Here’s Why You Should Start Contributing to Open-Source Projects

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Open-source has become increasingly popular in today’s digital world. And its strategic relevance for the technology and software development industries is undeniable. With more than 200,000 public repository results on GitHub alone, there’s no denying that the open-source community has become an innovation engine in the tech industry. And more and more platforms are evolving to support the open source infrastructure. Download a c++ websocket server for your software or help build out a WordPress plugin; the options are endless.

The term open source simply refers to projects whose source code is publicly accessible and available for use, study, and modification. Successful open-source platforms such as WordPress, Firefox, and Linux thrive on collaboration and meaningful contributions from developers with all levels of programming skills and commitment.

Think of it as decentralized software development as there’s no specific person, team, or organization responsible for all the development work and enhancements. Instead, anyone can view, copy, alter, or share the source code as it’s publicly available.

Contributing to open-source projects can be confusing or even intimidating at first. In fact, it’s not uncommon for developers and other professionals to look at a project’s code on repository hosting sites like Github and feel overwhelmed or dispirited by the complexity of the code. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t collaborate with others in improving documentation, closing a bug, fixing a compiler warning, or adding features.

As a developer, you should start contributing to open source projects as they are almost everywhere on the internet. And here’s why:

Develop Your Skills and Expertise as a Developer

Professional development is all about dedicating time and effort to build up expertise and improve your knowledge and skills in a specific field. Open-source projects allow every developer, regardless of their level of expertise and experience, to contribute to the source code, presenting them with an opportunity to not only improve their coding skills but also learn from others.

When you contribute to an open-source project, your code is reviewed by other developers or a project manager who then provides you with immediate feedback on your coding skills. They may give suggestions on how you can improve your future submissions and help you learn how to write clean code.

Reviewing the code of projects with thousands of contributors can also provide you immense knowledge about best programming practices and code quality. Finally, contributing to open source projects can enhance your capacity for problem-solving and critical thinking and improve your ability to collaborate on team projects.

Build a Reputation and a Diverse Development Portfolio

Committing your time and effort to open-source platforms can help build your reputation and resume. Open source is a community of like-minded professionals, which means every contribution you make, whether it’s fixing a bug or submitting a line of code, means a lot to everyone else contributing to the project.

Other developers will appreciate your efforts and help where possible. As such, you’ll start building your confidence and gaining a reputation among other professionals. And who knows, you may end up forming lasting professional partnerships as a result.

According to a 2017 Survey by Linux, 52% of professionals say open source can help them easily find another job. The survey also found that open source helped 86% of professionals advance their careers. Over time, contributing to open-source projects can help you build an impressive portfolio which will make it easier to get new clients as a developer.

Build a Strong Professional Network

If you’re looking to achieve professional success, networking shouldn’t be an option. Networking with other professionals in your field can help you develop your development skills, meet prospective mentors and employers, stay on top of industry trends, and gain access to important resources that will advance your career development.

Contributing to open-source projects is one of the best ways to build that professional network you need. Not only will you get to interact with like-minded professionals in the open-source community, but you might also meet key people in the industry and form relationships that could end up becoming career-changing connections.

Open-Source Projects Are Easy to Find, Flexible, and Fun

First, open-source projects are easy to find as they are everywhere on the internet. Chances are you’re already using some open-source programs on your phone or computer. What’s even more interesting is that you can find so many programs and platforms to contribute to, based on your preferences and level of expertise and experience.

Secondly, open-source projects give you control over what and how you can modify, reuse, or contribute to a project’s code. That in itself can be exciting and a lot of fun. If you’re an advanced developer, challenge yourself with the best projects as you’ll get to interact with talented developers and strong decision-makers in the industry. Convincing them of your submissions can be a challenge but doing so successfully can be fulfilling and rewarding.

Give Back to the Open-Source Community

Finally, as a developer, you want to help promote the open-source culture. And there’s no better way to do so than by giving back to the open-source community. Developers, designers, data scientists, and professionals from other fields use open-source tools and libraries all the time. As a developer, it’s likely that you’ve used an open-source program that has somehow improved your work. Giving your time and effort to the open-source community shows that you believe in what they’re doing and want to contribute to the greater good.

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Samantha Acuna is a writer based in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, and Yahoo Small Business.