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2012 August 29 [Wednesday]

Contributing to Libre software projects

"How do I start contributing to Libre Software?" is a very common question (I asked that too) one comes across on most FLOSS lists. Today, I posted the following on a private list and was asked for a public link, so here goes:

SWOT

There are so many Libre software projects to choose from, that choosing one can be quite confusing when you are starting out. Do yourself a favor and take a few moments to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis before you decide to jump onto the Libre software bandwagon.

Its better to give yourself time to think (or write down) which technical area or field interests you:  Which language do you want to program in? Is it frontend software or backend stuff? Web programming or something else? Do you like writing system software or application level software? Or, do you like libraries, prefer working with algorithms/statistical applications, etc..

Once you have figured out your field of interest, its easier to shortlist something and get started on finding a project to work on.

FINDING A PROJECT

As I mentioned above, there are so many Libre software projects that its overwhelming at the outset. Having figured out your field, dont randomly visiting a bugtracker and try to solve bugs, which is not a bad idea if you have only a few hours per week. However, if you want to wade a little deeper, try using Google to your advantage - read, Google Summer of Code. This recently concluded program, has a ready list of organisations to choose from and the 2012 list is available at: http://www.google-melange.com/gsoc/program/accepted_orgs/google/gsoc2012 .

Besides these few hundred GSoC Orgs, Gnome runs its own outreach program for women: http://live.gnome.org/GnomeWomen/OutreachProgram2012 and then, there is the European Space Agency, which is (sadly) only open to EU students. However, if you are interested in working outside of the SoC span, projects are always interested in contributors and would welcome your efforts 24x7x365. That said, these SoC tasks require a longer commitment in terms of time, so you need to decide what you want to do.


FOUND A TASK, WHAT NEXT?

After you have searched Melange (or ESA) for keywords of your choice, visit each organisations Ideas page, where you will find a list of tasks ranked as per preference or difficulty level (This entirely depends on the Org). Remember to cross-check with the Melange page if the task has already been completed via GSoC, or not. If a task is still available, find out what is required to get started on it and prepare a short abstract. This will help you to..
- figure out the development stack vis-a-vis your skillset,
- realise how much time and effort is required to bridge the gap, if any ;
- prepare a timeline estimate. (Dont obsess over this as its just an estimate and it will vary if the Org changes any requirements.)

These done, talk to the Org - always, Always, ALWAYS talk to the Org _before_ you start work on anything. Just because a task is listed on the Ideas page does not mean its a part of their workflow (which can always change), nor is the opposite true. The best way to find out is to talk to them, first. Again, remember that these SoC tasks require a longer commitment in terms of time.

COMMUNICATING WITH LIBRE COMMUNITIES
Most Libre projects have their own communication channels. This could be via Mailing lists or Forums, including IRC channels on dedicated servers or on freenode. Its important to work with them via these public channels and that means learning to communicate and not worry about asking silly (psst..there are none) questions. Communicating with the core developer and/or mentors and community of users is crucial - they can be an invaluable source for ideas and helpful hints.

Many projects have separate lists (and IRC channels) for users and developers. Join them and introduce yourself (or lurk around to get a hang of how things work) and when you are ready, do talk about the task you want to work on. A development mailing list, where the core developers would be available, is distinguishable via the "*-devel" mailing address. Same is true for IRC channels - If you like CLI tools, try Irssi or Quassel if you want a GUI client. Pick your poison from this list of IRC clients


EXPERIMENT WITH THE DEVELOPMENT STACK

Finally, and most importantly, you must be comfortable working with the software the project uses - that means, you should be able to clone and get the software to install and work on your local machine. Here, communicating with your Org helps - You can ask for help if you have hardware or software issues, clarify installation and dependency issues, etc... No software works flawlessly (else, people would be out of jobs :)) and Libre software is no exception - the only difference being "software development on a libre/public scale".

Another aspect of getting familiar with the development stack is familiarizing yourself with the projects internal system - Since, each project uses its own bug tracker, DVCS, Wiki for documentation, Email/Forum and IRC communication system ; take some time to get familiar with each of these. If you plan to stick around for any length of time, you would be using some, or, all the software stacks they use on a regular basis.

Your transition from newbie to active contributor is a lot faster when you are comfortable with the development stack. Doing your homework will give you the confidence required to grok it enough to start working on the code-base, suggest changes or solve bugs, etc..

I hope these suggestions help you find your niche learning shell to contribute to, and of course, welcome to the Libre software. Have fun!

2011 May 3 [Tuesday]

Building packages from source tutorial by DebianWomen

DW is conducting a packaging tutorial. Do note, this is not a tutorial for upstream package building from source, but still, its worth listening to. Here is Marga's announcement::


Are you enthusiastic about Debian and thinking about contributing? We want to guide you with the basics.

We are convinced that there are a lot of people out there that want to get involved with Free Software but don't know where to start.  For Debian, the most common task you'll do as a contributor is rebuilding a package.

The Debian Women project, in collaboration with the OpenHatch project, will be holding an IRC event to help people that want to compile their first Debian package from source, and apply their first patch.

The event

On Saturday May 7th, two tutorial sessions will be held on #debian-women on irc.debian.org to help people rebuild a package for the first time.
The earlier session, suggested for those that live in Oceania, Asia, Africa and Europe, will be held at 11:00 UTC. 

The later session, suggested for those that live in the Americas, will be held at 22:00 UTC. You can find out the exact time in your timezone by using the timezone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/cgi-bin/tzc.tzc

There will be people available to answer questions and generally help out with any difficulties that might arise all along the day.

More info at http://wiki.debian.org/DebianWomen/BuildItEvent

Intended audience

This event is aimed to anyone who wants to rebuild a Debian package for the first time, it's a simple task that doesn't require any previous knowledge, only a working installation of Debian (or Ubuntu, or other Debian-derived system).  We want to particularly encourage women who want to get involved, to take their first steps in
contributing to Free Software, but everybody is welcome.

More about IRC

IRC is a real-time chat system you can use to get in touch with members of the Debian community. You can connect to IRC through lots of different clients, including xchat, pidgin and konversation.

About Debian Women

The Debian Women project seeks to balance and diversify the Debian Project by actively engaging with interested women and encouraging them to become more involved with Debian. http://women.debian.org

About OpenHatch

OpenHatch is an open source community aiming to help newcomers find their way into free software projects. It works towards this goal through on-line and outreach events. This event is a reappropriation of the OpenHatch "Build it" events.

--
Besos,
Marga

2010 September 18 [Saturday]

Gnome outreach program for women - 2010 internships

The application process for the first round of internships sponsored by the GNOME Foundation are now officially open. The dates for these internships are 2010Dec15 to 2011Mar15.


Any woman who has relevant experience and is available for a full-time internship is welcome to apply. The application deadline is 2010Oct25. As part of the application process, they are asking women to take the time to learn about the participating projects and make a contribution to the one they are interested in. These projects include ones in programming, graphic design, documentation, and marketing. For more program details, visit: http://live.gnome.org/GnomeWomen/OutreachProgram2010


Do consider applying for the internship, signing up as a mentor, or helping spread the word by encouraging woman to apply - Blog, email, dent/tweet or download this flyer (designed by Máirín Duffy) to send the information about this internship program to your local school/college/university or hand it out at conferences. All the materials for spreading the word are here: http://live.gnome.org/GnomeWomen/OutreachProgram2010/SpreadTheWord

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