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The Dummies Guide to Contributing to FOSS..
(This guide is inspired from the 'Dummy' series of books!..
This is a quick guide to those who have just been initiated to FOSS. If you are already a FOSS contributor then contribute to this guide!
So to begin with assuming you just came in to the FOSS world through one of the following means
- Read an article/news/book/webpage/email
- Got a Linux CD with some magazine
- Attended some foss event like - FOSS.IN/Freedel/LUG organized meet
- Heard an inspiring speaker on FOSS & its benefits
- Were fed up rebooting your windows & the virus infections.. so switched to gnulinux
- Your friendly neighbourhood geek baptised you..
.. so on..
Since you are reading this I assume, you know whats is a user & a contributor.. but still to define it clearly..
- A user is someone who just uses
- Occasionally asks questions on lists, chat or mails to get his/her problems solved.
- Just does only the above two!!
A Contributor is one
- Is a user ... well you can never really contribute for/to something which you never use/used.
- Helps others users with what he/she learned.
- Contributes to FOSS - now this is what this guide is about.
- So where do I start?
You have already started; by posing this question :-). Contributing to FOSS is no different from contributing to any other community program:
a)Participate->b)Share experiences->c)Notice Gaps you can fill->d)Step up.
First, what resources do you have to contribute? There are lots and lots of things that might help, including, but not limited to, money, time, art, documentation, testing, and advocacy.
a)You can participate by starting to use for your regular activities - browsing the net, creating documents, email, chat ...
b)Do you have a blog? Then start writing about your experiences like easy to setup, it works out of the box or you needed to tweak something to get it working... Or if you are a member of a local mailing list post your experience there, it would help others who wish to do the same thing. If you are not a member of any mailing list, check if your place is in listed here. If there is none there you can start one. You will find more help in setting up a user group in your area here.
c)Write documentation, Request for features, Report bugs
e)The last part is where FOSS differs from other software. Anyone can step up and make a difference. Contributions for FOSS come from people in all walks of life - programmers, artists, writers, teachers, engineers, scientists, journalists, doctors, housewives, musicians, marketeers and even children (google for etoys, for example). People do it because they CAN and it is great FUN!
In short, participation in FOSS means using it in your daily activities - in schools, offices, shops, studios etc. Do it because it is fun. Then, start sharing your experiences with others. Slowly, you start noticing gaps/breakdowns. These could be feature set, graphics, code, manuals, application notes or even the way FOSS is being used (or could be used) in your community. Now, sign up for your pet project and offer to fill in the gap. When you feel strongly about a gap and cannot close it yourself, find and fund another person to close it for you.
So what do you really enjoy creating - writing, coding, drawing, painting, organizing?
Have got some questions? We have a list of Frequently Asked Questions and their answers here.