Junior Jobs and Bite-sized Bugs: Entry Points for New Contributors to Open Source

Mel Chua (Red Hat), Asheesh Laroia (Sandstorm Development Group)
Location: D137
Tags: education
Average rating: ***..
(3.75, 4 ratings)

It’s the chicken-and-egg problem of FOSS projects – there are always bite-sized work bits to do, and no way to tell new contributors how to even know about those needs. New contributors (or their teachers) want to see in to a project and find how they (or their students) can begin helping in small ways, but they need a full roadmap to find their way to a small problem they can solve. At the same time, the open source community is powerful, yet fragmented, with nearly one-fifth of open source developers knowing no one else who works on open source – and therefore no one else who they can reach out to for help.

In other words, one of the biggest problems educators and students have working with upstream FOSS project is that the projects they’d like to work with do not know how to expose their needs (tasks, bugs, etc.) in a way that is meaningful and useful to students. One solution that’s sprung up to address this problem is the idea of junior jobs, a.k.a. bite-sized bugs. Projects such as Miro, Ubuntu, KDE, and GNOME have been tagging tasks that are good starting points for newcomers.

But bite-sized bugs are more than just a technical problem – there’s a community stewardship aspect to them as well. Once the bite-sized tasks are labeled, how can new contributors find them? How can you make sure enthusiastic documentation writers see your call for help?

Our solution: OpenHatch is a community website where you can say what your project needs and what help you’re willing to provide. We crawl bug trackers and highlight opportunities to work on bite-sized bugs in a way that’s easily findable. For instance, you can browse by the programming language of the project, the kind of help needed, and the age of the request. By serving as a meet-market for these opportunities to get involved, we can not only help new contributors find things to do, but ensure that they know how to get in touch with the project – and stay in touch with it – as they progress.

Using the concepts, tools, and process of OpenHatch, this talk shows you how to request new contributors for your project, find new people to work with, and help them learn how to help you.

Mel Chua

Red Hat

Mel is a hacker. Over time, Mel has progressed from hacking hardware (electrical engineer) to code (software developer) to organizational cultures (community QA team lead). She now hacks communities of practice as a member of Red Hat’s Community Architecture team. These days, Mel spends most of her time with on open source in education, teaching professors how to teach open source, leading the Fedora Marketing team, and generally getting things out of the way of people who want to Get Stuff Done. In her hypothetically existent amounts of free time, she volunteers for Sugar Labs and works on undergraduate engineering education reform, occasionally at the same time.

Photo of Asheesh Laroia

Asheesh Laroia

Sandstorm Development Group

Asheesh loves growing camaraderie among geeks. He chaired the Johns Hopkins Association for Computing Machinery and taught Python classes at Noisebridge, San Francisco’s hackerspace. He realizes that most of the work that makes projects successful is hidden underneath the surface.

He has volunteered his technical skills for the UN in Uganda, the EFF, and Students for Free Culture, and is a Developer in Debian. Until recently, he engineered software and scalability at Creative Commons in San Francisco; today, he works at OpenHatch as its data seducer and co-founder.

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