How did you get your start as an open source maintainer?

#1

Everyone’s journey is different, and there are a lot of amazing stories out there. We had the chance to speak with lifters Evan You of Vue, John Leider of Vuetify, and Olivier Tassinari of Material-UI and hear about how they got their start, and we’d love to hear from you as well!

  • What are your suggestions for people looking to get started?
  • Are there any resources that you would recommend?
  • Any maintainer stories you find particularly helpful or inspirational?

And if you’d like to share your story, we’d love to hear it.

#2

My earliest contribution to OSS that I can remember was actually writing docs - an end-user tutorial for Debian.
After that I tried writing some small apps for the GNOME project and I was pulled into that community, mostly thanks to Miguel de Icaza who was very good at being welcoming, even for people like me who could barely write working software. There was an active social channel on IRC which held the group together.

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#3

Like @havocp, my first OSS contribution was also documentation. I joined the less.js core team in 2012, two years before I started learning how to program. I created an issue on the GitHub repository, and said something along the lines of: “I don’t know how to program yet, but I can help with docs if you’re willing to fill in gaps for me”. Turns out the community wholeheartedly embraces newcomers. I’ve been in love with OSS every since.

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#4

While attending college, working on a research project, I came across an Open Source library called Libcloud that would allow me to programmatically access the API for a private cloud management platform called OpenNebula.

After incorporating Libcloud into one of my projects I encountered a few short-comings in their original implementation of the OpenNebula driver (OpenNebula had changed quite a bit since the original driver was written). So… I just filed an issue and included a very minor patch. I don’t even think the patch was used.

However, it really didn’t matter. My conversation with the Libcloud maintainer, Tomaz, was an incredible learning experience. It gave me an opportunity to learn why things were done a certain way, and it offered direction on what could be done next. I followed up with a few more patches to make the suggested changes. After a few weeks we managed to get a new release of Libcloud published.

It’s that last bit that was so rewarding. Users, primarily across Europe, of OpenNebula may be using my code! How awesome was it to benefit governments and non-profits (the primary backers of OpenNebula at the time).

That sparked almost a decade of contributing to Open Source. None of that would have happened if it hadn’t been for the Libcloud and OpenNebula (I contributed a few patches to that project as well) teams providing the guidance and encouragement to exceed as a collaborator on their projects.

As for a suggestion to others, I believe it helped me to contribute to a project I was actively working with. I had the opportunity to experience the benefits of my work first hand. That helped to solidify in my mind how people benefit from code that is contributed to the public via Open Source.