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Cover image for [On-Demand Talk] There's More to Open Source than Code
Ramón Huidobro for CodeLand 2022

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[On-Demand Talk] There's More to Open Source than Code

About this talk

Interested in trying out Open Source contributing, and can't find a project you're comfortable in?

Maybe you found an issue but the scope is too big to start?

There are other ways to get into Open Source! In this talk, we'll cover non-code contributions, the different types there are, and how to get started in a way that works for you.

Spoiler: This is how I got my start in Open Source!

Talk Recording

Slides

Resources

🌈 Comment below and ask me questions — I might just answer them during my live speaker discussion!


About me

Hi! I'm Ramón — a software engineering and developer relations contractor based in Vienna, Austria.

I've spent the last twelve years being directly involved with small businesses and startups getting their apps off the ground or back in shape!

My main motivation is community. I've worked with software builders both new and experienced and dedicated my time to organising conferences, workshops and other events aimed at helping empower folks in their tech journey.

Feel free to reach out on Twitter!


This on-demand talk is part of CodeLand 2022 — a virtual conference brought to you by CodeNewbie & DEV on June 16 & 17, 2022.

Top comments (62)

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amitchell05 profile image
Angela Mitchell

For developers who would be new to open source, would contributing to a project via documentation be better as a first step into open source? What are tips of writing documentation for code that does not contain unit tests?

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rafaelbpires profile image
Rafael B. Pires

In my experience Angela, that's a good way to start 'cause, even if you do know how to code, maybe you get insecure in the beginning... so, contributing with docs, fixing typos or translation, for instance, could help you get used to the routine of contributing and overcome some apprehensions you may have. In other words, is a great way to settle in!

That said, I'm a newbie myself, but.. IMO, I guess the best way to get to know good documentation is to start reading good documentation yourself haha 😅 I mean, pick up a great and well-known project (it could be sth you're studying) and start reading it, picking up the structure, the language, the style... What do you think?

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

Thank you for your question and @rafaelbpires for your great reply!

The advice on reading good documentation is great. After all, documentation is supposed to help us solve problems with the project we're using/contributing to. So our fresh perspective is super valuable!

I have a book recommendation! It's called Docs for Developers:
link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978...

Really helped me understand how to not just write but appreciate good documentation.

But absolutely, any questions, concerns or issues you might have are highly appreciated by maintainers that care about good developer experience :)

Wish you all the best!

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dennistobar profile image
Dennis Tobar • Edited on

Hi Ramón, thanks for your talk :)

Do you that is think effective the label "good for beginners" or "easy-start" to mark some issue or PR to review for newbies? How can we encourage newcomers to start in our projects?

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author • Edited on

Thank you so much, Dennis!

Absolutely a helpful convention to have! These repos can then be listed at places like Good First Issue:
goodfirstissue.dev/

And even moreso, I'd highly encourage, if possible (and energy allowing!!), to have a "mentorship available" or "mentorship provided" tag for issues, so folks know you're happy to pair with them on those!

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dennistobar profile image
Dennis Tobar • Edited on

Thanks for your answer.

In the past I attend to Wikimedia Hackathon (I'm part of Wikimedia movement, Wikipedia, Wikidata, etc), and my question about newcomers is who says "easy-to-start" issues are really easy to start, because in some cases the easy is create a new button or filtering a list, but both tasks needs a lot of knowledge about Mediawiki (triggers, coding practices and gerrit).

We (developers) have some problem to say what is easy 😅

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mburkhardt52 profile image
Michael Burkhardt

@amitchell05 , I'm with you. I would be more nervous about contributing documentation than code because of how important it can be to newbies like me.

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

Totally with you Michael. That's why I think our power as newcomers to a project can really be valuable for the onboarding processes of documentation!

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gracie profile image
Gracie Gregory (she/her)

Great talk! Can you talk about a few reasons why you're passionate about Ruby on Rails as a community?

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

Thanks, Gracie!

For me it has to be hands down the community here. When I started getting into tech communities about eight years ago, they welcomed me with open arms, and I was so grateful to be able to pay it forward for others coming in later.

