Contributing to Open Source Projects

This holiday season give the gift of code… or anything else no matter how small to help out your favorite open source project. By joining the 24 pull reuests website with your Github account, you can challenge yourself to contribute to 24 projects through December.

Here are some reasons why you should contribute to open source projects.

It can seem like a bit task to jump into any open source project, so start by looking for the smallest thing your could contribute.

Why contribute to Open Source Project

Its simple really, as developers we all use open source projects and we would get less done without them. It is an opportunity to get more experience outside of your daily routine and is a great way to differentiate yourself should you look for another role.

Look at the open source projects you use regularly, which of those have issues you could help with?

What could I possibly contribute ?

You don’t need to be the best coder on the planet to contribute, find a simple bug in the issue tracker for the project and have a go. You should match any coding styles the project uses, even if you dont like them.

If you find something you dont understand in the docs, then write an improvement. I often start contributing by answering some of the simpler issues raised. Those issues are often from missunderstanding the docs for the project, so it can be an effective way to work out what needs improving.

All this frees up the time the project maintainers have to develop the code and tackle larger features and bugs.

Concered about your code quality ?

There is no such thing as perfect code, so you shouldnt be afraid to share.

To help your code be more useful to the project, you should look out for coding styles used. Even if you have your own style that you love, you should use the styles already adopted by the project.

The smaller the code change you make, the less likely you will make any coding fubar’s and if you do then its easier for the project maintainers to tell you what they would like to see instead. If you have lots of changes over several files, if the maintainers dont like the first code they see they are likely to just reject the change.

Using Github & Pull Requests

One of the easiest way to contribute to an open source project is to create a small change and share it back to the original project. If the project is on Github, you can create a pull request. A pull request is a message to the original project to invite them to pull a change you made into the original project.

You can make a change directly on the projects Github page, or ifs a code change that you want to test then you can fork the project and have your own copy of the project on Github.

Learning to use Git

If you are not up to speed with Git yet, the most useful website I have found it

If you use the Git command line client, then git help <command> is a great way to get help on specific commands. Alternatively, there is a great online help at

There is a list of graphical Git clients on the website.

Thank you.

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