Other Ways to Contribute to Open Source This Hacktoberfest

Published October 09, 2020 by Luke Oliff

There are other ways to contribute to open source this Hacktoberfest. From translating docs to removing uninclusive or patronising language.

I’m a big fan of non-technical contributions to open source. They can address the most pressing accessibility barriers for open source projects.

Vonage is thrilled to be a Hacktoberfest 2020 partner. We’re no strangers to open source, with our libraries, code snippets, and demos all on GitHub. To fully immerse yourself in the festivities, be sure to check out our Hacktoberfest page for details on all that we have planned!

Remember

Before you go making your contributions, make sure you sign up for the event on the DigitalOcean Hacktoberfest site do that you can track your progress. Once you’ve finished your contributions, you can submit for your gift. This year, you get to pick between a limited edition T-shirt and planting a tree.

Translations

A large portion of open source projects contains little-to-no non-English documentation. A great example, which I consider a practical template for multi-lingual documentation, is the First Contributions project on GitHub, which offers over 60 languages (including my pirate-English translation).

Perhaps your first contribution will be a translation for your favourite documentation.

Reduce Condescending Language

It’s very easy to use very easy and other condescending language in documentation. See what I did there?

Besides the condescending easy, my advice is to stop using very anyway, to improve your vocabulary. It’s a word that is so often used that it has lost all emphasis. Instead, there are plenty of better ways to add emphasis to your point.

When we read that something is “easy” or “simple” and then run into issues with a library, it can quickly alienate us.

Many good folks have suggested consciously avoiding the use of condescending language, and Carol Stransky wrote a great guide on how to remove condescending language from documentation as a result of her work for Hacktoberfest in 2019.

Done right, your PR will look like this one made last year on the Facebook/Jest repository.

Tackle Questions

If you’ve become familiar with a library, you may find you can help the maintainers tackle the growing list of questions.

Questions about a library are often repeated, offering you multiple ways to contribute. You may think answering the questions is the best way to help. But, are repeated questions exposing gaps in the documentation?

Closing issues is one thing, but what about adding an FAQ section or file to the project?

Finding Projects

A lot of folks I’ve spoken to hit a barrier finding projects to contribute to.

I’ve already mentioned the First Contributions project on GitHub, which talks you through adding yourself as a contributor to the project.

First Timers Only is a project by Kent C. Dodds and Scott Hanselman to talk folks through finding projects to contribute to.

Up For Grabs is a way for contributors and project owners to connect on projects. You can search for projects with tags such as first-timers, good first issue and up-for-grabs.

Closing

Hacktoberfest is all about helping you find the confidence to start your open source journey. And, get a t-shirt.

“Open source is the past, present, and future.” – me

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