Demystifying open source and learning how to contribute as a non-technical techie.
When you hear the phrase ‘Open Source,’ what comes to mind?
Coding? Software engineering? Github? Markdown?, etc.
Just like many of you are right now, I was once confused about what open source meant and worse of, I always wondered.
How can a product manager efficiently contribute to open source?
I scanned through the internet looking for answers to both concerns and even though I understood what Open source meant, I still had a hard time figuring out how to contribute to it. Anyways, this was until I heard about Outreachy. We will come to that but before then let me help demystify the concept of OPEN SOURCE for you.
What is Open Source?
Open source refers to a type of software or project where the original source code is made freely available to the public. It means that anyone can view, use, modify, and distribute the software without restrictions.
It’s like having a recipe for a delicious dish that you can share with anyone and they can modify it to suit their taste.
Why is Open Source Encouraged?
Open source promotes collaboration and community involvement, allowing people from all over the world to contribute their ideas and improvements. It’s like a big team effort where everyone can benefit from and contribute to making the software better.
Open Source for Non- Technical Techies
Even if you’re not a technical person like me (I am a product manager), there are several ways you can contribute to open source projects:
1. Documentation: Many open source projects need help with writing and improving documentation. You can contribute by writing tutorials, guides, or improving existing documentation to make it more accessible and understandable for users.
2. Testing and Bug Reporting: As a non-technical user, you can test open source software and report any bugs or issues you encounter. This helps developers identify and fix problems, improving the overall quality of the software.
3. User Support: Participate in forums, discussion boards, or mailing lists related to the open source project. Offer help to other users by answering questions, providing guidance, or sharing your experiences with the software.
4. Translation: If you’re fluent in multiple languages, you can contribute by translating software interfaces, documentation, or websites into different languages. This helps make the software more accessible to users worldwide.
5. Design and User Experience (UX): If you have design skills, you can contribute by creating or improving the user interface, icons, or other visual elements of the project. Good design and UX greatly enhance the usability and appeal of open source software.
6. User Research: Every company building a problem solving product is interested in knowing the minds of its users regardless of what stage the product is. You can contribute by carrying our user surveys on target users, initial users, customers etc. in order to give feedback to the company. You will have contributed immensely by doing this and they will value it.
7. Advocacy: Another way to effectively contribute to opensource projects is to spread the word about open source projects. Write blog posts, share on social media, or give presentations at events to raise awareness and attract more users and contributors to the project.
Contributing to open source is not limited to coding. Every contribution, no matter how small, can make a difference in the success of an open source project.
Personally, I contributed my first open source project in March 2023 to the Oppia Foundation which is an education technology platform that aims to address educational inequality and expand access to quality education through the creation and use of personalized, engaging, and effective lessons that are specially designed to meet the unique needs of under-resourced learners around the world and right now, that opportunity is sitting pretty in my resume as a project I have contributed to as open source, highlighting the skills I picked up on the way such as presentation skills, UX research skills, documentation, market research and communication skills. If you want to read the full story of my contribution to open source as product manager, check my Link to Medium Post
So you see, Open Source is indeed open to everyone to contribute. You just have to find a way to do so and a project that resonates with you. I hope you enjoyed reading and if you came looking for answers, I hope this helped.
Feel free to drop a comment, or ask further questions about open source for non-technical techies in general.
Product Manager. Community Member.