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Berkholz: How to recruit open-source contributors

Gentoo's Donnie Berkholz has written a treatise on the methods the distribution uses to turn Google Summer of Code students into regular contributors, claiming an increase from 20% to 65%. "In my view (and therefore Gentoo’s view), the code produced during someone’s initial summer of work tends to serve its best purpose as inculcation to a community and its standards, rather than as useful code in itself. We regard that code as potentially throwaway work that is more of an experimentation than something on Gentoo’s critical path."
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Berkholz: How to recruit open-source contributors

Posted Jul 13, 2012 1:34 UTC (Fri) by fest3er (guest, #60379) [Link]

I often tell folks who contribute to Roadster (my modernization of Smoothwall), "That's a great start! Now let's make it better!" And I take great pains to show them what I mean, and to encourage them to learn more.

If one starts with nothing, the first iteration is usually not very good; even my first iterations of something new leave a lot to be desired, and I've been designing code for 30-odd years. There'll be things he's overlooked, things he hasn't thought of, and things he's misunderstood. If he's serious about learning and contributing, he'll take fair constructive criticism in stride.

If one starts with a first iteration (even if their own), her first impression may be, "Holy carp! Who wrote this effing swill and what was he thinking?!?" She'll learn from those mistakes and produce much improved code, though still limited by her incomplete knowledge of the subject matter.

If you're serious about attracting contributors, you'll learn to criticize gently, teach them how to improve their skills, and bring them along.

Invite, state clear expectations and goals, praise and criticize fairly, teach, assist and encourage. And revel in the diversity of the contributors.


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