Getting Started with Open Source Contributions

Contributing to open-source projects is an excellent way to improve your skills, network with like-minded individuals, and give back to the community. In addition, many employers value open-source contributions as they demonstrate technical prowess and collaborative skills. Regardless of your experience level, you can contribute to open-source projects, and this blog post is designed to help you get started. We’ll cover everything from finding suitable projects to making your first pull request, with plenty of examples along the way.

Understanding Open Source

Open-source software is software that is designed to be publicly accessible. That means anyone can see, modify, and distribute the project’s source code. The benefits of this model are many; it promotes a collaborative approach to development, encourages transparency and community ownership, and can lead to more robust, secure, and innovative software.

# Example of open-source project: GitHub repository of [Python programming language](

How to Find an Open Source Project to Contribute To

It can be daunting to find the right project to contribute to, especially when there are millions of open-source projects out there. Here are some tips to help you:

Look for a Project You Use or Like

If there’s an open-source project that you use frequently, consider contributing to it. You already understand the project and its value, which makes it easier for you to contribute.

Browse Websites that Aggregate Open Source Projects

Several websites aggregate open-source projects and label them by the level of contribution they need or the programming language they use. Some of these sites are:

Choose a Project with Good Documentation

A well-documented project is likely to have a more organized community and clearer contribution guidelines, making it easier for you to make your first contribution.

How to Make Your First Contribution

Once you’ve found a project to contribute to, here’s how you can make your first contribution:

Understand the Project’s Contribution Guidelines

Before you start making changes, it’s essential to understand the project’s guidelines for contributions. Most open-source projects will have a file or something similar that outlines the project’s contribution process, coding standards, and code of conduct.

# Example: Check the `` file in the [TensorFlow repository](

Setting Up Your Development Environment

You’ll likely need to fork and clone the project’s repository to your local machine to start contributing. Here’s how you can do that using Git:

# Fork the project using the GitHub interface. # Clone the repository to your local machine. git clone # Navigate into the cloned directory. cd projectname

Making Your First Contribution

Here’s a basic workflow for contributing to an open-source project:

  1. Identify a change to make: This could be a bug fix, a new feature, or documentation update.
  2. Create a new branch: Use git checkout -b branch-name to create a new branch for your changes.
  3. Make your changes: Make the changes you want to contribute.
  4. Commit your changes: Use git commit -m "Your detailed commit message" to commit your changes.
  5. Push your changes: Use git push origin branch-name to push your changes to your GitHub repository.
  6. Open a Pull Request: Go to the original project’s GitHub page, you’ll see a prompt to create a Pull Request. Click on it, fill in the necessary details, and submit!
# Creating a new branch git checkout -b my-feature-branch # Making and committing changes echo "some changes" >> somefile.txt git add somefile.txt git commit -m "Add some feature" # Pushing changes git push origin my-feature-branch

What to Do After Making a Pull Request

Once you’ve submitted your pull request, here’s what to expect:

  1. Automated checks: Most projects will have some automated checks that your pull request will need to pass. If your pull request fails these checks, you’ll need to make additional changes to pass them.
  2. Code review: Maintainers of the project will review your changes and give you feedback. You might need to make further changes based on this feedback.
  3. Merging: Once your changes have been approved, they will be merged into the project.
  4. Congratulations! You’ve made your first open-source contribution.


1. Q: What if my pull request is rejected?

A: Don’t be discouraged! Open-source contribution is about continuous learning and improvement. Take the feedback you’ve received, learn from it, and try again.

2. Q: I don’t know how to code. Can I still contribute to open-source projects?

A: Absolutely! Open-source projects require a variety of contributions, including documentation, design, testing, and more. Look for a project that aligns with your skills and interests.

3. Q: How can I find beginner-friendly projects?

A: Some projects tag their issues as “good first issues” or “beginner-friendly”. You can also look for projects on websites like First Timers Only, which specifically caters to beginners.

4. Q: Can contributing to open-source projects help with my career?

A: Yes! It demonstrates your technical skills, ability to work in a team, and passion for software development. Many employers consider open-source contributions in their hiring decisions.

Contributing to open-source projects can be a rewarding way to learn, teach, and build experience. You’re not only improving your skills, but you’re also helping others. So why wait? Find a project you’re passionate about and start contributing today!

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