No, it got popular by all the zealotry advertising it. It never was "better" than Opera, for example, but it did provide something you can point to while annoying the neighbor.

          After all, if you tried that with Linux, the first response was invariably "does it have Excel?" or "can I play games?".

          • by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <heron@xnapid.com> on Monday May 17, 2010 @03:00AM (#32234206) Homepage

            That's why it's most important to look for the right context in which to introduce Linux as an alternative.

            You don't try to get your Steam-junkie gamer buddy to switch to Linux. You try to get your sister who blogs and plays Facebook games to switch to Linux. It's all about seeing whose needs can be filled by Linux, and looking for those people.

            And if you want to get a specific person to switch, you figure out what their needs are, and then make Linux fill those needs - you don't try to get them to change their minds about what their needs are. (Even if you'd be right to do so, it won't come across that way. This is OSX's biggest problem - if you ask on a forum "How do I maximize my windows in OSX" the replies will be mostly "you don't want to do that". That attitude earns zero conversions, and we should avoid that attitude if we want Linux to gain ground.)

            (This is of course generalizable to any open source software.)

            • by Ailure (853833) on Monday May 17, 2010 @03:33AM (#32234358) Homepage

              Bit funny that you use "Steam-junkie gamer buddy" as a example since Steam is apparently going to be officially released on Linux within a few months. Of course, time still have to prove whenever it's good or not (GPU drivers is still somewhat problematic for Linux).

              But I have to agree that you need to introduce Linux (and OSS) where it makes sense to.

              • Yeah, I know. I'll probably be among the first to download Steam for Linux, but since it's not officially confirmed yet, and since most games are going to remain Windows-only anyway, I think it's still a valid comparison ;)

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by MrResistor (120588)

                I have several Mac using friends who are quite excited about Steam for OSX. It's very cool of Valve to do that, but the selection of games is very limited. I see no reason the situation on Linux should be any better. Indeed, it will likely be worse, as developers at least make an effort to target OSX.

                Of course, Steam-Linux could integrate with Wine to support Windows only games, which would be very cool IMO.

          • by icebraining (1313345) on Monday May 17, 2010 @03:58AM (#32234490) Homepage

            It never was "better" than Opera, for example, but it did provide something you can point to while annoying the neighbor.

            Opera was adware until Sep. 2005. By the time it was released as freeware Firefox already had a much larger market share (11% vs ). [onestat.be]

            A 2004 review in The Washington Post described Opera 7.5 as being excessively complex and difficult to use. The review also criticized the free edition's use of obtrusive advertisements when other browsers such as Mozilla and Safari were offered free of charge without including advertisements.

          • by oakgrove (845019)

            No, it got popular by all the zealotry advertising it. It never was "better" than Opera, for example, but it did provide something you can point to while annoying the neighbor.

            Bull and bull. It got popular because it was genuinely better. Firefox's greatest asset is its extensions. That's why it is the superior choice. Opera is great but it doesn't have the customizability that FF has. You hear people all day long on here, "I'd just switch to chrome but it doesn't have $EXTENSION so I'm staying with firefox."

            After all, if you tried that with Linux, the first response was invariably "does it have Excel?" or "can I play games?".

            To which I say, where's your Office disk, I'll install it for you. Office works great in Linux on Crossover and it is seamless. Now, where are your game disks? Same s

        • I think the fact that every time I show a girl or guy my Compiz desktop (I did put a lot of work in a professional color scheme and intelligent choices on spaces, fonts, effects etc), and what I can do (not the effects, but the power), that person tells me she/he wants that too, speaks volumes about how easy it is to woo people for open source.

          Also you can always get a quick win on everyone using MS Office, by showing them, how OpenOffice still has the old menus and everything instead of the new ribbon

      • And to file bug reports, preferably detailed.
        • by scdeimos (632778) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @11:43PM (#32233032)

          And to file repeatable bug reports, preferably detailed.

          There, I fixed that for you.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            C'mon, man. My bug is, like, totally repeatable on my l33t overclocked box. Neither you nor the guy who wrote Memtest86 can code well enough to keep up with its incredible speed...
          • And to file repeatable bug reports, preferably detailed.

