Getting into open source programming

Ever since I wrote my first line of Java for Intro to Programming 232 in 2010, I’ve asked the question, how can I get better at this? I google it, ask people, read proggit, read hackernews, read books. The answers are, in order, 1) study on your own 2) contribute to open source 3) learn from smarter friends and 4) go to school.

So I’ve done 1 and 4, and these days I’m soaking up as much #3 as I can from my boss here at Radar Hill. However, #2 has always eluded me. I want to contribute to open source not only to become a better coder, but to strengthen my resume and put my career in a better position, and also for the satisfaction of contributing to software that everyone uses, such as VLC, Subfix, Transmission or Firefox (open source projects that I use routinely).

So from time to time I get a head full of steam about it and start reading docs, forking repositories, skimming the ticket queues and trying to understand the code. So far, I have not gotten very far. I have yet to achieve a single pull request, and all the projects that I’ve looked at are still batter-proof fortresses to me.

I know it’s possible to get past this obstacle. Hundreds of other people have done it. I myself have battered my way past hundreds of similar obstacles. But even so, this one is frustrating me. Other people must be in the same position. Can we attack the problem together? Suppose we hire someone more advanced in their career than any of us, and get them to show us how to crack into an open source project, say in a two-week seminar? Laptops in a wi-fi enabled room, 2 nights a week? Yeah? How much would you pay? How mch would the teacher need to be paid? Can I make this happen?

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Shannon Graham

Shannon has been writing brief essays and occasional how-to articles at Rocketships, Unaffiliated (.ca) whenever inspiration strikes, since 2012. She is interested in your opinion.

One thought on “Getting into open source programming”

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