Useful to you, programming for me?
February 25, 2012 1:35 AM   Subscribe

I want to contribute with my programming ability (software developer) to free software. I could be developing another tower defense game but prefer a small project which might be mildly useful to somebody and possibly teaches me something outside of programming. What would be a useful to you and a good project for me?

My limitations are as follow: no expensive hardware, possible to develop under Linux or similar, not require more than one programmer.
posted by EuroBunny to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest trawling the forums of a modular open source package of interest to you. GIMP plugins ... Drupal modules ... That kind of thing. People ask about possible extensions to open source all the time, and some sort of plugin is going to be a lot easier to develop on your own than a complete package while still yielding a useful product. If you are or become more passionate about the software package per se, you could trawl its bug tracker and start testing patches people submit or try submitting tiny patches of your own. You'll discover pretty quickly how that software package's development team really works and whether you'd like to contribute further.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:04 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

OpenHatch: help newcomers find their way into free software projects.

SourceForge: help wanted
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:05 AM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Go find an active project you find interesting with a decent sized community, and start identifying things you can contribute to on it.
posted by singingfish at 3:11 AM on February 25, 2012

OpenFrameworks is a multimedia framework for generative and interactive art and such. People are always contributing extensions and improvements to it.
posted by moonmilk at 6:45 AM on February 25, 2012

I've thought about it and occasionally go looking for a project, so no I don't have a good specific suggestion. Do steel yourself for the install effort, getting all the build dependencies is probably the biggest challenge. Do have some direct chats with someone that has commit rights to the project so that your efforts will not just be rejected out of hand.
posted by sammyo at 8:19 AM on February 25, 2012

Have you looked at codeforamerica? Cities have their own civic coding / hacking sessions as well depending on your location...
posted by stratastar at 1:16 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pick your favorite piece of software. Learn how to build and install the latest version out of version control. Try using the latest development code for your daily work. Investigate and report (and eventually try to fix) any bugs you find.

Keep in mind that projects sometimes get well-meaning volunteers who ask a lot of questions and then never contribute much. So they can't necessarily afford to be very helpful at first.

Developer documentation, if it exists, is likely out of date and incomplete, and your questions may get ignored.

But it's all fun as long as you have the right expectations: you just have to be creative and figure out how things work on your own.

There's no point trying to understand everything at once; any project worth caring about is likely too complicated for that. Instead you need a good reason to burrow into one tiny part of the project. Bugs are great teachers.
posted by bfields at 2:15 PM on February 25, 2012

Code for America is a wonderful suggestion, and of you'll pardon the gauche self-link, many in the ThinkUp community have told me they like working on the app not just because it's useful, but because it aspires to enable significant work.
posted by anildash at 8:15 PM on February 25, 2012

To sum it up: I am not that much into web stuff, nor am I excited by doing bug fixing for KDE (currently not using it) and gnome (never got the hang of evolution).

So most interesting seems SourceForge help wanted where I see interesting projects. OpenHatch certainly is also worth a look.

Code for (US) America could be interesting in particular to become socially involved, if you happen to live in the USA that is.

As for specific projects: OpenFrameworks sounds like fun if you are artistically inclined rather than challenged. ThinkUp seems interesting for people with social networks.
posted by EuroBunny at 12:00 AM on March 1, 2012

This is more of a series of one-offs rather than a continuing project but: Data Without Borders
posted by stratastar at 12:42 PM on March 4, 2012

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