            Very few people understand the importance of that until they've been on the receiving end and have had to try to fix a bug report themselves. Then they get a sort of "ahah!" moment. At least the ones with half a brain do. I've known professional software developers with 10+ years of experience who still couldn't file a bug report worth a damn.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by icebraining (1313345)

            Bug report #2323.

            Summary: Button is misaligned.

            Attachments: VirtualBox image of the system.

            • by arielCo (995647)

              I laughed for the better part of a minute - thanks :)

              OTOH, more than once I've wanted to do that, and tell them to use it for a week or so until they run into the bug again

          • I'd settle for "thorough" bug reports. Some bugs are difficult to repeat under slightly different setups, and the difference can be difficult to capture for a developer. I just spent some time, for example, reporting an authentication bug with a VPN setup, which expended over time to be a complete inability to do password authentication for certain Kerberos based tools. It turned out the official corporate NTP servers were deranged, and my clock chip was the first to drift far enough out of compliance for N

          • by ais523 (1172701)
            Even when I get an intermittent bug that I can't repeat myself reliably, I normally file it anyway (together with a note that I apologise for being unable to reproduce it and understand if the developer's can't fix it, or even go about starting to fix it). Often when you do that, someone else with the same bug, together with an idea of what's causing it, posts to the same issue, making what's going on clearer for both both of you, and the developers. (Of course, this only works on projects with public bug t
    • by iammani (1392285)
      and submit bug reports!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      While that's true, if FOSS is ever going to become the norm, it is going to have to pay the bills as well. Coding projects require patronage, lots and lots of small amounts of money from many people. 1 million users tossing a coder a quarter goes a long way. Speaking of micropatronage, is there a way to actually practice it (efficiently), yet?

      • by Jurily (900488)

        If FOSS is ever going to become the norm, you have to interact with non-free components for the time being. C# interop for Thunderbird and OOo, anyone?

        Yes, it is possible with a C++ library, and wrapping it in C#. Or so I'm told, installing Office was way faster.

        • by oakgrove (845019)

          If FOSS is ever going to become the norm, you have to interact with non-free components for the time being. C# interop for Thunderbird and OOo, anyone?

          I know, right? I mean, I was trying to switch my Aunt Tilly over to OpenOffice last week and the first thing she asked was how well it worked with C#.

      • by mr_mischief (456295) on Monday May 17, 2010 @03:40AM (#32234404) Journal

        You've hit on a key issue in not just small donations but in lots of business models, too. There are problems with most payment methods for small payments.

        Small checks through the mail are efficient for the sender, but are terribly inefficient for the recipient. That's even true if a stamp is used to endorse them. Then there's the small but real risk of fraudulent ACH transactions when you send an unknown entity a check. Then there are failed check hassles, too. Even small checks can be insufficient funds if someone's overdrawn already or they could write an old check on a closed account by accident.

        Accepting credit and debit cards is pretty efficient for the recipient for larger values, but with fixed per-transaction fees in addition to the percentages, most merchant accounts aren't worth using if a large proportion of transactions are for small amounts.

        Sending coin or currency through standard post is fairly efficient, and there's typically a reasonable risk of loss on the part of the sender if the payments are small enough. There are pretty good systems for counting coin and cash. There's an issue of security through obscurity for the recipient, though, since targeting the recipient's end of the mail could score a pretty good chunk. How does one let honest people out in the public know where to send cash while keeping the delivery end secure? A post office box is more secure than the average customer location mail drop, as are slots into a building or a locked customer box. There's still lots of people involved in getting the money there, though. People, even ones screened by the Postal Service for honesty and integrity, are always a possible weak link to security. Some projects have had at least limited success with this process, though. Barry Kauler of the Puppy Linux project accepts cash for mailing CDs to people (and would probably accept donations in cash, too). He accepts US dollars, Australian dollars, and Euros/a>. He recommends PayPal. I hope I haven't hurt the security of this system for him by mentioning it on Slashdot; anyone who's been to the Puppy site could have already known about it. [puppylinux.com]

        PayPal is an option. They have similar per-transaction and percentage-of-transaction fees to credit cards. For donations, they require no setup fees, no monthly fees, and no monthly minimum. There is a $0.30 transaction fee on top of the percentage for donation receipts of less than $3000 per month (if this source is timely [fundraisin...etters.com]). That makes single-dollar donations feasible but expensive. Anything less is not worthwhile. I haven't found the pricing info for donations on PayPal's site after a few minutes looking, but the prices listed at that fundraising news site are in line with their commercial payment services.

