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Getting Started Contributing Back To Open Source

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the foot-in-the-door dept.

Open Source 99

markfreeman writes "The one burning need I have felt over the last year was to get involved with open source as a contributor. I have wanted to help with documentation, advocacy, and most of all, with programming. Here's the story of how I got started, thanks to openhatch.org (which calls itself 'an open source involvement engine') and how you can too."

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easiest way to get involved (5, Insightful)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32232684)

many people overlook the fact that the best thing we all can do for oss is to use it.

Re:easiest way to get involved (2, Insightful)

recrudescence (1383489) | more than 4 years ago | (#32232722)

and support / promote open projects which don't get as much money thrown into the marketing department as certain commercial projects (link back to recently covered story onthe durian open movie project)

Re:easiest way to get involved (5, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32232738)

And to demonstrate it to others without shoving it in their faces.

Re:easiest way to get involved (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32232862)

And to demonstrate what is better about it. Far too often OSS is portrayed as "I can't buy X, so I'll download Y" rather than "Y is better than X, so I'll download it". Look at Firefox, it didn't get to be popular by being a clone of IE, but by being better.

Re:easiest way to get involved (4, Interesting)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233132)

And to demonstrate what is better about it. Far too often OSS is portrayed as "I can't buy X, so I'll download Y" rather than "Y is better than X, so I'll download it". Look at Firefox, it didn't get to be popular by being a clone of IE, but by being better.

and being 'better' isn't necessarily always about OSS doing the job better than the proprietary alternative. Sometimes, it's just a better fit for a certain environment or situation, and that in itself is a reason to push OSS.

Here is an example:
A friend of mine teaches art. When they get to the photography units, he can have the class schedule their lives around access to 1 computer, he can require them to each pay hundreds of dollars for photoshop (good luck with that) encourage piracy (potential of getting caught/losing job), OR he can hand out burnt copies of Gimp to every student to use at home.

is Gimp objectively better than photoshop? no way, but it does the job, and for that situation, Gimp is a much better fit. And the Gimp GUI for the last few versions has been similar enough that what is learned in one program will work in the other.

but pushing a vastly inferior OSS project, who's only merit is that "it's free" probably does more harm than good. Lets not forget, the super expensive proprietary version is also 'free' to anyone with a high speed connection and some free time.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234640)

"Lets not forget, the super expensive proprietary version is also 'free' to anyone with a high speed connection and some free time."

It's not even just that, all too often the expensive proprietary version is just that much better than the free version that it simply makes good business sense to splash out the cash on the proprietary version because of benefits in terms of productivity, shorter time to market and so forth.

From a business perspective, there's often no point going free if you need more or higher paid specialists to look after said system, whilst the people who use the system are less productive.

This is a fairly common problem with FOSS, and it's one of the downsides of the FOSS ideology- many FOSS projects often have great developers but tend to miss other things that proprietary vendors do not- good UI designers as well as investment into usability studies, good QA, etc. A lot of FOSS software is developed for FOSS developers, anyone else be damned. That's fine in itself, but the expectation that it can be pushed out to users is a bit unrealistic.

Some FOSS developers are refreshingly honest about it, in that they state they never intended to support or cared about end users who couldn't look after themselves, and look baffled at the idea that this should be the case- I've even seen comments to this effect here on Slashdot, but then it's impossible to reconcile that viewpoint of other members of the FOSS community that do want to try and spread the word and are willing to invest in a bit more user-centric design and development of their applications. As said above, Firefox was always a great example of this, however it seems to have lost it's way somewhat in recent releases becoming much less fun to use due to getting slower, more bloated, and more buggy.

Re:easiest way to get involved (4, Insightful)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235314)

too often the expensive proprietary version is just that much better than the free version

With notable exception of M$Office 2003/earlier and CADs, this statement relates to the reality very loosely.

This is a fairly common problem with FOSS, and it's one of the downsides of the FOSS ideology- many FOSS projects often have great developers but tend to miss other things that proprietary vendors do not- good UI designers as well as investment into usability studies, good QA, etc.

WTF?! I use corpoware on the daily basis and what you try to advertise here is applicable optimistically to 5-10% of the said software. And the same share of FOSS is well polished and nice/easy to use.

A lot of FOSS software is developed for FOSS developers, anyone else be damned.

FOSS model is "egoistic development model" - everybody develops for himself. And many corporation also "get it" and assign developers to FOSS projects to make the adjustments - either locally or in mainline - to accommodate their business cases. What is pretty much the same as assignment of specialists to customize proprietary systems and maintain the customizations.

From a business perspective, there's often no point going free if you need more or higher paid specialists to look after said system, whilst the people who use the system are less productive.

This is the most stupid thing I have read in months.

I yet to see the aforementioned "productivity" anywhere else but marketing PowerPoint slides.

Business goes for proprietary software due to long term support contracts. And that's about 75% of reasons. The remaining 25% of reasons revolve around backward compatibility.

And assigning a specialist to "look after said system" is the same for proprietary software. With the notable difference that assigning a specialist to babysit a FOSS deployment might also result in the problems being fixed eventually - while with proprietary software that happens like ... never. (Needless to mention that licensing costs often eclipse the IT wages: often it is cheaper to hire extra IT guy than to buy another proprietary corpoware.)

I could have called our IT for the examples, but I think it is redundant. The myth that proprietary software is somehow magically better for users is just that - myth. And was debunked many many times [lmgtfy.com] before.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32237836)

"With notable exception of M$Office 2003/earlier and CADs, this statement relates to the reality very loosely."

I guess you just don't use that much software.

CRM software, ERP software, office software, corporate AV software, 3D modelling software, databases, development environments, audio editing software, games, accounting software, mathematics software to give a few examples- none of the FOSS options are as good as the best proprietary alternatives. Even in terms of the likes of e-mail servers and clients, where's the FOSS options that really stands up to Exchange/Outlook and Domino/Notes? they just don't exist.

I'm not saying there isn't some great FOSS software out there, sure there is, Apache is awesome and I much prefer SVN to SourceSafe (although Team Foundation Server is much better). The issue is though, for vast swathes of types of software it's just not the case, whilst sometimes FOSS is theoretically better, it often has such a poor interface it just can't compete.

"FOSS model is "egoistic development model" - everybody develops for himself."

Yes exactly, and there's your problem. What works for a developer with decades of using C/C++ doesn't work for your average joe in the street.

"And many corporation also "get it" and assign developers to FOSS projects to make the adjustments - either locally or in mainline - to accommodate their business cases"

Yes, and many more don't. It really depends on the software, whether there's a worthwhile proprietary alternative available, whether the business case works and so on, but for the majority of companies, it simply doesn't.

"Business goes for proprietary software due to long term support contracts. And that's about 75% of reasons. The remaining 25% of reasons revolve around backward compatibility."