I learned a lot about how to be a good community member, the importance of inclusivity, the joy of learning and of course, teaching!

The events, conferences, the people, the opportunities have been incomparable for me, and I wouldn't be in the place I am in tech without them. 💜

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devencourt profile image
brian bethencourt

How can open source maintainers make their projects more accessible for non-code contributions at the README level?

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

Thanks for the question Brian!

I think outlining the need for help in these areas at that level is critical. Same goes for having a set of things for making these inclusive and approachable:

  • A good, strategic, enforced Code of Conduct
  • An outlined governance model (if present)
  • A calendly of office hours or mentorship slots (if possible! Rest is important)
  • Options for getting up and running
  • A thoughtful contribution guide

Just some ideas, but I'm sure there are more!

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pablohe78730909 profile image
Pablo Hernandez

Thank you for such a fun talk that not only educated but treated the material with GR8 care, your presentation was on point and motivating. I wonder what your opinion is in regards to the inclusiveness of the Latino communities in the aspect of both Web/Software Dev. Do you think that the culture needs more leadership from the scientific, engineering, gaming or any related technologies ?

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

Thank you so much, Pablo!

This is a really good question that I'm unfortunately not fully qualified to answer, as I'm living in Europe, but I'll try my best.

I can only do my best to reflect the best values of the community so that people on my level of privilege can be uplifting, welcoming, inclusive, and not gatekeep others, and minimize harm.

There are exemplary people and communities out there doing work beyond. For example, there's Pachi (did you see her talk? It was outstanding):
community.codenewbie.org/codeland2...

In the Developer Relations world, there is a growing Spanish-speaking community of folks supporting each other:
twitter.com/i/communities/15153900...

All in all, I have to continue to listen, learn, and use my platform to amplify others. As Scott mentioned yesterday, lend my privilege!

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pablohe78730909 profile image
Pablo Hernandez

I really appreciate your opinion and honesty. It is an honor to hear from you and your positivity, Europe must be an amazing time for developers. I assume that GDPR is the norm for many of your frameworks and policies. Thanks for the resource to the community through that twitter link, I 100% agree that the community should be welcoming, uplifting and inclusive. Here in the U.S. I have not come across groups that have Latino Leadership, I am looking for a grassroots org that welcomes all.
Indeed, lend a privilege...

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fizzybuzzybeezy profile image
fizzybuzzybeezy

So many fun ideas surrounding open source outside of coding, Ramon! Thank you very much for your talk. I've been feeling the pressure over the past year due to my lack to output of hobby code and wondering what I've actually contributed on the whole. I really need to reset my mind to what I can do when I'm not working on coding projects. This is such a great reminder!

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

Thank you so much! I definitely don't want to encourage overdoing it or feeling like you always have to be having output.

Good contributions come from a happy, rested, eager mind, so taking time to rest is also critical!

And remember, there are so many projects out there (including our own) that need that care and that help is so appreciated :)

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yuridevat profile image
𝕁𝕦𝕝𝕚𝕒 👩🏻‍💻

Amazing talk Ramón. Getting into open source is indeed not as easy as it sounds. But with your great tips, other doors are opening now for everyone to contribute to open source in any way they feel comfortable with.

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

Thank you so much, Julia!

There are so many facets to open source that need helping with that folks should totally feel free to contribute and make their way into others :)

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mburkhardt52 profile image
Michael Burkhardt

I'm not sure when I might be ready (at a level of knowledge) to get involved in an open source project in any way.

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author • Edited on

I'm a big believer in the fact that you're ready the moment you start using a project. Asking questions is a critical part to open source contributions. Your experience onboarding onto a tool or project is what maintainers need the most, after ages being so focussed on the code.

You've absolutely got this! 💜

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mburkhardt52 profile image
Michael Burkhardt

Thank you so much Ramon. Your energy and excitement is infectious! As a total aside, I just learned about the wild hamsters in the Central Cemetery in Vienna, how cool.

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

I... did not know about these, thank you so much! 🐹

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talib1996 profile image
M.Fahad Imtiaz

Tech is not just coding. Rather there are other areas also surrounding it where we can contribute also.
Thanks for this wonderful talk.

