Paul Di Gian
Paul Di Gian's Blog

Paul Di Gian's Blog

Do not search for Open Source contributions - build something.

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Paul Di Gian
·Oct 25, 2021·

3 min read

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I saw few articles and tweets about how to pick an open-source project to boost a portfolio.

They usually go around checking if the project is beginner-friendly, checking if there are issues label as "Good first issue", and checking if the project is active and somebody will actually review your own PR.

I believe those are no-sense.

In the rest of the article, I will explain why those suggestions are no-sense. I will make the point that building something for your own consumption is strictly better, and that Open Source contributions ideas will come naturally when you are actually building something.

Why search for Open Source contribution is no-sense

The incentives and overall goal are misaligned, and nothing good will come out of it.

So, let me be straight honest - and I know that not everybody will like this opinion.

Do not contribute to Open Source to boost your portfolio.

You are wasting your time and the open-source maintainers time.

You won't have fun, and your output will be very subpar.

If you want to allocate time to improve your coding skills, and to signal to potential employers that you will be a good hire, there are better strategies.

Build yourself a project you care about

Software requires dedication and discipline. The easiest way to get both of them, it is to work on something you deeply care about.

Pick any of your passions, and create a software project about it.

You like making music? Great, create a music mixer. You like going to the gym? Why not a tracker for progressive overall? You love hiking in the nature? A tool to calculate how long it will take to do a specific trail. You play video games? A leaderboard for you and your squad.

Every project will work well, however some project will be simpler.

Projects that can be useful even only to you, without tons of other people using it, are simpler to work on.

You will be motivated by your own usage, and you won't stress about the (almost) inevitable lack of users and adoptions.

But all those projects already exists!

Doesn't matter!

How many songs about love are there? I have never hear a songwriter says that it would not write a new song, because it is not the first song about love, have you?

Your specific implementation will be different from anybody else implementation.

It won't last

Yes, your own little project (almost) certainly won't last and nobody will ever hear about it, nor use it.

What it will last are the skills you will pick up doing it.

It will last the project repository over github, that will signal to potential employers that you are capable of writing real-world software, ideally with automatic test, CI/CD deployment and all the bell and whistles that we now expect from software.

It is difficult

Indeed, it is.

Making software is hard, and you are doing it is super-easy mode, with the requirements are clears are possible since you are the only and main user.

Moreover, and here it is the big secret, while you are trying to build your own little applications, tons and tons of problems on libraries and tools will arise.

THOSE, are your opportunities for Open Source contributions.

THOSE will be meaningful, complete and value adding contributions.

THOSE are the one you should pursue.

Now go, and build something!

 
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