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FOSS Contributions

Tags: [FOSS, Open Source, Github]


Hello people, in this article my goal is to share a framework I use when I want to collaborate on some open source project. I must confess that it is more useful when you don't have much knowledge about the project you want to contribute to yet.

It's pretty simple and has worked well for me.

The Framework

With no further ado, this framework is based on three steps, and it helps you to understand how confident or capable you are in the project code regards.

The steps are:

  1. Documentation.
  2. Automated Tests and Bug Fix.
  3. New Features.


Why should you start with documentation PRs?

Because, usually, we don't have that deep knowledge of most of the tools we use (internal mechanisms), since this knowledge is not necessary if the tool is well implemented.

In this first step, focus only on reading the documentation, so you get more acquaitance with it. During this process, you can spot several kinds of errors. Next, I present a non-exhaustive list of problems that could pop-up:

  • Typos,
  • Docs lacking updates,
  • Enhancement opportunities in some explanation.

The first error kind is the most simple to fix. Just send a PR to solve the typos and we're already improving the project.

The second error kind is a bit more complex to solve. Usually, you can simply create an issue to alert about this piece of documentation with incorrect instructions and let the project maintainers take care of it.

Finally, the third idea is when you decide to contribute for the project adding more information when you noticed the lack of it. It could be something like adding instructions on how to run the automated tests, or how to make the project work with some different tool.

Or it could be something aesthetic (make sure to explain why you think it makes sense to change it, you need to convince the maintainer):


Still in this section, another thing that you can do to contribute for open source projects is to give ideas for new features. You can simply create an issue describing what you want, and giving ideas for the maintainers.

Althought this is not a PR contribution, it is still very useful.

Automated Tests and Bug Fixes

The next step, after reading and improving the documentation, is to start digging into the project code. In order to do this, I like to start checking the automated tests of it.


Because it is fairly simple to get feedback, you can improve your understanding of the code behavior, and you can learn how things must be set up for it to run (usually).

And, another aspect is that in this step I'm usually confident enough to start sending PRs to solve bugs reported by some users.

New Features

Finally, now that you have read the documentation and improved it, studied the test scenarios, and is confident about knowing the code behavior, the next step is to finally add new features and send PRs with your custom code.

Notice that those are, most of the time, the PRs that take longer to get merged, because it depends on the understanding of the maintainers about this new feature that you're proposing.

Sometimes it does not work that well, but have patience:


As I said before, I'm using this framework in order to organize myself about open source contributions, and it's working great. But, again, this is not something that you must follow every time you want to start contributing to some project.

Sometimes we just know enough about the project and the code, and we just want to fix a bug there, so it's fine to start from the final steps for example.

Also, we can send PRs touching in more than one step, and it's fine, just send your contribution.

That's it. Let me know if you have any question, or would like to talk about this framework.