        Amazon has a system that lets any Amazon customer pay you a donation for 5% plus as little as $0.05 if you're a 501(c)(3) non-profit in the US and the donation is less than $10. Check out their prices [amazon.com]. They also have a similar low-cost cutoff for non-donation payments [amazon.com] and even a micropayment system that tracks payments under $0.05 at 20% with a quarter-cent minimum cost [amazon.com] for both donations and sales.

        Google has Google Donations [google.com] which for any US 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(6) non-profit (but not other 501(c) subcategories) which follows the standard transaction fees [google.com]. For organizations that are qualified and are accepted into the Google Grants [google.com] program, Google Donations processing is free while the organization is in good stand

    • many people overlook the fact that the best thing we all can do for oss is to use it.

      Not KDE. I have been contributing bug reports and triaging other people's bugs (well over 1000 bugs) for years at KDE, so there will be no mistake that I love that project.

      However, KDE breaks compatibility between point-dot releases (4.2 and 4.4 had problems with 4.1 and 4.3 ~/.kde configurations, respectively), and they release "developer preview" (their own words) as dot-oh software: KDE 4.0, Kdevelop, Amarok, Koffice, the list goes on. KDE SC 4.4's Kaddressbook was missing critical features after a rewri

  • Good for you (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suso (153703) * on Sunday May 16, 2010 @11:17PM (#32232806) Homepage Journal

    Glad he felt the desire to give time back. I think that one thing that can help out open source is to let the developer know that you liked their software. Bug reports are good but when they all pile up, it kinda makes development feel more like work. The next program I'm releasing soon (http://suso.suso.org/xulu/clide) is going to have a --warmfuzzy option that will allow the user to send a ping like feedback back to the author to let them know that they enjoy using the software. Kinda like a ring the bell if you liked the service thing. All too often open source tools are used and the developer doesn't have any feedback as to whether their software is being used successfully or not. I'd like to help change that.

    • by Kozz (7764)

      Good for you! I think sending a little "ping" of satisfaction would be kinda nice, better than simply another entry in your Apache log, right? (btw, if you want to promote your project, best to use the hyperlinks [suso.org]).

      I've had projects I've enjoyed, navigated to the hell that is sourceforge site structure (really, it does suck) to get to the right forum to ask whether the project was alive, and how I could help. I got nothing but crickets.

      • by VTI9600 (1143169)

        I don't know about you, but my next project will be a tool to set up zombie bot networks for a DDoS-style ping flood of warm fuzzies to all other OSS projects with the "ping of satisfaction" option. How's *that* for supporting open-source!

    • All too often open source tools are used and the developer doesn't have any feedback as to whether their software is being used successfully or not.

      Any feedback is telling a developer that his/her software is being used. After all: if nobody was, where would that feedback come from?

      More feedback (bug reports, specifically) could mean a couple of things: that your software is really crap, OR that lots of people are using it, some of those have encountered a bug, and out of those 'some', somebody made the effort to report it back. I guess as developer you should appreciate that, AND be able to tell apart 'lots of bugs' from 'lots of users'. And if you

  • Documentation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Actually, I'd say "most of all documentation".

    Open source documentation is ass.

    Hell, almost all technical writing is ass.

    For all the buzz "Natural Language" interfaces get these days you'd figure someone would strive for a "Natural Language" manual. /irony is also "ass".

    • by skids (119237)

      Bug reports are the easiest way to just get in the habit, but a lot of the time it takes an experienced developer to trace the bug halfway before a bug report would really be actionable.

      Documentation is the most effective way to do some good while learning repository tools.

      Anyone looking to contribute seriously should start with docs. And they should take a bit of time to read up on good technical writing practices, or at least look at the most usefully well documented software and glean what makes the doc

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @11:32PM (#32232944)

    Ain't fun. Ain't sexy. Needs to be done.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And please don't.

      Meaning almost anyone who's reading this tread. Please, don't write documentation.

      You currently do, and plenty, and you're part of the problem.

      • by dotgain (630123) on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:02AM (#32233898) Homepage Journal
        I wish you'd somehow made your point more politely, because there is actually at least some substance to your otherwise caustic and arrogant remark.

