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Saturday 12:10 p.m.–12:55 p.m.

Open Source for Newcomers and the People Who Want to Welcome Them

Shauna Gordon-McKeon

Audience level:


Open source can be fun and rewarding, but it can also be intimidating. This talk addresses some of the biggest technical and psychological barriers to contributing, from the perspective of both the newcomers who want to overcome them and the maintainers who want to remove them.


Are you interested in open source, but having difficulty getting started? Do you maintain a project that can’t seem to find new contributors? This talk will cover some of the most common “failure modes” of open source contributing, from the technical to the interpersonal. Drawing from my experience organizing and running dozens of newcomer workshops, and using examples from various open source python projects, I’ll show you: - How to make good matches between newcomers and projects - How to create and identify good first tasks for new contributors - How to ease the pain of setting up development environments - How to make time to contribute and mentor - How to overcome impostor syndrome and how to make a welcoming community atmosphere Throughout the talk, I’ll emphasize several themes. First: open source contributing can be hard. Whether you’re a newcomer struggling to install a project or a maintainer who doesn’t know what to say when someone asks how they can help, it’s not your fault, and you’re not alone. We can work together to make it easier. Second: open source is full of implicit knowledge that needs to be made explicit. That may mean documenting your toolchain, telling a maintainer what skills you’d like to work on, or setting expectations on how much time you have to work with someone. In open source, there’s seldom too much information. Finally: every contribution has value. Newcomers can contribute in meaningful ways from the moment they join a project, though perhaps not always in the ways they imagined. Let’s encourage every kind of contribution and help ourselves become a bigger, more diverse, and more vibrant community!
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