8 Non-technical ways to contribute to open-source
16 October, 2021
There is also a big misconception about your contributions having to be technical. In many cases, open-source projects need a lot of other skills to help improve their project.
In this article, I'll be sharing 8 ways you can get involved in open source without having to dive into the technical aspect.
1 Maintain GitHub issues
A big part of open source projects is their git repo, being Gitlab or GitHub. These systems can get overwhelming and full of duplicate issues.
You could contribute by responding to opened issues and noting the issue is a duplicate of another problem. Always reference the other topic to it.
But not only can you reference duplicate issues, but you can also validate the issues created.
Maybe the person forgot to include an error, or the explanation doesn't make sense to you. From that perspective, it's good to evaluate the issues created to help get them answered/solved quicker.
With the most open source projects these days they come with their social channels. I've seen many projects use Discord, but this could be a forum/Slack/Twitter group or anything else.
These are often places where the project community gathers, and they are not only looking for technical advice.
People come there to indulge in questions, ask for feedback, propose ideas, and you can be part of that!
Being an active community member goes far beyond writing code. I'm part of open source projects where all I do is help people on Discord.
Often these channels host meet-ups to discuss the project and what to do with certain aspects of it. It's a significant contribution if you are part of these meetings and help the team give your feedback on the project.
Another thing you can do to help an open-source project is to follow the docs. Meaning you go through the docs and see if they make sense to you.
People often write these docs from an in-depth view, and it might skip some steps you were not aware of.
You can then go ahead and either propose changes for those docs or even mention it to the maintaining team.
This helps an open-source project massively as the people writing these docs can easily forget steps or details!
Another thing related to documentation is translating them. Open source projects are often documented in many languages, and this is a massive task to do and keep up with.
You can contribute by helping the translation process. Even if you're not keen on opening your first PR, you could hand the team a word document with a specific document translated.
Before jumping in, please note which languages the documentation is available in and if there is a market for the one you want to propose.
Answering questions can be an outstanding contribution to open source. These questions don't have to be about a particular technical aspect you might not feel comfortable with.
There could be questions about a topic you know a lot about. Maybe it's UX, design, or grammar?
Question for open source projects can pop up everywhere. This could be on Github, Twitter, Discord, or Reddit.
By doing this, you often bring the community closer together. The person asking might not be aware of another place where these questions could be asked, so do point out the other communication points for this project.
Another, often overseen way to help open source is to talk about it! This can be as simple as sharing a tweet about the project, starring the project on GitHub, or joining their mailing list.
But also keep in mind you could write articles about the project, make a video or podcast episode.
And you can even go as far as making a curated list of projects made with this project!
By doing this, you greaten the project's reach and help it become more mature and well known!
Perhaps you are good at design or have a lot of design/UX input. These projects are often non-funded, so they can use all the help they can.
You could help by creating incredible design elements for them, help by improving the UI/UX of the website or docs.
Open source projects often heavily rely on the examples they provide. But due to the quickly changing nature of these projects, the samples can get outdated or missed out on.
You could test out examples for the open-source project and let the team know if an example is no longer working.
You could also take a few minutes to suggest improvements to the examples. Maybe you have a particular use-case that's not in the examples but would benefit people.
This doesn't mean you have to do the technical work. You could just notify the team of the issue at hand.