        I think what is needed the most in the way of Documentation is somehow getting rid of the old stuff, all those HOWTO's, and so on. Many of them still show up in searches for common problems, with incorrect or suboptimal solutions for today's kernels and baselayouts. The "Last modified" date is a clue to the wise, but the learner has no way of knowing that docs written 8 or so years ago are sometimes very counter-productive.

        Spending a few minutes on my distros IRC channel I really is disenchanting seeing how many people immediately leap to IRC for help on the the stuff that actually is documented well and easy to find. You wonder, even if documentation were more complete, what difference would it make? Half the people who don't need the documentation end up arguing over how it's written and other stupid details, and the people who do need it don't read it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by icebraining (1313345)

          I think what is needed the most in the way of Documentation is somehow getting rid of the old stuff, all those HOWTO's, and so on. Many of them still show up in searches for common problems, with incorrect or suboptimal solutions for today's kernels and baselayouts. The "Last modified" date is a clue to the wise, but the learner has no way of knowing that docs written 8 or so years ago are sometimes very counter-productive.

          This is important: always put a date on your how-tos! And the date your blog software

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is actually the best way for non-developers (and non-geeks for that matter) to get involved.

      When a developer/geek writes documentation, they look at it from the standpoint of "Here's how to get X to create Y using Z". The documentation tends to be filled with jargons, and assumes that the end user is already competent in using the program.

      When a non-developer/geek writes documentation, they look at it from the standpoint of, "Here's how I make my computer do the thing that I want it to do using your pr

    • And to add, something I'm missing in almost any documentation: write documentation that serves absolute beginners. Why? Because non-beginners already know how to use the [whatever]. So if they need more info, assume they're totally new to the subject you're documenting.

      For example: so far I haven't found (online) a guide on 'how to use a computer, that has Ubuntu Linux on it' for beginners. How to configure Ubuntu: sure. What is different in Ubuntu vs. other distro's: sure. What is different in Linux vs. W

      • Do you mean much like the For Dummies series?

        If so, I think you are spot on.

        BUT BUT BUT

        It is hard enough to get developers even to write a line of documentation let alone get decent Technical Writers involved to make those nice User Docs.
        This applies even for Commercial software let alone FOSS.

      • by bmordue (899456)
        Ubuntu for Dummies [amazon.co.uk]?
    • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:18AM (#32233998)

      How about "make it usable enough so users don't need documentation"?

      Hint: how do you make Xorg play nice with laptops getting repeatedly connected to different size screens/projectors? I did RTFM, for several hours. Meanwhile, Win7 takes 3 mouse clicks the first time, then remembers your settings.

      I want to stay on Linux, I really do. But I also need to Get Shit Done.

      • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Monday May 17, 2010 @07:46AM (#32235446)

        Oh, dear Lord, user interfaces. They're tough to write well, and one of the great flaws of oopen source. Try the guidelines at the bottom of http://catb.org/~esr/writings/cups-horror.html [catb.org].

        One thing Eric missed in his rant is "throwing things out". Most of CPAN, for example, should have been flushed down the toilet as incompatible with thermodynamics, much less the last five yearf of Perl releases, years ago. Subversion should have thrown out Berkeley DB as an unstable piece of unusable debris years ago. And password based FTP should have been discarded as a bad idea 10 years ago, but Matlab continues to rely on it for upstream file transfer with no built-in HTTPS or WebDAV.

        What are these idiots thinking?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rockoon (1252108)

          What are these idiots thinking?

          They are thinking "I know how to do X, but I dont know how to do Y. Even though X is way worse than Y, I don't want to spend the time learning how to do Y, so I'm going to do X"

        • They are thinking “Well, you get it for free. if you wanna complain, pay us to change what you want to have changed! Or STFU. :P”

          • I'm afraid this is not enough of an explanation. The reasons for poor interfaces vary. I was somewhat irritated when I wrote that comment, I'd just spent a long time with a particularly bad interface.

            But far, far too many of our open source interfaces are an exploration of "Exciting! Java! Widgets! Popping! Up! Everywhere!" and doing things that no one actually cares about, rather than providing consistent and meaningful choices.