You grossly overestimate the weight of long term contracts in decisions to go proprietary, largely because a lot of proprietary software doesn't have a need for long term support. If you think these two elements really add up to 75% and 25% of a business decision in which software package to go with, it simply demonstrates you have zero experience of actually being involved in the process of deciding what software to go with. The largest factor is far and away the software that best works for the company, and that involves allowing the users of the system to evaluate the different options, and give their opinion as to which is best- here's a hint, FOSS doesn't often win. This goes for everything from user facing software (e.g. ERP/CRM systems) to back end systems (e.g. databases)- as great as PostgreSql is, it simply doesn't hold up against Oracle and sometimes the extra investment of going with Oracle far outweights the savings of going with PostgreSql for example.

"The myth that proprietary software is somehow magically better for users is just that - myth. And was debunked many many times before."

Great, you can Google with a completely biased search term and find results to back up your theory, whilst were on the subject of Google though, where's my superior open source alternative to it by the way?

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

radish (98371) | more than 4 years ago | (#32237800)

When they get to the photography units, he can have the class schedule their lives around access to 1 computer, he can require them to each pay hundreds of dollars for photoshop (good luck with that) encourage piracy (potential of getting caught/losing job), OR he can hand out burnt copies of Gimp to every student to use at home

Adobe give huge discounts to students. My wife went to art school and paid something like $50 for the full CS2 package. If you're just teaching for hobbyists then fair enough, but if I wanted to take a class and they weren't teaching the industry standard software I'd go elsewhere.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32240152)

How about instead of worrying about what version of software they're using, you actually learn what's going on? If the class is taught well, then you should be understanding what the software is doing, so you can perform the same task in other packages.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 4 years ago | (#32240838)

It does the job okay until you need color profiles. When you need to print accurate colors, for example when printing grayscale on a specific full-color printer on specific paper with specific color inks without a color cast, Photoshop is well nigh impossible to beat. Printer drivers just don't handle it well enough on their own. GIMP still just wouldn't fly in any of the technical photography classes I had - we lost whole letter grades for the typical magenta or green color casts.

If you just need to do some image editing for onscreen viewing, though, GIMP is usually sufficient!

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32251692)

GIMP still just wouldn't fly in any of the technical photography classes I had - we lost whole letter grades for the typical magenta or green color casts.

To cover their ass and get the mark back, did anyone point out that Ansel Adams' prints all had a slight magenta hue?

Of course, the instructor might point out that their is a slight difference between developing gelatin silver prints by hand, and printing out some Gimped jpegs at walmart.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 4 years ago | (#32267146)

Ha! No, they didn't. Of course, Ansel Adams was not using an inkjet printer. If we'd used Walmart, we probably would have failed outright. "Good enough" is ok for an art class, but technical classes are another story!

We're not exactly talking about slight casts though - improper color management tended to make midtones and shadows very noticeably green or magenta.

Profiling imperfect pigments and papers such that you can print grayscale is a laborious technical endeavor which is not for the faint hearted :)

Re:easiest way to get involved (1, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233876)

Look at Firefox, it didn't get to be popular by being a clone of IE, but by being better.

No, it got popular by all the zealotry advertising it. It never was "better" than Opera, for example, but it did provide something you can point to while annoying the neighbor.

After all, if you tried that with Linux, the first response was invariably "does it have Excel?" or "can I play games?".

Re:easiest way to get involved (3, Insightful)

HeronBlademaster (1079477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234206)

That's why it's most important to look for the right context in which to introduce Linux as an alternative.

You don't try to get your Steam-junkie gamer buddy to switch to Linux. You try to get your sister who blogs and plays Facebook games to switch to Linux. It's all about seeing whose needs can be filled by Linux, and looking for those people.

And if you want to get a specific person to switch, you figure out what their needs are, and then make Linux fill those needs - you don't try to get them to change their minds about what their needs are. (Even if you'd be right to do so, it won't come across that way. This is OSX's biggest problem - if you ask on a forum "How do I maximize my windows in OSX" the replies will be mostly "you don't want to do that". That attitude earns zero conversions, and we should avoid that attitude if we want Linux to gain ground.)

(This is of course generalizable to any open source software.)

Re:easiest way to get involved (3, Informative)

Ailure (853833) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234358)

Bit funny that you use "Steam-junkie gamer buddy" as a example since Steam is apparently going to be officially released on Linux within a few months. Of course, time still have to prove whenever it's good or not (GPU drivers is still somewhat problematic for Linux).

But I have to agree that you need to introduce Linux (and OSS) where it makes sense to.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

HeronBlademaster (1079477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234708)

Yeah, I know. I'll probably be among the first to download Steam for Linux, but since it's not officially confirmed yet, and since most games are going to remain Windows-only anyway, I think it's still a valid comparison ;)

Re:easiest way to get involved (2, Insightful)

MrResistor (120588) | more than 4 years ago | (#32240422)

I have several Mac using friends who are quite excited about Steam for OSX. It's very cool of Valve to do that, but the selection of games is very limited. I see no reason the situation on Linux should be any better. Indeed, it will likely be worse, as developers at least make an effort to target OSX.

Of course, Steam-Linux could integrate with Wine to support Windows only games, which would be very cool IMO.

Re:easiest way to get involved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32242676)

[...] the selection of games is very limited. I see no reason the situation on Linux should be any better. Indeed, it will likely be worse, as developers at least make an effort to target OSX.

This might be the push that game developers and publishers need to start creating and/or using multi-platform game engines as a matter of course rather than doing last-minute ports. Once it becomes more common to write code that works on PC & Mac, it will probably be a far smaller hurdle to add Linux into the mix. (Once you're already using some sort of toolkit to give you a layer of abstraction from the OS, adding another OS to the toolkit should normally be far less work than re-writing an entire game.)

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

MrResistor (120588) | more than 4 years ago | (#32249152)

You would think that would be the case, but then again, how long have Linux WoW players been asking for OpenGL mouse acceleration. They have it in the Mac version. One would think that the work has already been done, so what's the big deal with enabling it in the Windows version for us Wine users? I haven't played since December, but as far as I know it still isn't there.

Re:easiest way to get involved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32240336)

Sometimes the correct answer is "You don't want to do that." Now, to just say that and brush off the request completely defeats the purpose, so it should be accompanied by an explanation of why. In your example, the "maximize" button in OS X will make the window as big as it needs to be in the current context. Sometimes that may be fullscreen, other times not. Now, if the reason is to make it full screen so as to block everything else out, then in most cases you can manually re size the window to full screen.

Most of the people asking questions like this are converts from Windows, where everything is done one way, and are going to OS X, where things are done a different way. Like in the way windows are treated. In MS Windows, a window represents the whole application. In OS X, a window represents a document. That is why, when you close a window in OS X, it doesn't close the program. One isn't better than the other in all cases, they're just different.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

HeronBlademaster (1079477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32240614)

In your example, the "maximize" button in OS X will make the window as big as it needs to be in the current context. Sometimes that may be fullscreen, other times not.

