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Q/A: Contributing To Open-Source Projects

Michael Larabel

Published on 15 September 2011
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 2 of 3 - 6 Comments

For those not familiar with this XDC2011 Q&A Panel, read my original announcement about what was the plan for the talk. Additionally, below is the letter I had sent to the X.Org Foundation Board of Directors when proposing this idea to spark new contributor interest.

While this idea is coming a bit late, as there are still open slots in the XDC2011 schedule, I've had an idea for a session that I wanted to run past the board. I've run this idea past the ACM (the computing group that helped us secure the venue) and IIT CS, and I have their support and at least some graduate students interested, so I would like to see what you guys think -- just since this is different from what normally goes on at XDC/XDS. I'm fine with organizing the session and moderating the discussion, if you guys think this would in fact be worthwhile, but otherwise I'm fine passing on this idea if you don't think this would be good.

As the last session on one of the days, what if we were to invite the interested computer science students (from ACM and whoever else these CS IIT professors may invite) to a talk / structured discussion along the lines of "Contributing to X.Org & Open-Source" or "So You'd Like To Contribute To X.Org?" Obviously the goal of this session would be to foster interest and recruit some new contributors to X, but I'm sure much of the content brought up would be fairly relevant to other open-source / Linux projects too and hopefully inspire some student developers to become involved in some manner. Evidently some of the IIT CS professors also contribute to some open-source projects.

Basically the students would be free to ask any general questions about areas where they could get involved with contributing to the X stack, how some of the former student X developers got involved such as through GSoC, or just seeking general advice about becoming more involved with Linux and open-source as they begin their career. And informing them about other ways besides just code to get involved, such as through documentation and bug reporting.

I'll be audio/video recording the talks anyways, so this would also have a wider reach of potential contributors via YouTube and Phoronix then just IIT students. From my forums and elsewhere I can also build up a list of general questions about contributing, seeing as one of the most frequent questions I see from potential contributors in my forums is "how can I get involved."

I'd be happy to make the arrangements and moderate the discussion. With the targeted audience in mind, for the panel I'd probably try to see about having Peter (since he started out as a student developer and has made tremendous contributions and then hired by a major company), Keith (for being one of the longest active X contributors), Matt Dew (or someone to represent working on areas of documentation to show that all contributions aren't limited to code), Matthias or Bart (just to have someone from academia), and maybe someone else. I think that would represent a diverse and useful mix to answer questions.

To keep the actual X.Org developers around and entertained for this session, Phoronix Media would be willing to sponsor this session to provide beer, etc.

Matthias also mentioned he's working on possibly a talk about "methods of attracting contributors", so this might tie in as well.

So do you think this might be worthwhile for a last-of-the-day public session? The best case would be we recruit new contributor(s) and inspire more student developers to become involved with open-source, while the worst case would just be the X contributors have an easy hour while drinking beer and catching up on emails while fostering interest of student developers in open-source. If there's somewhat of a consensus, I'll go ahead and quickly reach out to the developers for the potential panel, let the ACM / CS IT department know, and then arrange with the catering about the Phoronix-sponsored beer.

-- Michael

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