            I've offered money to change these things. I've offered _good_ money and contra

  • I checked out the site this guy is hawking, and their projects page lists just about every open-source project ever conceived! I highly doubt that any of their project pages are actually authorized by leaders of the projects they claim to support, and that's a problem. There is a false endorsement being implied, and it will likely cause unnecessary headaches when people try to make contributions outside of normal channels.

    Seems like common sense, but if I want to fix/report bugs for project X, shouldn't I

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by castoridae (453809)

      I checked out the site this guy is hawking, and their projects page lists just about every open-source project ever conceived!

      Not every project... there's a curious lack of Java projects. But if you want to hack Python, boy are you in luck!

      • Java Sucks. (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Petersko (564140)
        "there's a curious lack of Java projects."

        Java Sucks. There... I said it. It's a bizarre, overweight, crushingly painful piece of crap that just needs to die already. Nobody gives a crap about "write once, run anywhere", even if it existed, and relying on any of the common frameworks sets you up to create a poorly performing piece of crap.

        You'd think that EJB 2.0 would have killed Java for good, but for some reason it's still kicking.

        I'm not saying you can't build good stuff in Java. I'm just sayi
    • Thanks for your thoughts on the site!

      The project pages are actually generated from the list of projects people have said they contribute to. So it is all things that people on the site have worked on, in one way or another.

      The point of our the project is to help people find the *official* channel to contribute, and I think having that information in another place can't hurt.

      I really don't want the site to feel gross and astroturfy, since it's actually organic! So your feedback is helpful, if somewhat painful to hear. (-:

      Oh, yeah, and our hosting is two little Linode virtual machines, so we do suffer a bit more than huge sites like Launchpad when a load storm comes our way. We're working on performance, too. (-:

      -- asheesh at openhatch.org.

      • by Kenz0r (900338) on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:38AM (#32234114) Homepage
        Funny that the first person to mention Launchpad is someone that works for OpenHatch.

        Not to steal your thunder, I think OpenHatch is wonderful, but it does remind me an awful lot about launchpad.
        For those of you unfamiliar with LP, launchpad.net [slashdot.org] is another site like this, that tries to get people involved with F/OSS projects.
        You can contribute bugreports, fixes, Q&A about software, provide translations...
        It used to be focussed around Ubuntu and Gnome (because the site is run by Canonical Inc.), but nowadays the site has really taken off (no pun intended) and hosts many kinds of FOSS projects.

        I like how OpenHatch makes FOSS-involvement something you can boast about on forums/social networking sites using their HTML widget.
        It makes me want to get my hands dirty and get involved :)
        • Umm, he mentioned Launchpad in response to the parent poster.

          On a side note, it looks like they are having some load issues...I doubt that sourceforge/launchpad/github/etc. could be slashdotted so easily.*

          So he explained their server setup and compared it to the same sites the parent mentioned. I only had a glance at the site but the fact that the guy is here
          joining the discussion leads me to believe that they are down with the community aspect of Open Source anyway...

          * emphasis mine

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by VTI9600 (1143169)

        The point of our the project is to help people find the *official* channel to contribute, and I think having that information in another place can't hurt.

        If that is truly your goal then why don't you try doing some of your own research (such as contacting project leads, collecting activity stats, etc.) to develop content for your site rather than trying to just be "organic"? Sure, it's a lot of work, but quality content from authoritative sources still matters. I wish that more Web 2.0 types would put in the effort to create it, rather than just dropping a fishing line out in the interwebs to see if something bites.

        I miss the days when content was king, an

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by paulproteus (112149)

          We are contacting project leads. I'm reaching out to my friends and the projects they're working on, and blogging about this stuff on Planet Debian (since I'm a Developer on Debian).

          http://openhatch.org/wiki/Bug_trackers [openhatch.org] is where we ask that project leads write about their bug trackers so we can import them into openhatch.org/search/. We're trying to find more projects that label bugs as "bitesize."

          On project pages, we're hoping that the people who add projects to their profiles follow the link and leave a

  • Answer Forums (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shermo (1284310) on Monday May 17, 2010 @12:00AM (#32233182)

    The biggest help I've gotten about OSS has been from knowledgeable folk on forums. (And I've never been the one asking the question)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      But only if you know what you're talking about, please! None of this "try deleting ~/.foo" or "I heard from my buddy that blah blah blah".