Except when the "zoom" button is just broken, shrinking the window from its current size and refusing to toggle it back ;) (Safari, I'm looking at you.)

Anyway, I agree with you - it's not wrong for them to explain that that's not how things are done. It is wrong, however, for them to just say "you don't want to do that" with no explanation, and it's definitely wrong of them to get derisive when you still think you do.

(Case in point: I was reading some of Apple's iPhone developer documentation in Safari. I wanted to see more of the documentation on the screen at once, so I pressed zoom; the window got smaller. Pressed it again, and rather than toggling back to its previous size as it should, it instead became even smaller... I had to manually size it larger. What's worse, OSX doesn't do snap-to-borders when you're resizing windows, making it a pain if you really do want to work with multiple windows on your screen at once.)

I think the biggest issue is that users don't like being told how to do their work (especially not when the users in question are developers with established workflows) - they want the OS to cooperate with them, not fight them every step of the way. This is a problem regardless of which OSes you're switching between, but IMO it's far easier to switch between Linux and Windows than between OSX and anything else.

Re:easiest way to get involved (3, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234490)

It never was "better" than Opera, for example, but it did provide something you can point to while annoying the neighbor.

Opera was adware until Sep. 2005. By the time it was released as freeware Firefox already had a much larger market share (11% vs ). [onestat.be]

A 2004 review in The Washington Post described Opera 7.5 as being excessively complex and difficult to use. The review also criticized the free edition's use of obtrusive advertisements when other browsers such as Mozilla and Safari were offered free of charge without including advertisements.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 4 years ago | (#32241440)

No, it got popular by all the zealotry advertising it. It never was "better" than Opera, for example, but it did provide something you can point to while annoying the neighbor.

Bull and bull. It got popular because it was genuinely better. Firefox's greatest asset is its extensions. That's why it is the superior choice. Opera is great but it doesn't have the customizability that FF has. You hear people all day long on here, "I'd just switch to chrome but it doesn't have $EXTENSION so I'm staying with firefox."

After all, if you tried that with Linux, the first response was invariably "does it have Excel?" or "can I play games?".

To which I say, where's your Office disk, I'll install it for you. Office works great in Linux on Crossover and it is seamless. Now, where are your game disks? Same story except that the vast majority of computer users aren't gamers so that is a red herring anyway.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32244506)

I think the fact that every time I show a girl or guy my Compiz desktop (I did put a lot of work in a professional color scheme and intelligent choices on spaces, fonts, effects etc), and what I can do (not the effects, but the power), that person tells me she/he wants that too, speaks volumes about how easy it is to woo people for open source.

Also you can always get a quick win on everyone using MS Office, by showing them, how OpenOffice still has the old menus and everything instead of the new ribbon & co.

But the key point is: If you don’t truly believe that open source is coolest and stand by it, how do you expect others to think the same? :)

I, for example, will proudly tell the cutest girl with enthusiasm, how cool I think it is, to be able to quickly hack together your custom “glue” bash scripts and customizations, and drag her in so much that she will think it’s cool. Because it is!
(Beware, as girls detect even the slightest insecurities in your facial expressions, posture, gestures and everything.)

But hey, you first have to think you yourself are pretty cool and all, before being able to do this. :)

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 4 years ago | (#32232942)

And to file bug reports, preferably detailed.

Re:easiest way to get involved (3, Insightful)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233032)

And to file repeatable bug reports, preferably detailed.

There, I fixed that for you.

Re:easiest way to get involved (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233280)

C'mon, man. My bug is, like, totally repeatable on my l33t overclocked box. Neither you nor the guy who wrote Memtest86 can code well enough to keep up with its incredible speed...

Re:easiest way to get involved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32233804)

And to file repeatable bug reports, preferably detailed.

There, I fixed that for you.

Thank you for your contribution to this slashdot comment. However:

  • the <b>-Tag is bad coding style and has to be avoided
  • please add commens to reflect the new semantics of the code

Awaiting resubmission of a fixed patch, Yours truly,

Slashdot Overlord

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234296)

And to file repeatable bug reports, preferably detailed.

Very few people understand the importance of that until they've been on the receiving end and have had to try to fix a bug report themselves. Then they get a sort of "ahah!" moment. At least the ones with half a brain do. I've known professional software developers with 10+ years of experience who still couldn't file a bug report worth a damn.

Re:easiest way to get involved (2, Funny)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234504)

Bug report #2323.

Summary: Button is misaligned.

Attachments: VirtualBox image of the system.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 4 years ago | (#32246636)

I laughed for the better part of a minute - thanks :)

OTOH, more than once I've wanted to do that, and tell them to use it for a week or so until they run into the bug again

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235368)

I'd settle for "thorough" bug reports. Some bugs are difficult to repeat under slightly different setups, and the difference can be difficult to capture for a developer. I just spent some time, for example, reporting an authentication bug with a VPN setup, which expended over time to be a complete inability to do password authentication for certain Kerberos based tools. It turned out the official corporate NTP servers were deranged, and my clock chip was the first to drift far enough out of compliance for NTP to fail.

No one else was seeing the bug. But the presence of the early reports, from a competent programmer who'd already done all the easy fixes, helped get the big fixed early, and properly. And my early discovery of the real fix and publication of the short-term workaround was even more useful.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

ais523 (1172701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235958)

Even when I get an intermittent bug that I can't repeat myself reliably, I normally file it anyway (together with a note that I apologise for being unable to reproduce it and understand if the developer's can't fix it, or even go about starting to fix it). Often when you do that, someone else with the same bug, together with an idea of what's causing it, posts to the same issue, making what's going on clearer for both both of you, and the developers. (Of course, this only works on projects with public bug trackers, but most major open source projects have one.) Still, I try to make them as detailed as possible given the circumstances.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 4 years ago | (#32232880)

and submit bug reports!

Re:easiest way to get involved (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32233094)

While that's true, if FOSS is ever going to become the norm, it is going to have to pay the bills as well. Coding projects require patronage, lots and lots of small amounts of money from many people. 1 million users tossing a coder a quarter goes a long way. Speaking of micropatronage, is there a way to actually practice it (efficiently), yet?

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234112)

If FOSS is ever going to become the norm, you have to interact with non-free components for the time being. C# interop for Thunderbird and OOo, anyone?

Yes, it is possible with a C++ library, and wrapping it in C#. Or so I'm told, installing Office was way faster.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

oakgrove (845019) | more than 4 years ago | (#32242502)

If FOSS is ever going to become the norm, you have to interact with non-free components for the time being. C# interop for Thunderbird and OOo, anyone?

I know, right? I mean, I was trying to switch my Aunt Tilly over to OpenOffice last week and the first thing she asked was how well it worked with C#.

Re:easiest way to get involved (3, Informative)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234404)

You've hit on a key issue in not just small donations but in lots of business models, too. There are problems with most payment methods for small payments.

