One of the core benefits of open-source projects is how anyone can contribute to the code or documentation. And as demonstrated by a series of visualizations produced by GitHub, when a project is opened up, the number of contributors explodes upwards.
One of the most striking of GitHub’s visualizations is Roslyn, a .NET compiler platform originally produced by Microsoft. Two years ago, the software giant made the platform open-source. Almost immediately, interest (in the form of pull requests, pushes, and issue comments) spiked:
“Successful open source projects include code and documentation contributions together with conversations about these changes,” read the blog’s accompanying commentary. “Offering a place for people to report problems, ask questions, and suggest fixes or improvements are also a core part of any project’s success.”
To which most open-source advocates would say: duh, of course. But it’s another thing entirely to see the seismic effect on a project’s activity when it’s open-sourced for the first time. If the project itself provides significant utility, and it’s hosted on a repository like GitHub, chances are good it’ll draw attention.
Landing a Job via Open Source
For those totally new to open source, make sure to check out opensource.com, which features how-to guides and tutorials; if you’re in school, programs including Google Summer of Code are a way to code for open-source projects. On repositories such as GitHub, many open-source projects will welcome contributions from beginners, although one may want to consider tackling relatively small tasks—such as cleaning up documentation or reporting a bug—before trying something sizable.
Once you’ve built up open-source experience, you can use it to land a job. Make sure any projects listed on your résumé are “good,” in the sense of working well, serving a purpose, and so on. In preparation for job interviews, you’ll want to formulate some discussion points about your open-source work, such as how your coding experience (and ability to juggle the needs of multiple stakeholders) makes you an ideal candidate for the position.
Even if you’re not excessively career-oriented, open-source communities also give you the opportunity to network and build relationships with others in the tech industry, which can only benefit you in the end.