How to start contributing to Open Source?

Open Source Contributions Motivations

As a programmer we use to use Open Source Software, but have you ever thought of contributing to it?. Looking at the data of the Stack Overflow Annual Developer Survey of 2019 I want to share some of the characteristics of people who contribute to Open Source and also make some predictions about how likely is a person to contribute.

Introduction

Sometimes you want to acquire experience or want to put into practice your programming skills, but you don’t know where to start. Contributing to Open Source could be a great opportunity, you don’t need to have a lot of experience, you just need the desired to help. For example, you could start helping to translate the documentation of some libraries to different languages, like the Jupyter documentation.

To know more about the profile of the people that use to contribute to Open Source I use the data from Stackoverflow’s 2019 Annual Developer Survey and I found some interesting results.
The data of 2019 cover nearly 90,000 developers around the world that answer questions related to how they learn and level up, which tools they’re using, and what they want.

Part I: How is the contribution of developers to Open Source?

I use the following question to know how often developers contribute to Open Source:

How often do you contribute to open source?

Figure 1. How often do you contribute to open source?

Besides more than 30% of the people had never contributed to Open source, is good to know that more of the developers contributed at least once, this could encourage others to contribute.

Part II: How is the profile of people who contribute to Open Source?

To know more about the people who contribute, I removed from the data the people that never contributed and make some graphs. For example the question:

Which of the following options best describes you today? Here, by “developer” we mean “someone who writes code.”

Figure 2. What kind of developer are you?

More than 70% of the people are professional developers and this is expected because the audience of this survey are developers.

Another question that caught my attention is the following:

How do you feel about the quality of open source software (OSS)?

Figure 3. How do you feel about the quality of open source software (OSS)?

In the past, people use to think that the proprietary software was the most qualified because it was built by a company and could have better support, but as more people are willing to contribute the Open source software gain more visibility and trust.

Which of the following best describes the highest level of formal education that you’ve completed?

Figure 4. Which of the following best describes the highest level of formal education that you’ve completed?

One of the beliefs of the people is that the ones that contribute the most to Open Source are people with the highest educational degrees like Doctoral degrees, but as you could see in the graph most of them are people with a Bachelor’s or Students, that could imply that is a good start to get experience.

Which of the following programming, scripting, and markup languages have you done extensive development work in over the past year, and which do you want to work in over the next year? (If you both worked with the language and want to continue to do so, please check both boxes in that row.)

Figure 5. Most used programming languages for people who contributes to Open Source

Checking at the language that is most used, one of the most popular is JavaScript that in the last few years gain a lot of visibility and is extensively used.

Which of the following describe you? Please select all that apply.

Figure 6. Developer type of people who contributes to Open Source

Also, we want to know what type of developers contribute the most, and as you could see in the graph the top field is web development. This has a lot of sense because this field has been developed a lot in the last few years.

Finally checking at the experience of these developers, we graph the following question:

Including any education, how many years have you been coding?

Figure 7. Including any education, how many years have you been coding?

Around 30% of them have between 5 to 9 years of experience, but is important to highlight that more than 15% have less than 5 years of experience, which means that as I said before is a good start to put into practice the knowledge that you acquire.

Part III: How likely the people could contribute to Open Source?

I created a regression model with some data like the education level, years of experience, career satisfaction, the operating system that use the most among others to validate with this data if a person could contribute to Open Source or not. This model had a precision of 13% and could be improved by adding more characteristics like the programming language. The variables that have the most influence on the model were the questions related to the person who codes as a hobby, the years of experience, and the operating system that use the most.

Conclusions

If you want to contribute to Open Source you don’t need to be the person with the highest degree or a professional with a lot of experience, you just need the willingness of using your knowledge to benefit the community.
For future works, we could make better processing of some of the variables to improve the model precision and have into account more aspects.

With all of this said:

Do you dare to contribute to Open Source?

To see more about this analysis, see the link to my GitHub available here.

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