Small checks through the mail are efficient for the sender, but are terribly inefficient for the recipient. That's even true if a stamp is used to endorse them. Then there's the small but real risk of fraudulent ACH transactions when you send an unknown entity a check. Then there are failed check hassles, too. Even small checks can be insufficient funds if someone's overdrawn already or they could write an old check on a closed account by accident.

Accepting credit and debit cards is pretty efficient for the recipient for larger values, but with fixed per-transaction fees in addition to the percentages, most merchant accounts aren't worth using if a large proportion of transactions are for small amounts.

Sending coin or currency through standard post is fairly efficient, and there's typically a reasonable risk of loss on the part of the sender if the payments are small enough. There are pretty good systems for counting coin and cash. There's an issue of security through obscurity for the recipient, though, since targeting the recipient's end of the mail could score a pretty good chunk. How does one let honest people out in the public know where to send cash while keeping the delivery end secure? A post office box is more secure than the average customer location mail drop, as are slots into a building or a locked customer box. There's still lots of people involved in getting the money there, though. People, even ones screened by the Postal Service for honesty and integrity, are always a possible weak link to security. Some projects have had at least limited success with this process, though. Barry Kauler of the Puppy Linux project accepts cash for mailing CDs to people (and would probably accept donations in cash, too). He accepts US dollars, Australian dollars, and Euros/a>. He recommends PayPal. I hope I haven't hurt the security of this system for him by mentioning it on Slashdot; anyone who's been to the Puppy site could have already known about it. [puppylinux.com]

PayPal is an option. They have similar per-transaction and percentage-of-transaction fees to credit cards. For donations, they require no setup fees, no monthly fees, and no monthly minimum. There is a $0.30 transaction fee on top of the percentage for donation receipts of less than $3000 per month (if this source is timely [fundraisin...etters.com] ). That makes single-dollar donations feasible but expensive. Anything less is not worthwhile. I haven't found the pricing info for donations on PayPal's site after a few minutes looking, but the prices listed at that fundraising news site are in line with their commercial payment services.

Amazon has a system that lets any Amazon customer pay you a donation for 5% plus as little as $0.05 if you're a 501(c)(3) non-profit in the US and the donation is less than $10. Check out their prices [amazon.com] . They also have a similar low-cost cutoff for non-donation payments [amazon.com] and even a micropayment system that tracks payments under $0.05 at 20% with a quarter-cent minimum cost [amazon.com] for both donations and sales.

Google has Google Donations [google.com] which for any US 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(6) non-profit (but not other 501(c) subcategories) which follows the standard transaction fees [google.com] . For organizations that are qualified and are accepted into the Google Grants [google.com] program, Google Donations processing is free while the organization is in good standing with the Google Grants program. You are not allowed to accept donations through Google Checkout without being an properly registered non-profit in a category they accept, or your account may be suspended.

I'm not aware of any deal better than free, so Google's deal (through the end of 2011, although I couldn't guess whether they'll extend that) for qualifying non-profits makes a lot of sense. Amazon seems to be a pretty darn good deal for smaller payments whether for donations or for commercial payments.

I can't think of any other options at the moment, but Amazon looks pretty promising for micropayments in general. Lots of people are signed up with them already and their rates are great for low payments. For qualifying businesses, Google looks really good. Either one limits you to people willing to use their checkout systems, but that's how they process things so inexpensively.

Re:easiest way to get involved (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235092)

many people overlook the fact that the best thing we all can do for oss is to use it.

Not KDE. I have been contributing bug reports and triaging other people's bugs (well over 1000 bugs) for years at KDE, so there will be no mistake that I love that project.

However, KDE breaks compatibility between point-dot releases (4.2 and 4.4 had problems with 4.1 and 4.3 ~/.kde configurations, respectively), and they release "developer preview" (their own words) as dot-oh software: KDE 4.0, Kdevelop, Amarok, Koffice, the list goes on. KDE SC 4.4's Kaddressbook was missing critical features after a rewrite, and this will be the case for other KDE-PIM components in KDE SC 4.5.

And let's not forget that "Does KDE even need (certain) users":
http://troy-at-kde.livejournal.com/17753.html [livejournal.com]

No (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32232694)

n/t

Good for you (5, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 4 years ago | (#32232806)

Glad he felt the desire to give time back. I think that one thing that can help out open source is to let the developer know that you liked their software. Bug reports are good but when they all pile up, it kinda makes development feel more like work. The next program I'm releasing soon (http://suso.suso.org/xulu/clide) is going to have a --warmfuzzy option that will allow the user to send a ping like feedback back to the author to let them know that they enjoy using the software. Kinda like a ring the bell if you liked the service thing. All too often open source tools are used and the developer doesn't have any feedback as to whether their software is being used successfully or not. I'd like to help change that.

Re:Good for you (1)

Kozz (7764) | more than 4 years ago | (#32232966)

Good for you! I think sending a little "ping" of satisfaction would be kinda nice, better than simply another entry in your Apache log, right? (btw, if you want to promote your project, best to use the hyperlinks [suso.org] ).

I've had projects I've enjoyed, navigated to the hell that is sourceforge site structure (really, it does suck) to get to the right forum to ask whether the project was alive, and how I could help. I got nothing but crickets.

Re:Good for you (1)

VTI9600 (1143169) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233330)

I don't know about you, but my next project will be a tool to set up zombie bot networks for a DDoS-style ping flood of warm fuzzies to all other OSS projects with the "ping of satisfaction" option. How's *that* for supporting open-source!

Re:Good for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32233472)

Hopefully, brokep - Peter Sunde's http://Flattr.com will go live soon and an API to go with that. Then there will be moar than satisfied pings flying at FOSS contributors and their projects. :)

Re:Good for you (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233680)

All too often open source tools are used and the developer doesn't have any feedback as to whether their software is being used successfully or not.

Any feedback is telling a developer that his/her software is being used. After all: if nobody was, where would that feedback come from?

More feedback (bug reports, specifically) could mean a couple of things: that your software is really crap, OR that lots of people are using it, some of those have encountered a bug, and out of those 'some', somebody made the effort to report it back. I guess as developer you should appreciate that, AND be able to tell apart 'lots of bugs' from 'lots of users'. And if you're developing something and didn't get a single (as in: 1) response about it, then I guess you're really doing it for yourself.

slashdotted-soon... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32232826)

the post was fine, the openhatch-website came up fine, then i sent in the first query listed (bugs concerning unicode) since i was interested... sure enough, i think the site will be down soon, due to the typical slashdot-effect... sigh... maybe itll be fine in a couple of days...

Documentation (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32232886)

Actually, I'd say "most of all documentation".

Open source documentation is ass.

Hell, almost all technical writing is ass.

For all the buzz "Natural Language" interfaces get these days you'd figure someone would strive for a "Natural Language" manual. /irony is also "ass".

