Paralyzing

One of the things that I think scares people off from committing to open source projects is the fear of “I don’t know where to start.”

Sure, there are other reasons as well:

  • “I can’t make the IRC/chat/AOL/whatever meetings.”
  • “I don’t understand half of what the others are talking about.”
  • “I only know how to work with [any given language].”
  • “I don’t think that I have enough experience.”
  • …and so on.

Honestly, you can rationalize your way out of anything that you’re afraid to do with a reason for which most people can’t fault you.

But if you’re even mildly interested in committing to an open source project – or, more specifically – helping out with WordPress, then I highly urge you do so.

Committing To Open Source

Here’s the thing: If we all waited until we were an expert in all things related to any given project, then nothing would get done.

  • No new software would be created,
  • No new tools would be created,
  • No new technology would be created,
  • New ways of working wouldn’t arise,
  • Strategies and patterns for solving problems wouldn’t be created,
  • …the list goes on and on.

And sure, we all admire people who step out and try something new – and have success with it – but we also respect those who fail all along the way in trying to reach whatever it is they’re trying to commit.

No, we aren’t inventing a light bulb, but we are working on software that helps other people (and that likely powers a significant portion of someone else’s project, if not the Internet), so why not contribute?

1. You Learn

All of those excuses and reasons that you think you have for not committing to a project?

They’re moot. Most open source projects need work on every single level and it’s really unlikely that you haven’t had some experience in one of the areas that has several open tickets.

Learn To Learn

C’mon guys. Honestly. Learn to learn.

Find a ticket – some low hanging fruit – read up on how to pull the code, commit a patch, and attach it to a ticket and you’re done.

2. It Looks Good On You

Sure, this reason is a bit selfish, but if you’re going to work on something that’s larger than yourself with tons of other people, why not look good while doing it?

It'll look good on you!

It’ll look good on you!

Now, more than ever, being a developer and having a breadcrumb trail on the Internet of the work you’ve done can pay off in spades when it comes to finding jobs, working with great people, or getting involved in other projects.

3. You Never Know

Aside from increasing your developer (or designer) chops, working on open source projects is something that result in multiple benefits many of which you may not even be able to to anticipate.

Sure, you’ll learn to work with tons of other people who are passionate about a project, and you’ll learn how to do so remotely. You’ll likely be exposed to technologies that you’ve never used so you’ll have to cut your teeth on some new stuff, and you’ll probably get a bit frustrated (what developer hasn’t done that before?).

Now you know.

Now you know.

You’ll probably disagree with someone’s opinion on what preprocessor should be used, or perhaps someone will agree with you with some coding standard that will be in place for others to use as reference (and help make them better contributors to the project).

No, you likely won’t be paid.

Yes, you’ll likely have fun and gain a ton of experience in the process.

WordPress is Always Available

I know that most of you who read this blog have something to do with WordPress. Either you blog with it, work with it, are interested in it, hate it, hate the people who use it, and hate the people who blog about blogging software.

And that’s all cool.

But I do want to be clear for those of you who are looking for an open source project to work on and aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend jumping on board with WordPress.

It’s a large project with a lot of great people doing a lot of really good, really cool things.

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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Nice post, Tom. To anyone on the fence about contributing to WordPress (or any other OSS project), just give it a shot! With the help of Justin Sainton, I finally made my first ticket and submitted a patch to WordPress core just a few days ago. It’s a tiny little bug and a tiny little patch, but it was a great feeling to finally do something I’ve been telling myself I would for a long time. Not to mention great external validation :)

    • Thanks Travis!

      And yeah – I think at some point, we’re all going to be helping out and no matter if the patch is a couple of lines or a couple of files, it’s nice to know that you’ve helped give something back to a project that’s made it possible for you to make a living (or side income :)).

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