How to Contribute to Open Source Without Coding

How to Contribute to Open Source Without Coding

The following was contributed by Craig Buchek to the St. Louis Unix Users Group listserv on 6 February 2002.

Actually, there are plenty of ways to contribute without coding:
  • Submit bug reports
  • Suggest new features and options
  • Make other comments on how to improve the the quality of the program
  • Help write good documentation
  • Translate the documentation (and program text) into another language
  • Read existing documentation, follow the examples, and make corrections
  • Correct spelling and grammar mistakes in documentation
  • Develop spelling and grammar style conventions for documentors
  • Build a glossary of technical terms
  • Convert documentation into more useful formats (i.e. DocBook)
  • Create templates to write documentation in a WYSIWYG word processor (AbiWord, KWord) and XSLT to transform it into DocBook?
  • Create diagrams, screen-shots, and graphics for documentation
  • Submit graphics (icons, backgrounds) to use in the program
  • Help other people learn how to use the program (answer questions on mailing lists or IRC channels)
  • Write an email expressing your appreciation for the programs you use
  • Send the programmers post cards
  • Send the programmers a virtual beer
  • Write your legislators about the concerns that Open Source programmers have with recent and upcoming legislation
  • Write book reviews and critiques
  • Write a book
  • Maintain a FAQ or HOWTO document
  • Help organize LUG events, including InstallFests?, BugFests?, and DocFests?
  • Help write articles for the LUG newsletter
  • Help update the LUG web site
  • Help maintain a web site for an Open Source project
  • Design a better user interface for your favourite program (GLADE and Qt Designer are great for mocking up a new UI)
  • Run usability studies
  • Create validation or regression test cases
  • See how a program handles streams of random data
  • Package the application for a particular Linux distro (or other OS)
  • Get the program to compile on a new platform
  • Create a Linux advocacy web site (probably not so easy to do right)
  • Provide training to new Linux users
  • Read relevant standards and make sure the program follows them
  • Convince people to chose Open Source products when possible
  • Write up case studies of successful Open Source implementations
  • Send the programmers some money

Here are some suggestions if you want to start coding for an Open Source project:
  • Read a lot of code, and learn from that (I've never seen a book that stressed this enough, but it is critical, and you'll read much more than you write, especially with Open Source)
  • When reading code, consult include files for info on library functions (Learn how to grep for the function or structure you are looking for)
  • Start small, with one-line changes to existing programs (You don't have to understand too much to do this in many cases)
  • Write your own small programs just to learn the language and libraries
  • Start off commenting existing code where it needs it
  • Write some documentation on the architecture of the program
  • Learn how to use all the tools (CVS, diff, patch, libtool, automake...)
  • Experiment by making changes to your local copy of the code
  • Test your code thoroughly before you submit it
  • Adhere to the maintainer's coding and formatting standards
  • Don't get discouraged when your patches are rejected (they will be!)

Last edited by rabiddog .
Page last modified on Sunday 25 of May, 2008 [21:05:02 UTC].

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