Re:Documentation (1)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32248234)

Bug reports are the easiest way to just get in the habit, but a lot of the time it takes an experienced developer to trace the bug halfway before a bug report would really be actionable.

Documentation is the most effective way to do some good while learning repository tools.

Anyone looking to contribute seriously should start with docs. And they should take a bit of time to read up on good technical writing practices, or at least look at the most usefully well documented software and glean what makes the documentation so useful.

(The last time I found myself cursing the docs and downloading source just to figure out what a command option syntax was was with VLC. Maybe it's improved since but...)

Elder statesman DEAD at 67 HOLY DIVER !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32232928)

Ronald James Dio bought the farm.

Write User Documentation (5, Insightful)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#32232944)

Ain't fun. Ain't sexy. Needs to be done.

Re:Write User Documentation (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32233272)

And please don't.

Meaning almost anyone who's reading this tread. Please, don't write documentation.

You currently do, and plenty, and you're part of the problem.

Re:Write User Documentation (4, Insightful)

dotgain (630123) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233898)

I wish you'd somehow made your point more politely, because there is actually at least some substance to your otherwise caustic and arrogant remark.

I think what is needed the most in the way of Documentation is somehow getting rid of the old stuff, all those HOWTO's, and so on. Many of them still show up in searches for common problems, with incorrect or suboptimal solutions for today's kernels and baselayouts. The "Last modified" date is a clue to the wise, but the learner has no way of knowing that docs written 8 or so years ago are sometimes very counter-productive.

Spending a few minutes on my distros IRC channel I really is disenchanting seeing how many people immediately leap to IRC for help on the the stuff that actually is documented well and easy to find. You wonder, even if documentation were more complete, what difference would it make? Half the people who don't need the documentation end up arguing over how it's written and other stupid details, and the people who do need it don't read it.

Re:Write User Documentation (2, Insightful)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234576)

I think what is needed the most in the way of Documentation is somehow getting rid of the old stuff, all those HOWTO's, and so on. Many of them still show up in searches for common problems, with incorrect or suboptimal solutions for today's kernels and baselayouts. The "Last modified" date is a clue to the wise, but the learner has no way of knowing that docs written 8 or so years ago are sometimes very counter-productive.

This is important: always put a date on your how-tos! And the date your blog software puts in the corner is not enough!

Plenty of times people copy those texts to some forum, then it gets translated, etc. Even if you take your copy down, there's no guarantee it's the only available. And you know people aren't going to copy the header or footer that contains the date and such.

Re:Write User Documentation (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32233478)

This is actually the best way for non-developers (and non-geeks for that matter) to get involved.

When a developer/geek writes documentation, they look at it from the standpoint of "Here's how to get X to create Y using Z". The documentation tends to be filled with jargons, and assumes that the end user is already competent in using the program.

When a non-developer/geek writes documentation, they look at it from the standpoint of, "Here's how I make my computer do the thing that I want it to do using your program".

That kind of documentation can make or break a program.

Write User Documentation - for Dummies (2, Insightful)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233574)

And to add, something I'm missing in almost any documentation: write documentation that serves absolute beginners. Why? Because non-beginners already know how to use the [whatever]. So if they need more info, assume they're totally new to the subject you're documenting.

For example: so far I haven't found (online) a guide on 'how to use a computer, that has Ubuntu Linux on it' for beginners. How to configure Ubuntu: sure. What is different in Ubuntu vs. other distro's: sure. What is different in Linux vs. Windows: sure. But that's all documentation for people who are already experienced computer users. But a guide to using Ubuntu, for people who have hardly ever touched a computer: where? Show me. Let alone in localized versions...

Equally important: write docs to be read by users of the software first, not docs for co-developers. If developers need docs: do that later, but write the user documentation first. In fact, it wouldn't be bad to start a project by writing the user documentation first (and code later).

Re:Write User Documentation - for Dummies (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234042)

Do you mean much like the For Dummies series?

If so, I think you are spot on.

BUT BUT BUT

It is hard enough to get developers even to write a line of documentation let alone get decent Technical Writers involved to make those nice User Docs.
This applies even for Commercial software let alone FOSS.

Re:Write User Documentation - for Dummies (1)

bmordue (899456) | more than 4 years ago | (#32290884)

Ubuntu for Dummies [amazon.co.uk] ?

Re:Write User Documentation (5, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233998)

How about "make it usable enough so users don't need documentation"?

Hint: how do you make Xorg play nice with laptops getting repeatedly connected to different size screens/projectors? I did RTFM, for several hours. Meanwhile, Win7 takes 3 mouse clicks the first time, then remembers your settings.

I want to stay on Linux, I really do. But I also need to Get Shit Done.

Re:Write User Documentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32235200)

I would mod you up if I could... :)

Those "rough edges" or "thousand paper cuts" are what makes a lot of open-source software annoying to use. Sometimes, *too annoying* to use it on a daily basis.

And if you add to that the fact that running an illegal copy of the alternative closed-source program is really easy and it does not hurt... for a lot of people the choice is obvious.

Re:Write User Documentation (3, Informative)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235446)

Oh, dear Lord, user interfaces. They're tough to write well, and one of the great flaws of oopen source. Try the guidelines at the bottom of http://catb.org/~esr/writings/cups-horror.html [catb.org] .

One thing Eric missed in his rant is "throwing things out". Most of CPAN, for example, should have been flushed down the toilet as incompatible with thermodynamics, much less the last five yearf of Perl releases, years ago. Subversion should have thrown out Berkeley DB as an unstable piece of unusable debris years ago. And password based FTP should have been discarded as a bad idea 10 years ago, but Matlab continues to rely on it for upstream file transfer with no built-in HTTPS or WebDAV.

What are these idiots thinking?

Re:Write User Documentation (2, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235646)

What are these idiots thinking?

They are thinking "I know how to do X, but I dont know how to do Y. Even though X is way worse than Y, I don't want to spend the time learning how to do Y, so I'm going to do X"

Re:Write User Documentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32249526)

What an unbelievably pompous way of saying "they're being slack"

Re:Write User Documentation (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32244578)

They are thinking “Well, you get it for free. if you wanna complain, pay us to change what you want to have changed! Or STFU. :P”

Re:Write User Documentation (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32250848)

I'm afraid this is not enough of an explanation. The reasons for poor interfaces vary. I was somewhat irritated when I wrote that comment, I'd just spent a long time with a particularly bad interface.

But far, far too many of our open source interfaces are an exploration of "Exciting! Java! Widgets! Popping! Up! Everywhere!" and doing things that no one actually cares about, rather than providing consistent and meaningful choices.

I've offered money to change these things. I've offered _good_ money and contracts to fix and change some interfaces, and I've written fixes and patches myself. It's not often considered important enough, by the developers to do so. Like security, the interface is often dealt with as an afterthought to be glued onto the product later.

