Working in web development quickly accustoms you to the time and effort that goes into creating a project from scratch. So initially, the concept of leaving your project open for anyone to access, modify, or distribute may seem unappealing.
However, open source is behind some of today’s most popular and important platforms, including WordPress. Clearly, the power of open source can’t be denied. In fact, opening up code contributions to the public benefits individual developers as much as the users the applications are built for.
In this article, we’ll discuss the value and benefits of open source. Then we’ll provide you with four tips for finding and choosing open-source projects. Let’s get started!
What Open Source Is and How It Works
Open source refers to a piece of software or an application where the code is open to the public. This means anyone can use or modify the code however they see fit. Some of the most popular examples of open-source projects include:
Put simply, any project where the original source code is made freely available can be considered in this category. The intent behind open source is to facilitate a communal, reciprocal, and mutually-beneficial environment of creation.
How Open Source Projects Benefit Developers
As with any development method, there are some drawbacks to open source. For example, there’s a risk that an open-source project will eventually be abandoned. They also tend to require a bit of a learning curve.
The advantages of open source far outweigh the disadvantages, however. Open source increases collaboration and transparency within the development community. In addition, because anyone can contribute, it often leads to faster problem solving and more creative products and solutions.
On a professional level, developers also stand to benefit from open-source projects. Contributing to them can improve your coding skills and give your portfolio a boost. In the long run, it can also help you make meaningful connections with other developers and WordPress professionals, and even lead to new clients.
4 Tips for Finding and Choosing Open-Source Projects
If you’re ready to try your hand at open source development, there is a wide range of opportunities to explore. Let’s take a look at four tips you can apply when finding and choosing open-source projects.
1. Start Small and Progress Gradually
One of the best things about open-source projects is the sheer variety of options. There’s something available for developers at every level.
When you’re an open-source newbie, it’s a good idea to start small and progress gradually. This way, you can familiarize yourself with how open source works, and incrementally graduate to more complex projects and tasks.
We suggest starting by signing up for an account on GitHub:
As a developer, you’re probably already familiar with this platform. In a nutshell, however, it’s a place where you can find and review code, manage projects, and build software collaboratively.
GitHub, like some other platforms we’ll discuss below, offers a decent amount of beginner-level tasks. You might consider contributing a pull request or creating an issue. This lets you dip your toes into open source development, without committing to anything large-scale.
2. Choose a Programming Language You’re Familiar With
When you’re figuring out which open-source projects to contribute to, a safe bet is to start with programming languages you’re already familiar with. Similar to selecting smaller tasks as a beginner, working with languages you already know should make it easier to get comfortable with open source.
There are some platforms that make finding projects by language simple. For example, you might consider using CodeTriage:
3. Get Involved in the Community
One of the most enjoyable aspects of working in development, and with WordPress in particular, is the community you can turn to for support. Open source is the same way.
Immersing yourself in the open-source community can make your experience significantly better. You’ll have access to like-minded professionals who can offer guidance, opportunities, and assistance.
There are various ways you can get involved in the open-source development community. One method is by signing up for newsletters. For example, GitHub has a newsletter that you can customize according to your interests and preferred delivery frequency:
Another way you can get involved is by participating in discussions. You don’t need to write code to contribute to open-source projects; you can simply share your thoughts, opinions, and ideas with others.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Most people are more than happy to offer their skills and expertise. Open source is all about collaboration rather than competition, so the whole community benefits when you improve your own skills and knowledge.
4. Consider Starting Your Own Development Project
Once you’re comfortable working with open-source projects, or you reach a certain level with your development experience, you might want to jump in feet first. In other words, you might consider starting your own open-source project.
Starting your own project has many benefits. Not only can it provide you with enhanced innovations and new ideas, but launching a project also looks great on your resume. Plus, the best way to learn is by doing.
If you’re interested in starting your own open-source project, the first thing is to consider what your goals for the project are. Also, you’ll need to plan for various key elements, including:
The next steps will involve naming and branding the project and then finding contributors. Creating your own open-source project is a powerful way of giving back to the development community that goes beyond simple project contributions.
Open-source projects help fuel the progression of the web development community. However, knowing where and how to get started can be challenging, especially for newbies.
In this article, we discussed four tips you can use for finding and choosing open-source projects:
- Start small and progress gradually as you become more comfortable.
- Choose a programming language you’re familiar with.
- Get involved in the community.
- Consider starting your own open-source project.
Do you have any questions about contributing to open-source projects as a developer? Let us know in the comments section below!