Baby Steps Part I

This will be a small series about doing baby steps and playing the long game.

How To Start Contributing To Open-Source

I had a countless conversations in the last 3 years about “How to start? How can I write software?”. Although, I don’t think I’m any authority in this topic, I’ve helped a few people land their first software development jobs. Today we’ll talk about the thing, that recruiters seems to rave about and most of us are even scared to think about - how to contribute to OSS for the first time?

Translate it!

Easiest way is to literally take a piece of software and translate it to your native language. I can hear you - “WHAT IF I SPEAK ONLY ENGLISH?!” - then help any non-native speakers improve their English translations. For you it’ll be ultra easy; for them it’ll help their grammar, vocabulary and ways of thinking in English.

For the last two years, I have contributed to a VS Code translation from English to Polish (how to do that in a sec), contributed a bit to Gitea translation (Gitea is amazing btw!) and translated two small libs on GitHub - Unshaky which tackles very annoying problems with >2016 MacBooks Pro keyboards and Rectangle which adds Windows 10 functionality to your MacOS and allows you to divide the screen into multiple chunks!

About VS Code (and probably Gitea) translation - both of these use 3rd party software/pages to contribute with translations - makes the work painless and easy!

Tackle the giants

I’ve been raving about my Grafana contribution for a while now - apart from working on small libs here and there, this was my first big contribution to OSS. Sounds big, but it was as easy as going through the Issues tab, finding the one I could tackle and just working on it! My first PR was a mess tho, but nobody has to know, shh…

But how can I find it?

Chances are, that if you’re using some custom software, doesn’t matter if it’s a Video player or your favourite iOS/Android app, it will have some translation to do. If the code is on GitHub, you can check if they’re allowing contributors to translate their app.

Second way (that’s the one I’ve used to find Unshaky and Rectangle) is reading HackerNews. Apart from it being one of the best ways to learn about great new tech and getting a different view on various topics, once in a while there will be Show HN topic, where someone shows (sic!) their software. 99% they will need help with something - just do it!

But what if I’ll fail?

We all do. That’s the part of the process. Instead of being afraid of it - embrace it.

That’s the way to grow. You don’t have to do a sequel to VS Code immediately. Baby Steps. BABY STEPS.


So the aspiration from this post is to write at least one blog post weekly; hopefully I’ll be able to work it out! If you have anything you’d like to read about, ping me on LinkedIn, @arturkondas on Twitter or Instagram… Just reach out!

Also, as you (hopefully!) can see, we’re in dark mode now! Finally!

Written on May 11, 2020