This might help you (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32232958)

http://bit.ly/b56NfU [bit.ly]

First, there was a plan: how to bring together the two different development groups at work? My boss said there was a sort of tension he thought could be eased by some social interaction. Not easy. Both the different development groups despised one another, each thinking its "art" was more important and eloquent than the others'.

First there was the XML group. They worked on our website, documentation and formatting, and simple configuration apps and some front-ends to Java stuff. They also did our web sites. They used CSS, HTML, XSL, JavaScript, and a bit of Java. They typically dressed casually, drank coffee and tea, and liked to work straight from the spec: no "Learn XSL in 30 Days" books were to be found in their cubicle farm.

Then we had the Linux developers. They worked "special hours," coming in at one and staying late, supposedly, until seven or eight at night. They enjoyed Bawls and had a penchant for ThinkGeek t-shirts and cracking jokes about Win32 API calls and the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. They all had beards or mullets or long, unwashed hair. Some had penguin or C code tattoos. Their cubicle farm was known for the bleating laughter that exploded when one of them found a silly bug on someone else's code, and for the rotten, fetid stench that could only be compared to three-day-old shit reeking from inside a rotting corpse's abdominal cavity.

So, in order to get the guys to get to know each other, my boss had asked me to organize a during-hours, alcohol-friendly party. My ideas ranged from a keg or two to live entertainment, AKA strippers. But as to what to get them to actually talk to each other in a human manner I had no clue. So I let it go til the last minute and decided to let my inherent creativity mull it over in the back of my head.

When the day of the party had arrived, the catering company brought in a few trays of lunch meat, chicken, pizza, and side dishes, I had picked up the four kegs from the local brewery, and the big-screen TV and DVD were set up ready to blast the Matrix into the eyes and ears of my co-workers. The eagerness in the the air was encouraging and I thought that loosening up and smiles going on even now were a good sign. I even saw some of the guys who'd known each other previously begin to bunch up, bringing along the co-workers they knew from everyday work.

The first thing everyone did was hit the food line, loading up their plates and grabbing a cup for beer to wash it down with. A few approached me and thanked me for the food; it seems appeasing the belly really did tame the beast. After a few minutes of silence and eating and a few second and third courses, they guys were ready to sit down and be entertained. After asking if anyone needed anything else before the movie started, the lights went out and the Matrix began playing. I heard a few enthusiastic comments and jokes being told.

About half-way through the movie I noticed a lot of the Linux guys getting up and presumably going to the restroom. No suprise, as the second keg was history by now and the third was probably half-way gone. I also noticed some of the guys bumping into things and stumbling. Alcohol's the social lubricant, eh? Well, not long after, my bladder beckoned and I answered. As I made my way to the restroom, I had a self-satisfied smile on my face: my little plan was working, my boss would be happy, and it might even a Christmas bonus or a promotion (even if in title only).

Well, as soon as I pushed the restroom door open, I knew something was wrong. The smell of vomit was pretty strong and I hoped that it'd only been the work of one guy. But the smell was so pungent! After standing at the urinal, waiting for the golden flow to commence, I stood in silence. It was then that I heard grunting. Listening intently for a few seconds, I hoped whoever was upchucking their beer and munchies wasn't leaving a huge mess for the cleanup crew. After pissing and still hearing the noise, I approached the stall the that moaning was coming from.

"Hey, you alright in there, man?" I asked cautiously.

I was met by silence for a moment. Then I heard a few grunts and concealed giggles. Something was up in there. It was then that I heard what sounded like crying and more moaning. What the fuck? I decided I needed to see what was going on. I didn't want this party to come crashing down around my ears. I pushed the door open hard and then gasped as I saw the most sordid, disgusting thing I'd ever seen in my life.

Standing on either side of the toilet were two of the Linux developers, their beards caked with vomit, their pants in puddles around ankles, with erect penises wagging in the air. Doubled over the toilet, his head nearly dunked in the swill, was one of the XML developers. His pants were also around his ankles and what appeared to be a combination of blood and semen were dripping from his torn, ragged anus. He was covered in vomit from head to toe, and he was crying hard into the toilet bowl, its echo an eerie accompaniment to the awful scene I was seeing but not believing.

They two Linux developers slowly turned and looked me straight in the eye, evil grins smeared across both of their bearded faces.

"What the fuck are you doing!?" was all I could force out of my mouth. I still wasn't believing I was seeing this.

Saying nothing, both of the Linux guys rushed me. Being in such a tense state, I threw both of them off and made a break for the door. And the fucking thing wouldn't open. In the following two seconds that seemed like an eternity, the door was pushed open my way and two more Linux coders came in. Upon seeing what was happening, they immediately grabbed me and were joined by the first two. I was trapped. Then the one guy, who was a dead-ringer for Rasputin, the mad Russian monk, gazed into my eyes and said in a feminine voice, "Looks like Mr. Party is gonna get a taste of the real action!" and cackled insanely.

Cold sweat spurted from the pores on my foreheads and cheeks as I was dragged by the four stinking, polluted hippies into the same stall their previous victim was in.

"Thanks for the pizza and beer," Rapsutin said, "now it's time for the weeners and buns!"

Immediately the first two slogged their pants off and got down on their knees. The other two put there knees in my back and held me on top of the first victim, who now appeared to be unconscious. I heard their belts coming off and their zippers coming down, and some rustling around told me that their pants were coming down also. Then the first two started sucking off the other two, in what I could only call the most enthusiastic blowjobs I'd ever seen in my life. The moaning and slurping sounds turned my stomach and I retched. I could see why the first guy might have vomited.

Eventually Rasputin and his cohort started moaning more loudly, and one of them said "fifteen seconds." This was followed by a series of rapid-fire belching and burping that shook me up and down on the guy underneath me. After about fifteen seconds, all Hell broke loose. The two guys behind me started vomiting on the two guys fellating them and I saw cumshot shoot and mix with the vomit all over the two cocksuckers' faces. It was then that I almost lost it. I finally did refund when the first two vile fluids were followed by streams of piss. I heard swallowing and dripping and I yacked all over their first victim's head.

Rasputin cried out like a little girl in ecstasy. "Oh god, I'd been waiting for that all night! This party fuckin' roxorz my coxor!"

Now it was my turn, it seemed, as all four started tearing my pants down. Chunks of vomit-piss-semen fell on my back and soaked through my t-shirt. It was revolting. I shuddered as I felt their cold, clammy hands in my ass-crack and a very indelicate reacharound on my ball-sack. At this point I had no idea who was doing what, and I was just praying that I'd wake up and realize I was drunk and dreaming.

Just then I heard the door boom open and my boss's voice fill the air. The stall door was open and he saw right away the turgid scene transpiring in front of him. His voice was immediately followed by two others, XML developers I knew, and they flew into the stall as best they could and began a fight to save my asshole. The poor guy underneath me had just woken up and started struggling and the extra weight of eight other bodies in the stall must have been suffocating.

"It'll be all right, buddy," I said to him.

