I’ve been inspired by Mel Chua‘s post, Join Nicholas: chronicle the start of your own FOSS adventures, which, in turn, was inspired by Nicholas Whittier‘s post, New Year’s Resolution: More open source participation.
Nicholas has made a New Year’s resolution to participate more in Free Open Source Software (FOSS), not just evangelize for its use. Mel has encouraged him to write about it to help document the process of a newbie joining an open source project. Mel very eloquently explains why this is important:
I’m very much looking forward to reading these posts, and have encouraged Nicholas to tag them so they’ll show up on Planet TOS – he’s a keen writer with the ability to reflect on his mental processes while learning something as a novice, which is something that will be incredibly valuable for any open source project trying to get insights into how the participation process looks like from the newbie side, and also to newcomers looking to read about the thoughts of someone going through the process they’re about to launch into.
I hope that more newcomers join Nicholas in writing down their thoughts as they begin their own FOSS journeys. It’s actually the sort of thinking and contribution that we typically lack the most – and something that experienced contributors cannot do. I have some of my own thoughts in this blog from several years ago when I began actively contributing to open source, but they’re faded and fuzzy and I wish I’d done more (I was confident that nobody would care, but as it turns out, I wish I had written more down).
Too often we’re only publicly reflective only when we’re confident and experienced with something – so I applaud (and admire!) the courage being demonstrated here. Good luck, Nicholas – please keep writing, and let us know if we can help you with your adventures in any way.
I felt this lack of documentation for newbies in a FOSS project myself — twice in the last six months. The first was in June when I participated in POSSE Worcester State to learn about teaching students about FOSS participation, and had a very difficult time getting involved in a FOSS project myself (despite having three instructors who all have high-level leadership positions in the project). The second was this past semester, when I required the students in my CS 401 software development class to participate in an FOSS project. The students learned a lot, but it was clear to me that I need to know much more about the process to be able to give them a better learning experience.
So, inspired by Mel and Nicholas, I am going to make a big push this year in FOSS participation myself. I have an entire year until I will be teaching CS 401 again, and in that time, I want to become someone who has participated in a FOSS project. I want to document my experience so that I can help my students more effectively when I throw them off the deep end again in Spring 2012.
I have four main goals (at this point):
- Learn the tools and processes myself by participating in a FOSS project.
- Figure out what FOSS tools and processes I can begin to introduce my students to in earlier courses.
- Figure out what FOSS experience(s) I can provide my non-CS students.
- Find a project (or projects) to place my Senior CS students into in Spring 2012.
I’ll write more about each of these goals in future posts. (An unrelated goal is to become more comfortable with blogging — I find this process to be a relatively scary one. As an academic, I find it difficult to discuss the process, rather than the finished product.)
And, with that, I hit Publish…