Nicholas Whittier's blog isn't (yet) on Planet Teaching Open Source, so I'm going to cross-post this, because I was excited to read it. His New Year's Resolution is to start participating in open source projects - namely, Habari and GeoServer - and he's going to document the process as he goes along.
...I have used and promoted open source software for as long as I have been aware of its existence. I talk the talk, and I have met with success when 'selling' open source software solutions to my employers. But I must admit, I have not really been walking the walk... the extent (to date) of my open source 'walking' has been logging a few dozen bugs for various projects, a couple of minor documentation updates, and a couple work weeks of forum postings and mailing list responses. Not terrible, but I know I can do better... so, my resolution is to cut down on my internet browsing, and fill it with mailing list/IRC/Forum participation, documentation updates, QA, and coding for a few open source projects that are important to me. I plan to document my experiences with some of these projects, and offer any insight that I can to help others who are interested in getting involved open source. I'm planning to get much more involved in Habari (PHP - powering this blog) and GeoServer (Java - I use GeoServer in my usual geo-spatial stack). Because I have different levels of comfort in these technologies, and because the projects are run very differently, these two projects will offer a great way to look at some of the diversity that is possible in open source participation...
That's where I am at the end of 2010. I'm taking baby steps here, and aiming to be an active participant in these efforts with submitted code, bugs, and documentation updates during 2011. Future posts on getting started in open source will likely compare my experience of similar activities, and how they proceed in the two distinct projects. I hope this way of dispensing my experiences will offer easy ingestion for users interested in different projects, as well as users with distinct skill sets. Hopefully the variances between the two projects will allow a good deal of data for each step along the way. Stay tuned for a 'Getting started in open source participation' article on exactly what I'm doing to get my foot in the door for these projects, and a little bit more about what I'm expecting in this effort.
I'm very much looking forward to reading these posts, and have encouraged Nicholas to tag them so they'll show up on Planet TOS - he's a keen writer with the ability to reflect on his mental processes while learning something as a novice, which is something that will be incredibly valuable for any open source project trying to get insights into how the participation process looks like from the newbie side, and also to newcomers looking to read about the thoughts of someone going through the process they're about to launch into.
I hope that more newcomers join Nicholas in writing down their thoughts as they begin their own FOSS journeys. It's actually the sort of thinking and contribution that we typically lack the most - and something that experienced contributors cannot do. I have some of my own thoughts in this blog from several years ago when I began actively contributing to open source, but they're faded and fuzzy and I
wish I'd done more (I was confident that nobody would care, but as it turns out, I wish I had written more down).
Too often we're only publicly reflective only when we're confident and experienced with something - so I applaud (and admire!) the courage being demonstrated here. Good luck, Nicholas - please keep writing, and let us know if we can help you with your adventures in any way.