  • All you sunny day suzies saying how to give obviously haven't actually participated in the process.

    Egos get in the way and battles over priorities eventually break out - resourceful volunteers are left waiting to be utilized - projects suffer from either weak and/or dis-engaged leaders.

    The net effect is that those that do try to come on board and help at whatever level are more often than not ignored and eventually wander away.

    So please stop all this happy talk about how it feels so good to be doin
    • Re:Bah... (Score:4, Informative)

      by paulproteus (112149) <slashdot@NoSpaM.asheesh.org> on Monday May 17, 2010 @02:18AM (#32233996) Homepage

      This is why OpenHatch focuses on projects that have bitesize bugs.

      There are projects that *want* new contributors, and they're marking tickets in their bug trackers as good for newcomers.

      You can read more about that at https://openhatch.org/blog/2009/get-involved-in-foss/ [openhatch.org].

      (It's 2am, and I'm going to sleep!)

    • Oh, dear. I don't suppose your dismay and frustration show up in your bug reports, do they? That can help keep them from being read or corrected.

      I've certainly seen the "I'm right, you users don't understand!" problem from project leads. Goodness, I've even published popular workarounds, for up to a decade, to some design "choices" that were bugs in real use until someone else took over a project or a new project was released that did a better job of it. Patience is very helpful. So is actually contributing

  • by adamofgreyskull (640712) on Monday May 17, 2010 @05:14AM (#32234822)
    I picked a bite-size bug at random from the first page of results for PHP bugs: Bug 17497 - Add oasis opendocument and oo.o legacy document to mime.types [wikimedia.org].
    The bug was created a year ago and has some activity on it, including a patch. Looking at that history though, it's not clear whether the problem has been fixed nor what action is now required. The actual fix is seemingly simple, but no-one can agree on the exact form the simple fix should take. I wouldn't say that's a great introduction for a newbie to the project.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by markfreeman (1812796)
      I agree, this is a big issue. Quite a few times I have gone through bug trackers looking at items to see that patches had already been submitted, bit the issue still wasn't marked resolved. One thing maintainers can do is review and give feedback on submitted patches. Letting something 'sit on the vine and rot' isn't helping the project and doesn't make people want to contribute.
      • (I'm asheesh at openhatch.org.)

        Yeah, finding a bitesize bug that looks cool is a drag when the next step isn't clear.

        It would be nice if more of these bitesize bugs were well-maintained by their projects, or at least you could tell what you should do next.

        Something we could do is give you an info box, suggesting good next steps. "If there is a patch, download it -- does the patch apply against the current version of the software? Does it work? Does it seem like a good contribution? Patch review is very help

    • Reminds me of ThunderBird bug #92165 - Cannot rename a local folder to its current name with different case

      Although the apparent action required there is that...
      laymen, who merely encounter the bug, find it odd, and go through the trouble of creating a mozilla bugzilla account to post on the topic.. are told by the people who understand the bug and know exactly how to fix it, to create a patch themselves if they find it so important.

      If that is the general response people who are enthusiastic about open sour

  • No Java requested at all? I've always seen it as the base language for open source.
    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      Ya kidding right? It's only been 2 years since Java was finally made "free", and now Oracle owns it. For at least a decade before that it was referred to as the "Java Trap".

      • by hcgpragt (968424)
        Maybe you confuse Free and Opens Source?

        There have been, and are, many java open source projects. I was wondering why they are not part of this site. Especially SUN has been a real advocate for open-source in the past.

        ps. C# isn't exactly 'Free' I guess.

    • The site indexes projects that poeple say they are contributing to. There isn't anything about the site itself that is excluding Java based projects. If there are Java projects that need help and are marking easy and doc bugs on their tracker, you can submit a request to have that tracker added here: https://openhatch.org/wiki/Bug_trackers [openhatch.org].
  • I work for a university research group doing social psychology & public health research. As the most technologically adept person in my program, I've been slowly but steadily weaning the rest of my team off of closed source stuff and getting them to use, or if not actually use, at least consider OSS for various uses.

    One of the things I'm starting to do is get in contact with people who manage OSS projects that *almost* but not quite meet our needs and discuss funding them to implement the features and f

  • Donating to OSS that you use is a great way to give back. Nothing says "thank you" like cold, hard cash.

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