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How to Contribute to an Open Source Project

September 24, 2020 - by Birthe Lindenthal

It is great to see that the strategic relevance of open source software for the software industry is rapidly increasing (e.g. shown by IBM and Microsoft investing heavily into open source) and companies as well as individuals increasingly acknowledge the importance and advantages of open source.

One of the special things about an open source project is the amazing open source community. Open source software solutions manage to gather a community of developers and users around them. Ideally, they are actively involved in testing, developing and promoting the product. A diverse global community can generate more ideas, report and fix bugs, develop and troubleshoot faster than an internal team. Also, a free software can easily be adapted to fit exactly your needs. And with every improvement by an individual, a big user community will benefit.

That is why I want to encourage you to contribute to open source software. And it is not only about software developers to contribute new product features or the likes. Everyone can contribute in different ways and the product evolves with every contribution. Even as a less tech savvy person you can bring a lot to the table.

As I am one of the founders of the open source project management software OpenProject, I would like to use it as an example to show you how you can contribute to open source software, even if you don’t have a technical background.

OpenProject is free and open source software. The Community version can be downloaded and installed for free. We recommend the packaged installation of OpenProject with a compatible Linux distribution. The OpenProject Enterprise on-premises offers additional premium features and comes as an upgrade to your on-site Community installation. With the Enterprise Cloud, OpenProject does the hosting for you and the premium features are also included.

All three OpenProject versions are open source and will benefit from your contribution. Let’s take a look at what you can do for the OpenProject community or for any other open source project.

Make a difference with user support
Each open source project will benefit from dedicated user support. This is where you can step in. Our community forum is at the heart of OpenProject. This is where we connect with you and you can connect with other users, ask any question you want and support other OpenProject users. Topics like OpenProject development, support, plugins, general topics are discussed.

You can contribute by sharing your OpenProject experience with other users and help them thrive with their projects. Together we keep the conversation going.

 

Share your ideas for new features
New ideas about features or improvements are always worth sharing with the open source community to improve the product. You are using OpenProject and discover a feature that we haven’t on our roadmap yet but would be beneficial for your project management? Please let us know and open a ticket for a feature idea. You are also welcome to go through the feature ideas and comment on the ones created by someone else that you would also wish for. We are reviewing all feature requests and evaluate them by relevance and effort and then include them into our product roadmap for the upcoming releases. We want to give you as much transparency as possible, hence you can track the progress of all feature requests. We have also documented our product development process in order to make it as clear as possible how new features are being prioritized.

 

Create relevant content for the community
The open source community is there to learn from each other, share your thoughts on topics that interest you, the community will appreciate it. We love to exchange topics and views with our users and the open source community to inspire and share knowledge. Thus, we invite you to share your ideas for our blog, social media, YouTube or newsletter. Of course, the content is not limited to OpenProject. We are always eager to write and learn about the latest developments in open source, project management, security, data privacy and much more. 

 

Help to improve the product with bug reporting
Open source software can be superior because of an active community that is involved to find and report bugs that will still appear despite extensive testing by the development team. Nobody is perfect. If you are an OpenProject user and encounter a behavior that you had not expected, we welcome you to report this bug. We have easy instructions on how you can report the bug here. Don’t be afraid to report a bug with less technical explanations, we attend to all tickets and are looking forward to improving OpenProject with your help. Please report security vulnerabilities confidentially and our team will attempt to reproduce and fix the issue as soon as possible.

 

Be the first to test new features
In order to identify possible bugs before releasing a new version, the open source community is invited to beta test new releases. You can also support OpenProject with testing. We have a quality assurance environment that is always at the latest stage of development. Just register an account and then you can test the new features that we are working on before they go live for everyone. You can for example take a work package of the next OpenProject release and test it. If you find any bugs while testing, report it as described above.

 

Support others by contributing to the documentation
Not only the software itself but also the documentation of an open source software can be open for collaboration. We have an extensive OpenProject documentation and are aiming to make it as complete as possible. Nevertheless, you might find some aspects missing or not detailed enough. Please feel free to add to the documentation regarding additional sections, screenshots or whatever can help yourself and our users to improve the usage of OpenProject.

 

Translate into your mother tongue
The open source community is global and speaks many languages. English is spoken by most but nevertheless everyone is most comfortable in their mother tongue. Thus, contributions in different languages are always welcome in the open source community. Are you native in any other language than German or English? OpenProject is used worldwide and already available in more than 40 languages but there is still a lot to do. We would be very glad if you contributed with more translations. Check the status of the available languages here and add languages or edit existing translations. We are using CrowdIn for the translation process.

 

Enjoy the freedom to add new features with your development
The first thing you think about when you hear contribution to open source software is usually software development. I spoke mostly about non-developmental contribution as it is less talked about but such an integral part of the open source community. Nevertheless, I would like to invite the software developers to contribute as well. Our development guide will give you an overview of what options there are and how to develop for OpenProject. If you are rather new to OpenProject, we have created a feature list for you that contains features that are relatively easy to develop. Check it out and feel free to use our development forum to get in touch.

If you have developed any plugins or extensions to OpenProject yourself, think about publishing and sharing them with the Community.

Experience the open source community: you will benefit if you participate. As shown, there are numerous options to contribute without being a software developer. I am looking forward to connecting with you, the easiest way of reaching out to us is via an email to community@openproject.com.
 

About Birthe Lindenthal:

Birthe Lindenthal

Birthe has been part of the OpenProject founding team right from the very beginning. She is an open source enthusiast and supports software freedom. Her motivation is to build a project management software together with an active international community that enables project teams to achieve great things together. With her background in Business Administration she has put her focus on various non-technical topics within the project, such as marketing and communications, product specification, support as well as community management.