Within thirty seconds I was to my feet and was delivering the most heart-felt kicks to the guts of the rapist faggot Linux coders. Between me, my boss, and the two XML developers, we had the gang of four knocked out in a sloppy, excrement-filled pile of hairy body.

It's now been a month since this horrible incident and I am in regular therapy with a sexual abuse counselor. In response to the terrible outcome of this party, my boss toyed with the idea of selling the group off to another company, sans the four hippies who'd been fired and arrested. After considerable urging on my part, and very open ear from my boss, the whole group was dissolved and the Linux coders lost their jobs. Their product was delayed by a year as my boss began hiring a new development team. We'd found evidence that the whole group had been involved in the planning of the gang-bangs and that had it not been for us everyone would have had a turn in the stalls.

If there's one thing we learned from this tragedy it's that Linux developers, users, and advocates are desperate cock-lusting homosexual faggots that can't be trusted in any situation, let alone a restroom setting. You've been warned. On the positive side, though, the whole incident brought solidarity between the other groups in the company and I am now on schedule to get a huge Christmas package that not only includes a gigantic bonus but a month's worth of paid time off and a real promotion.

Re:This might help you (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32233180)

wow, that's some fucked up shit. I gotta say, though, most of the penguins I know are not homosexual rapists.

Re:This might help you (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233730)

.. most of the penguins I know ..

Wow, I gotta say, that's some fucked up shit. You sick pedo^H^H^H^H ehmm... how do you call someone that 'does penguins' ?

Re:This might help you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32235638)

A penguiphile [bit.ly] .

There's something not quite right about this (1)

VTI9600 (1143169) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233102)

I checked out the site this guy is hawking, and their projects page lists just about every open-source project ever conceived! I highly doubt that any of their project pages are actually authorized by leaders of the projects they claim to support, and that's a problem. There is a false endorsement being implied, and it will likely cause unnecessary headaches when people try to make contributions outside of normal channels.

Seems like common sense, but if I want to fix/report bugs for project X, shouldn't I use project X's bug tracking system? This type of setup is great for people who want to put "Linux kernel contributor" on their resume just for creating an account, but it ain't right.

On a side note, it looks like they are having some load issues...I doubt that sourceforge/launchpad/github/etc. could be slashdotted so easily.

Re:There's something not quite right about this (2, Insightful)

castoridae (453809) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233154)

I checked out the site this guy is hawking, and their projects page lists just about every open-source project ever conceived!

Not every project... there's a curious lack of Java projects. But if you want to hack Python, boy are you in luck!

Java Sucks. (0, Flamebait)

Petersko (564140) | more than 4 years ago | (#32237756)

"there's a curious lack of Java projects."

Java Sucks. There... I said it. It's a bizarre, overweight, crushingly painful piece of crap that just needs to die already. Nobody gives a crap about "write once, run anywhere", even if it existed, and relying on any of the common frameworks sets you up to create a poorly performing piece of crap.

You'd think that EJB 2.0 would have killed Java for good, but for some reason it's still kicking.

I'm not saying you can't build good stuff in Java. I'm just saying you can do it faster and cheaper in other technologies, with better performance. The good Java stuff is hand-coded to the bottom, at great expense.

Re:There's something not quite right about this (4, Informative)

paulproteus (112149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233426)

Thanks for your thoughts on the site!

The project pages are actually generated from the list of projects people have said they contribute to. So it is all things that people on the site have worked on, in one way or another.

The point of our the project is to help people find the *official* channel to contribute, and I think having that information in another place can't hurt.

I really don't want the site to feel gross and astroturfy, since it's actually organic! So your feedback is helpful, if somewhat painful to hear. (-:

Oh, yeah, and our hosting is two little Linode virtual machines, so we do suffer a bit more than huge sites like Launchpad when a load storm comes our way. We're working on performance, too. (-:

-- asheesh at openhatch.org.

Re:There's something not quite right about this (3, Informative)

Kenz0r (900338) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234114)

Funny that the first person to mention Launchpad is someone that works for OpenHatch.

Not to steal your thunder, I think OpenHatch is wonderful, but it does remind me an awful lot about launchpad.
For those of you unfamiliar with LP, launchpad.net [slashdot.org] is another site like this, that tries to get people involved with F/OSS projects.
You can contribute bugreports, fixes, Q&A about software, provide translations...
It used to be focussed around Ubuntu and Gnome (because the site is run by Canonical Inc.), but nowadays the site has really taken off (no pun intended) and hosts many kinds of FOSS projects.

I like how OpenHatch makes FOSS-involvement something you can boast about on forums/social networking sites using their HTML widget.
It makes me want to get my hands dirty and get involved :)

Re:There's something not quite right about this (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 4 years ago | (#32238186)

Umm, he mentioned Launchpad in response to the parent poster.

On a side note, it looks like they are having some load issues...I doubt that sourceforge/launchpad/github/etc. could be slashdotted so easily.*

So he explained their server setup and compared it to the same sites the parent mentioned. I only had a glance at the site but the fact that the guy is here
joining the discussion leads me to believe that they are down with the community aspect of Open Source anyway...

* emphasis mine

Re:There's something not quite right about this (3, Interesting)

VTI9600 (1143169) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234220)

The point of our the project is to help people find the *official* channel to contribute, and I think having that information in another place can't hurt.

If that is truly your goal then why don't you try doing some of your own research (such as contacting project leads, collecting activity stats, etc.) to develop content for your site rather than trying to just be "organic"? Sure, it's a lot of work, but quality content from authoritative sources still matters. I wish that more Web 2.0 types would put in the effort to create it, rather than just dropping a fishing line out in the interwebs to see if something bites.

I miss the days when content was king, and having some high-quality content in the beginning could really help kick-start the organic process. For every success story like slashdot, wikipedia, or whatever, there's a graveyard of hundreds that fell flat trying to harvest the world's collective intelligence onto their site. Do some of the legwork you expect from your users and, at the very least, you'll gain valuable insight for your business.

Re:There's something not quite right about this (2, Interesting)

paulproteus (112149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32239408)

We are contacting project leads. I'm reaching out to my friends and the projects they're working on, and blogging about this stuff on Planet Debian (since I'm a Developer on Debian).

http://openhatch.org/wiki/Bug_trackers [openhatch.org] is where we ask that project leads write about their bug trackers so we can import them into openhatch.org/search/. We're trying to find more projects that label bugs as "bitesize."

On project pages, we're hoping that the people who add projects to their profiles follow the link and leave a note. Maybe we could nudge people with a bigger message, asking them to do that?

This wouldn't be so complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32233172)

If you could just donate through the Software Center. I said I wanted to contribute, not get /involved/.

Answer Forums (4, Insightful)

shermo (1284310) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233182)

The biggest help I've gotten about OSS has been from knowledgeable folk on forums. (And I've never been the one asking the question)

Re:Answer Forums (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32234222)

But only if you know what you're talking about, please! None of this "try deleting ~/.foo" or "I heard from my buddy that blah blah blah".

