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Simple ways to contribute to open source projects

4 min. read

Passbolt team

Passbolt team

6 October, 2021

Community is one of the most important elements of open source projects. It’s the contributions made to each project, by the community, that allows open-source software to really thrive and grow. That’s why we’ve developed our forum, where you can leave your comments, feedback and make suggestions.

At passbolt, we surveyed some of our users to find out more about how people are contributing to our project, why they contribute, and more importantly — why they don’t!

Why contribute to open source software?

As mentioned above, contributing to open-source software helps to improve the project — the community steps in to better the software you and your team rely on. But open-source contributions are much more than that.

It’s an opportunity to meet people who have the same interests, to be a part of a community, and even find mentors or mentees.

“If you think of the ideas of open source applied to information in an encyclopedia, you get to Wikipedia — lots and lots of small contributions that bubble up to something that’s meaningful.”

- Matt Mullenweg

Survey Results

With the highest number of contributors stating they contribute to open source software as often as once a day to once a month, we were interested in finding out why just over 50% of those surveyed said they don’t contribute.

The results showed that the vast majority of those who don’t contribute is because they feel like they either don’t have the time (28.5%), they don’t have the skills needed (50%) or they just don’t know where to start (15%).

Building our community is so important because we know that the more users who are contributing, the better our password manager becomes. We also want all our users to feel like they can play a part in making sure passbolt is continually being improved and tested.

However, we recognize that there is one common misconception about open source software contribution that might be deterring some of our users from engaging with our community.

How users are contributing to open source projects

When surveying passbolt users we learned that just under half of those surveyed contribute to open-source software. Of those who contribute, a follow-up question was asked to determine in what way they are contributing.

Based on our survey, the top 4 ways users contribute, in order, are:

  • Giving feedback and ideas 33.14%
  • With code (making pull requests, fixing bugs, etc.) 19.19%
  • Helping other people on forums or GitHub 15.12%
  • Spreading the word (writing articles, tutorials, or making videos) 11.63%

Passbolt’s roadmap is a perfect example of how your contributions make a difference. We base what we need to work on and task priority, on what our users want or need. If you feel like a feature is missing, or could be improved, your feedback is not only valued but imperative to the project’s growth.

Right now, we’re working on mobile applications, so that passwords can be managed on iPhones or android phones. You’ll also notice that the “Account Recovery (Escrow)” feature is in progress — this will enable administrators of passbolt pro to help users to recover their accounts (for example when they lose their recovery kit).

Contribute with more than just writing code

One of the greatest misconceptions about contributing to open-source software is that contributions are only for developers and other technically skilled people. But the truth is, there are more ways you can contribute than just writing code.

Writers, designers, testers, and people with strong organizational skills can still be a part of the passbolt community and contribute in their own ways.

Writers can improve project documentation, start a newsletter or write translations. If you have strong organizational skills you can help by linking duplicate issues and suggesting new labels. Designers can suggest UI / UX improvements or conduct user research.

Of course, technical skills are essential, but it’s important that a community comes together and uses its strengths to improve the software.

Some other ways users have contributed to passbolt’s open-source software have been:

  • Reviewing code, hunting for security issues as part of the bug bounty program
  • Answering questions about the project (ex. On the forum, Stack Overflow or Reddit)
  • Organizing workshops or events
  • Improve tooling around automation for example, for testing
  • Financing security audits
  • Writing tutorials, articles, social media posts, or even creating videos about passbolt
  • Building integration with passbolt and other products.

Be inspired to contribute to open source projects

We boast about the fact that we are a password manager that is built for teams and DevOps, and that our community is crucial in helping us continue to provide software that fulfills the desires and needs of your team.

Yet, we are seeing that less than 50% of those surveyed are contributing. This is why we want to find new ways of inspiring you, our community, to contribute.

Contributions can be more than just coding. The skills you already have, no matter what they are, can in some way be used to provide meaningful contributions to our software and other open-source projects. So how will you contribute?

Article originally written by Sona Kerim