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Effective Backup: 5 Basics For Contributing To Open Source Projects

For beginners, contributing to open source projects can prove to be a real challenge. How is the code organized and what rules must be followed? How does quality assurance take place and what do you look out for? These five tips will help you to get involved in open source programming.

What this post is about

  • Find your own role
  • Use tracking tools for control
  • Provide detailed task descriptions
  • Pay attention to the degree of difficulty
  • Have a mentor by your side

Together it simply gets better! At its core, open source relies on community support and contributions from a wide variety of contributors. Helping hands are good, but sufficient skills and necessary support should be properly contributed at all times.

For beginners and newbies, simple rules and approaches apply to advance task progress and avoid delays. Our five tips will help you get started:

1. Find And Choose A Role

There are many ways to become part of an open source project. Contributors can integrate as owners, moderators, developers or test users and act freely in their chosen role. Assigning a fixed position is all the more important because the structure of the collaboration is based on this important hierarchical basis.

The motto "everyone does everything" is completely unsuitable for open source projects. Due to the various project participants, chaos would be pre-programmed and the clean documentation would be unclear. A clear distribution of tasks therefore makes joint development much easier.

Read more: "Open Source: Five Docs and Talks You Want to Change the World by"

2. Integrate Open Source Tracker

In order to know which participants have adopted and contributed which changes and tasks, tracking is indispensable. Versioning tools such as GitHub or GitLab can be used to track progress and their responsible developers for all time. Activity is also rewarded with various badges and awards - a distinction for particularly active participation.

For your own reputation, being involved in renowned open source projects is a strong sign for future clients and a great asset for follow-up projects. It shows your commitment and underlines your qualifications!

3. Follow The Guidelines

Additions, codes and samples must be contributed according to specific guidelines. While it's the end result that counts in the end, it's important to follow guidelines and developer specifications along the way. Project owners should provide guidelines to ensure consistency of input from project team members.

Explanations and input should always be formulated in sufficient detail so that all contributors know what they are talking about. Context and framework information help to achieve the appropriate understanding. A precise description of why and for what purpose adjustments or lines of code were changed should also be provided by participants. In this way, you avoid ambiguities.

4. Correctly Classify Own Open Source Knowledge

Open source projects are divided into different levels of difficulty. Even if complex projects seem more exciting, you should only choose tasks that correspond to your own knowledge. Overestimating oneself leads to de-motivation and also hinders the progress of the project.

It is better to start with small to-dos, work your way forward and build up knowledge step by step. The acquired know-how flows into subsequent projects, whose level of difficulty increases. This effectively builds up the learning effect for beginners.

Often, even a publicly visible list of feature requests and planned expansion stages is maintained, which can be taken care of easily and for all to see. These range from small improvements to the aforementioned major construction sites.

5. Follow Mentors

No one is left alone! Newcomers can turn to available mentors, established moderators or experienced users. Their knowledge helps to guide newbies and inexperienced supporters in implementing ideas. No one should be afraid to ask for help, because everything starts with a first line of code.

The chance to learn more about backgrounds, project history or tricks about open source should not be missed by any beginner. In the long run, everyone involved will benefit from this knowledge.

Bonus Idea

Did you know that we ourselves are implementing an open source tool with the smart helpdesk Zammad? Here we described how you can actively participate in our developer community yourself and become part of one of the most active Ruby projects on GitHub. We would be happy about that!


Offer your own skills in the right framework: To achieve the best outcome for open source projects, clear role assignments and tools to track progress are among the basics everyone should know. Open source should always be defined as a joint project, described with a clear north star within guidelines.

  1. 1. Find And Choose A Role
  2. 2. Integrate Open Source Tracker
  3. 3. Follow The Guidelines
  4. 4. Correctly Classify Own Open Source Knowledge
  5. 5. Follow Mentors
  6. Bonus Idea
  7. Summary
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