Open Source Software (sometimes abbreviated as OSS) is software that has its codebase publicly hosted online in a repository where anyone can contribute. There are many benefits to using OSS on development projects, but why should developers put forth the time and effort to contribute to open source projects?
Contributing to open-source might seem like a daunting task with high risk and low reward. Code reviews are done by maintainers of the repository who the developers don’t know in real life. The project structure and workflows might be different than what’s customary to their personal projects or their projects at work. They may even have to learn a new language or tools to be able to contribute.
All of these supposed obstacles, though, are actually part of what makes contributing to OSS so beneficial. While developers might only work with a very small subset of people day-to-day on the job, they will have the chance to work with a worldwide group of developers from all walks of life in the open-source community. These developers will introduce new ideas and new ways of approaching development. By spending time in projects outside of the work “bubble,” developers will find new ideas and tools for tackling problems that they otherwise wouldn’t have encountered.
Developers who contribute to open source software and gain these skills become valuable assets in the workplace. By having experience working remotely with many different people, they are much better at intra-team communication and communicating with clients. The wide exposure to different technologies and problem solving approaches provides them with the foundation and skillset they need to work with clients and find the best solutions to the challenges they face.
So how does one get started contributing to the open-source community? Online code repositories like GitHub provide an “issues” section for every code repository where people can submit suggestions or look for tasks to pick up. A great place to start is to look for software that you currently use and see if there are any open issues that need resolving or if there are any improvements to the software that you think could be implemented. Many repository maintainers will use the tag “good-first-issue” to give newcomers an easy entry point into the project. There are also events such as Hacktoberfest, which provide rewards to developers looking to start contributing to OSS.
Open Source Software is a major driving force in software development today, and open source packages are used in some of the biggest industries and Fortune 500 companies. By contributing to OSS, developers will not only fortify their personal development skills, but will also help drive forward the progress of the company and the products they deliver.
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