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

You put it better than I could have hoped to, thank you so much! 💜

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talib1996 profile image
M.Fahad Imtiaz

Always welcome

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carolineschettler profile image
carolineschettler

You mentioned that you speak several languages fluently. How has this influenced your career? Has it helped you as a developer or developer advocate in any notable ways?

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author • Edited on

Oh gosh did I say fluently? I mean Spanish is my first language and my English is good enough I'm told, but my German is... even okayer haha!

I've been fortunate to be able to work with German-speaking clients during my time as a freelance software dev, realising being able to leverage my skills in communication with clients (and not having to write text in German) meant that I could collaborate without much issue and without the need for perfect grammar.

I have more recently started exploring the Latam world of sotware development advocacy. I've recently been working on a "Fundamentos de TypeScript" (TypeScript Fundamentals) course in collaboration with Escuela Frontend:
escuelafrontend.com/

When it comes to Developer Relations in Spanish, I'm very eager to recommend their Twitter community:
twitter.com/i/communities/15153900...

They host a Twitter Space every two weeks exploring the world of Spanish Developer Relations, which has been amazing to watch!

Doing so has been a positive challenge. Being able to connect with people from different parts and gather insight as well as perspectives on issues faced by developers has been beneficial.

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carolineschettler profile image
carolineschettler

You mentioned that you speak several languages fluently. How has this influenced your career? Has it helped you as a developer or developer advocate in any notable ways?

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

Oh gosh did I say fluently? I mean Spanish is my first language and my English is good enough I'm told, but my German is... even okayer haha!

I've been fortunate to be able to work with German-speaking clients during my time as a freelance software dev, realising being able to leverage my skills in communication with clients (and not having to write text in German) meant that I could collaborate without much issue and without the need for perfect grammar.

I have more recently started exploring the Latam world of sotware development advocacy. I've recently been working on a "Fundamentos de TypeScript" (TypeScript Fundamentals) course in collaboration with Escuela Frontend:
escuelafrontend.com/

When it comes to Developer Relations in Spanish, I'm very eager to recommend their Twitter community:
twitter.com/i/communities/15153900...

They host a Twitter Space every two weeks exploring the world of Spanish Developer Relations, which has been amazing to watch!

Doing so has been a positive challenge. Being able to connect with people from different parts and gather insight as well as perspectives on issues faced by developers has been beneficial.

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juanfrank77 profile image
Juan F Gonzalez

Hola Ramon. Do you happen to know about OSS projects that would need that sort of non-coding help that you've seen or know about?

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

Heyhey Juan!

I can definitely recommend a place to look for these! One of my favourite platforms is OpenSauced:
opensauced.pizza/

This'll help you find projects as well as contributors.

Shameless little plug for a project I'm collaborating with that definitely needs support is Distribute Aid:
github.com/distributeaid/

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faruqjada profile image
FaruqJada

How do you relate open source to advocacy in the software industry?

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

What a great question!

I think it comes with the job title, right, advocating for developers. With open source, I have the opportunity to make it as easy as possible for others to not just use the tool, but make it as easy as possible for them to contribute, as needed, should they want to.

And this comes with a lot of responsibilities in terms of aspects like code of conduct enforcement, proper communication, pair programming, and eliminating barriers to entry, listening for feedback, creating content, etc!

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

How has interacting with other open source contributors and maintainers helped you deal with impostor's syndrome?

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hola_soy_milk profile image
Ramón Huidobro Author

It has been a striking reminder of the fact that we are all human, we all have our own things going on, and that help in areas maintainers don't have the bandwidth to... well, maintain! is super appreciated.

At the same time, if somebody doesn't get back to me after I submit a PR, or writes to me with gratitude but can't merge it, I remember it's not personal, like Angie said in her talk!
community.codenewbie.org/codeland2...

Having been a contributor myself has also helped me with working with contributors to projects I'm maintaining. The most important part is to, above all, practice continued empathy. We all are starting out on codebases/projects on an ongoing basis, and this can be hard. If I can make this as easy as possible for folks and to show them that I am also wrangling my own impostor syndrome, then I absolutely will.

Thank you for this question, Michael!