How to get started in FOSS

I’ve started contributing to FOSS projects since the last month and I’ve already found myself telling two newbies how to get started in FOSS. Although I love to give “gyans” and explain stuff to people, I thought here’s a good opportunity to write on this topic a post as comprehensive as my limited ability and knowledge allows me to.

Before anything, let me first tell you how I got started. I was just done with writing my mains for the UPSC Civil Services exam in October 2012 and I was thinking what to do next now that my 3 year long journey as an UPSC aspirant just got to an end. I decided to try out software again since that’s what I was doing before starting my preparation for UPSC.
Now I’ve been using Ubuntu at home since around 2007 and through out my 4 year long career I’ve worked on Linux environment. I’ve also seen and known a few open source enthusiasts and serious contributors. And husband being a little geeky-software-guy helped me to join the FOSS bandwagon easily. Quite fortuitously around that time, Gnome foundation was offering internships to women to promote women in computing and particularly FOSS. I got through. That’s enough about my history and let me now help you with what you’ve come to read at this post. How do you start contributing to the FOSS projects? Well, there are many ways –

First, get a open source OS at your home computer and get rid of that nasty little thing named after one of those things that you see in every home. Then join various Linux User Groups in your college, city or state. Many of them have IRC channels, join them as well. Lurk around in those channels. Many a times you get posts asking for volunteers.

I got to know about the following projects while applying to Gnome OPW
1. Gnome
2. Subversion
3. Wikimedia
4. Tor

There are others as well –
1. Mozilla
2. Openhatch

If you are a student you might consider Google Summer of Code

My list is not exhaustive and it can not be so because there are just so many open source projects which need contributors. I’ve shared the above list because that’s how I started. Along with the sites mentioned above, I also visited many other open source projects which I used or would have liked to use.

Therefore if you are waiting to get your hands wet in some good work or just feel that free and open source software is the right way to go to bring some equality in this otherwise unequal world, then do not wait for someone to give you work. Start browsing though FOSS projects, use them, find bugs in them and start fixing them.

And one last thing to say before I end my long post – “help will always be given at Hogwarts, for those who ask for it” – just replace Hogwarts with FOSS community. Be polite, ask around for help. Some of the folks are actually nice, you know, even though they hide behind geeky-unfathomable-nicks! 🙂