Friday 17 March 2017

Contribute to an open source project beyond code

I was recently contacted by someone who liked StormCrawler, wanted to contribute to it and asked me how to do so. While most contributions to open source projects take the form of code to either fix bugs or add new functionalities, there are various other ways in which people can contribute.

Here is what I replied to him, and while the examples below are about StormCrawler, the same ideas can apply to pretty much any open source project.

  • Spread the word: if you use StormCrawler, why not blog/tweet about it and get listed on the powered by page? The more people see that it is used, the more confident they become in adopting it. If you are not too shy: why not give a short presentation at a local tech meetup or a bigger conference?
  • Help with the documentation or write tutorials: we have WIKI pages and various instructions on the site - going through those would be a good way of learning about Apache Storm and StormCrawler while at the same time make a useful contribution.
  • Find bugs and possible improvements: run the code, benchmark it, look at the logs for unexpected things. Just play and see! If something is not clear, then the docs can be improved (see previous point).
  • Test things in branches / PRs: for instance, I started work on jBrowserDriver and Elasticsearch 5. Giving new functionalities an early try is fab.
  • Help others:  you have used StormCrawler a bit? Join the mailing list or follow StackOverflow and help newcomers overcome the hurdles as you did.
  • Donate resources: your company has one or more servers they are not using (unlikely but who knows)? You have AWS credits and don't know what to do with them? We can always do with test machines.
Any of those forms of contributions is valuable! Writing code is good but that's just one part of making a project successful.

PS: if you are wondering what happened with that prospective contributor, he's taken one of the open issues and doing great work on it! 

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