FOSS guidelines

In our blog, we often write about actual topics from the FOSS world. While, participating in Free and Open Source Projects is a bit dependent on the type of project (company - community) or the management model behind it (Cathedral - Bazar - Beehive )(Raymond. E, 1999)(Mols. E, 2024). There are different ways of cooperation depending on the type and size of project. Linux kernel development will be different with 15.000 developers than Odoo Community with 300 or projects like Delta Chat with basically one member. Still, choose the project you are most attracted to and start developing. As guidance, we have formulated some dos and don'ts.

Participating in, and to, FOSS projects can be a fulfilling endeavor, but it comes with its own set of norms and etiquette. Understanding and respecting these rules not only makes your experience better, but also helps to maintain the sustainability of the community, and I am sure all contributors will appreciate you for it.

Here's our guide to find your own career path in the world of FOSS contributions with grace and effectiveness.

The Do's

  1. Do Your Homework
    Before contributing, spend time understanding the project’s documentation, codebase, and community guidelines. Familiarize yourself with the project's history and current objectives to ensure your contributions are relevant and beneficial.
  2. Do Communicate Clearly and Respectfully
    When you interact with other community members, whether through issue discussions, pull requests, or chat platforms, always communicate clearly and respectfully. Remember that collaboration is a cornerstone of FOSS culture.
  3. Do Follow the Established Code Style
    Most projects have specific coding standards. Make sure to adhere to these guidelines to maintain code consistency, which is crucial for project maintenance and collaboration.
  4. Do Test Your Code
    Before submitting your code, make sure it works! Submitting tested, clean, and functional code shows respect for the project’s maintainers and other contributors.
  5. Do Acknowledge and Incorporate Feedback
    Be open to feedback and constructive criticism. The collaborative review process in Open Source projects helps improve code quality and fosters personal growth and learning. Lots of contributors are not well known for their communicative skills and can be quite harsh. 

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t Rush to Contribute
    Avoid jumping into contributions without understanding the project's needs and guidelines. Take the time to read through open issues and discussions to find out where you can add the most value.
  2. Don’t Ignore Community Processes
    Whether it’s a simple bug fix or a major feature addition, follow the project's contribution process. This often involves submitting an issue before a pull request, or having discussions with maintainers for significant changes.
  3. Don’t Take Rejection Personally
    Not all contributions will be accepted. Sometimes your code might not fit the project’s direction or current priorities. Learn from the experience and don’t take rejections personally.
  4. Don’t Neglect Documentation
    If you're adding new features or updating existing ones, update the relevant documentation. Good documentation is crucial for Open Source projects and helps ensure the longevity and usability of your contributions.
  5. Don’t Forget to Stay Engaged
    Contributing to FOSS is not just about submitting code. Stay engaged by participating in discussions, helping out with documentation, and supporting other contributors in solving problems.

Respecting these dos and don'ts will help you become a valued member of any FOSS community.
Free and Open Source Software, is about more than just software development, it’s about building and supporting a community.
By adhering to these guidelines, you contribute to a positive environment that encourages growth, learning, and collaboration. And when you want to grow further, join OS-SCi and start guiding our students, to become the next you. 

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