Thoughts on Open Source & Initial Contribution

I managed to submit my application last night and I thought I would write a blog post as to what I’ve done so far. When I started this process, I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew that I wanted to get into open source because I felt that open source would be a good way to showcase some projects for my resume as well as helping out the FOSS community. It wasn’t until I attended WWC’s “Getting Started in Open Source” tech talk by Cat Allman that I’ve actually decided to do something about it.

I’ve always been curious about the underpinnings of FOSS. It had always seemed to be such an abstract thing: people get together and work on code and then distribute it for free. But how was I supposed to find projects I would be interested in? Honestly, I had no idea where to look. Googling “open source” is quite overwhelming.

During the talk, Allman mentioned that GNOME hosted outreach programs to get more women into FOSS and that they were expanding their program to include other organizations. This was basically a godsend to me. I had missed my chance to participate in Google’s Summer of Code because I honestly hadn’t heard about it until last summer and I had already missed the deadline to submit. Since I graduated this year, I was no longer eligible to become a candidate.

I have to admit, I get very nervous when trying to approach people, especially online. So when I decided that I wanted to be part of Wikimedia’s internship, it took me a while to work up the courage to contact my mentor, Mark. But Mark managed to quell all my anxiety because he turned out to be so nice and helpful. It actually livened up my spirits to work on my code and churn out something.

I’ve been working on a Python script that takes in the a git repository, file name, branch name (optional), and line range (optional) to return a chunk of lines. This is supposed to be a quick introduction to the type of program I’ll be working with if accepted. You can find the code here.

It’s nothing spectacular, but I’m quite proud of it. I’ve only been learning Python for a couple months and I hadn’t written a Python project from scratch before. Admittedly, Python isn’t all that different from C, C++, and Java which I’m more familiar with, but I still have quite a sense of accomplishment.

Although I’m only in the application process for this program, I have to say that my first impressions of FOSS are very positive. While I hope that I’ll get accepted in the program, I feel that just this initial dip in the ocean of FOSS makes me want to just dive right in.


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