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How to get involved in Open Source

I had a very difficult question get asked of me tonight on IRC.  Someone I’ve never met before asked how they could get involved in open source.  At that exact time I was actually writing about open source cartography which really opened my mind to the question of how one gets involved in open source.  What is open source, exactly?  Perhaps to many, open source is software.  It’s Linux or it’s LibreOffice or it’s Firefox.  Or maybe open source is much bigger than that.  It’s data, it’s books, and yes, it’s code.  Is it also a mindset?

So I ask my readers: what is open source and how can I become a part of it?  Please leave your answers as a comment.

Categories: Evangelism
  1. 2013-01-16 at 01:38 EST

    Yes, open source is a mindset – which may or may not involve actual code (one hopes that it does, but I posit that it’s not mandatory). The mindset is openly sharing what you have for the greater good of humanity, IMO. Thus, open source is not restricted to simply software, but you can have open source hardware, open source cookies, or anything else really.

    • 2013-01-16 at 08:52 EST

      Mmmm… Open source cookies!

  2. 2013-01-16 at 02:33 EST

    Just engage with your free open source of your choice and make it better. You can write code or documentation, translate, help in their infrastructure, marketing or help other users

  3. lorenzo@fotonsoft.hu
    2013-01-16 at 05:05 EST

    I think Open Source is like a religion – I also have a weird tattoo on my arm which reads “In Code We Trust” :)
    You can be a part of it by:
    – using it (Firefox/LibreOffice/etc)
    – “converting” other people (make them use Open Source software)
    – making effort (for free) on open source software (reporting bugs, fixing bugs, or even implementing new requested features)
    – the most wonderful: you can even get paid by being an Open Source Developer

    (the following case was experienced by myself a few times, 2 of my friends are such “employers” for tiny projects)

    Imagine that a web-developer company use open source for commercial web applications, (e.g. Joomla / Drupal / Tiki / etc)
    It’s easier for them to add (originally intented to be closed source) new features (modules) , release them open source, give it to the community,

    then just keep their developments updated every time:
    Once in a while a new version comes out from the original framework, the modules have to be updated as well, bugfixes are only up to the company, etc…

    The company just “invests” into that project like it would do originally, but instead of closing the source, it just releases it open source.

    If the company give to the community, the community will probably give back or give back more than the company invested :)

    Such a nice thing, isn’t it?

  4. Bucky
    2013-01-16 at 13:11 EST

    As evidenced by other comments, being “involved” is something of a fluid concept.

    I started out with open source by simply using it.

    Eventually, I ran across something that I had the ability to change to suit myself. I simply changed it for my own self. But since every upstream update meant I had to re-apply my own changes, I eventually submitted my change as a suggestion just to make my life easier.

    Sometimes I’ll run across a question online somewhere that I once had, for which the answer was somewhat hard-won (for me). So I’ll answer it.

    I’m kind of on-again, off-again, so my experience probably isn’t helpful if you intend to be a heavy-hitter, but it was really easy to get involved in the minor way I’m involved.

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