RIP Ronnie James Dio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32233480)

Bah... (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233494)

All you sunny day suzies saying how to give obviously haven't actually participated in the process.

Egos get in the way and battles over priorities eventually break out - resourceful volunteers are left waiting to be utilized - projects suffer from either weak and/or dis-engaged leaders.

The net effect is that those that do try to come on board and help at whatever level are more often than not ignored and eventually wander away.

So please stop all this happy talk about how it feels so good to be doing something worthwhile and go do something concrete about the routine ignorance at the top and middle of the pile when it comes to using newcomers.

Re:Bah... (3, Informative)

paulproteus (112149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32233996)

This is why OpenHatch focuses on projects that have bitesize bugs.

There are projects that *want* new contributors, and they're marking tickets in their bug trackers as good for newcomers.

You can read more about that at https://openhatch.org/blog/2009/get-involved-in-foss/ [openhatch.org] .

(It's 2am, and I'm going to sleep!)

Re:Bah... (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235494)

Oh, dear. I don't suppose your dismay and frustration show up in your bug reports, do they? That can help keep them from being read or corrected.

I've certainly seen the "I'm right, you users don't understand!" problem from project leads. Goodness, I've even published popular workarounds, for up to a decade, to some design "choices" that were bugs in real use until someone else took over a project or a new project was released that did a better job of it. Patience is very helpful. So is actually contributing to the user community.

In fact, one of the most fun activities for a moderately experienced user is to take up answering the questions from the "newbs", and helping keep the load off the core developers. Be cautious and ready to escalate, but it can help people a lot if someone closer to their own experience level can help them out.

Openhatch/Bite-size bugs complaint... (2, Interesting)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234822)

I picked a bite-size bug at random from the first page of results for PHP bugs: Bug 17497 - Add oasis opendocument and oo.o legacy document to mime.types [wikimedia.org] .
The bug was created a year ago and has some activity on it, including a patch. Looking at that history though, it's not clear whether the problem has been fixed nor what action is now required. The actual fix is seemingly simple, but no-one can agree on the exact form the simple fix should take. I wouldn't say that's a great introduction for a newbie to the project.

Re:Openhatch/Bite-size bugs complaint... (2, Interesting)

markfreeman (1812796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235424)

I agree, this is a big issue. Quite a few times I have gone through bug trackers looking at items to see that patches had already been submitted, bit the issue still wasn't marked resolved. One thing maintainers can do is review and give feedback on submitted patches. Letting something 'sit on the vine and rot' isn't helping the project and doesn't make people want to contribute.

Re:Openhatch/Bite-size bugs complaint... (1)

paulproteus (112149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32239154)

(I'm asheesh at openhatch.org.)

Yeah, finding a bitesize bug that looks cool is a drag when the next step isn't clear.

It would be nice if more of these bitesize bugs were well-maintained by their projects, or at least you could tell what you should do next.

Something we could do is give you an info box, suggesting good next steps. "If there is a patch, download it -- does the patch apply against the current version of the software? Does it work? Does it seem like a good contribution? Patch review is very helpful to project leads."

What do you think? I'm really eager to hear others' ideas.

Keep in mind that, without your help, the patch might never land. So even if you "just" write, "This patch looks good!" or "This patch sucks; can someone delete it?" you're moving the issue closer to resolved.

ThunderBird bug #92165? (2, Interesting)

Animaether (411575) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235442)

Reminds me of ThunderBird bug #92165 - Cannot rename a local folder to its current name with different case

Although the apparent action required there is that...
laymen, who merely encounter the bug, find it odd, and go through the trouble of creating a mozilla bugzilla account to post on the topic.. are told by the people who understand the bug and know exactly how to fix it, to create a patch themselves if they find it so important.

If that is the general response people who are enthusiastic about open source projects (given that there's plenty of other free-as-in-beer mail apps) are greeted with, I can see why a newbie programmer would raise an eyebrow and think to themselves that submitting a patch is likely going to be greeted with "if people want this fixed, they can take your patch and re-build thunderbird themselves".

Don't get involved... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32234824)

... Current OSS developers are bigots and assholes, don't waste your time if you value your sanity.

no java? (1)

hcgpragt (968424) | more than 4 years ago | (#32234854)

No Java requested at all? I've always seen it as the base language for open source.

Re:no java? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235008)

Ya kidding right? It's only been 2 years since Java was finally made "free", and now Oracle owns it. For at least a decade before that it was referred to as the "Java Trap".

Re:no java? (1)

hcgpragt (968424) | more than 4 years ago | (#32239184)

Maybe you confuse Free and Opens Source?

There have been, and are, many java open source projects. I was wondering why they are not part of this site. Especially SUN has been a real advocate for open-source in the past.

ps. C# isn't exactly 'Free' I guess.

Re:no java? (1)

markfreeman (1812796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32235452)

The site indexes projects that poeple say they are contributing to. There isn't anything about the site itself that is excluding Java based projects. If there are Java projects that need help and are marking easy and doc bugs on their tracker, you can submit a request to have that tracker added here: https://openhatch.org/wiki/Bug_trackers [openhatch.org] .

You are digging your own grave... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32235290)

...There are very few exceptions when you aren't. Eg. I don't see how some interesting programming languages would ever succeed without open source.

Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32236238)

I rather get paid for my time, thanks.

OSS at work (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 4 years ago | (#32236414)

I work for a university research group doing social psychology & public health research. As the most technologically adept person in my program, I've been slowly but steadily weaning the rest of my team off of closed source stuff and getting them to use, or if not actually use, at least consider OSS for various uses.

One of the things I'm starting to do is get in contact with people who manage OSS projects that *almost* but not quite meet our needs and discuss funding them to implement the features and functionality we want. We win because we get a tool that does what we want without needing the skills in house and at a lower cost than buying a proprietary solution, the software project team wins because they get funding for their efforts, and the community wins because they get more features.

The only real hurdle I have right now to getting people to get fully onboard with OSS is that we haven't yet been able to find anything that's comprable to SPSS and SAS for our analysis (and that's compatible/capable of reading from both) - any suggestions?

Money is nice (1)

xymog (59935) | more than 4 years ago | (#32237280)

Donating to OSS that you use is a great way to give back. Nothing says "thank you" like cold, hard cash.

Small amounts of money can make volunteers vanish (1)

paulproteus (112149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32239310)

Money can reduce volunteer activity, crowding it out with a smaller pool of paid developers.

http://ideas.repec.org/p/prt/dpaper/3_2009.html [repec.org] is one of many papers on this topic.

article on this very subject (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32239842)

I wrote an EHow article on this very subject. http://www.ehow.com/how_5909709_contribute-open-source-project.html [ehow.com]

Essentially
1. Use it
2. Get involved in the community
3. Bug tracking
4. Document
5. Code

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