What is open source and why to get involved? Open source is the idea of a project being open to any one who wants to contribute. While any project can be open source, when someone mentions open source, or OS, they’re typically talking about open source software (OSS). The idea being that people will find enough value in a project to contribute to the project themselves, and to give them the opportunity to. One of the best places to find projects to just hop into is on Github. In addition to finding projects to contribute to, it’ll give the opportunity to learn Git, a very powerful source control system.
One of the best ways to learn, and improve, your programming skills is to do a lot of it. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a project that you’re really passionate about or know how to start on it. This is how OSS can benefit the developer. Instead of worrying about hosting environments, tech stacks, etc, you can jump right into a pre-existing project and work on the sections that you want to. Want to program a new web API? Great! Want to change the existing big O(n) algorithm to something O(1)? Fantastic! Not sure where to start and just want to contribute to documentation? You can! Open source software can be a tremendous opportunity to learn how to do all of this while being (relatively) stress-free! Even if you don’t plan on contributing, looking to see how the project uses programming syntax or any language tricks can still help you develop as a developer.
Another benefit to contributing to OSS is the ability to contribute to something larget than yourself. Many popular GitHub repositories will have a way to communicate with others, typically Discord or Slack. In addition to being part of a community of people behind one goal, you’re also going to be building a product that is well beyond what one person could do on their own. What could take one passionate user years to complete could be accomplished in a fraction of the time by utilizing multiple users.
Let’s say you’re convinced. You now want to join an open source community and make some contributions. Great! I think the best place to start would be to use GitHub’s explore, read over First Timers Only, or just run with an idea and see what happens. In the world of the internet and open source communities, the only thing holding you back is yourself!