Newbie Docs

Daniel Ford: How To Get More Committers

Jessica Thornsby

IBM Researcher Daniel Ford has posted some advice on how to get new committers signing-up to your open source project.

His advice is simple: create an “immigration” document. This takes the form of a manual or a wiki that provides newbies with everything they need to know about your project. It doesn’t even have to include complicated information – listing all the other developers, along with contact information, would be enormously helpful for the newcomer. Along the same lines, Ford suggests listing all the tools the project uses, complete with version numbers, information on where to download them and how to install and configure them.

Ford suggests an ‘administrative trivia’ section, where newcomers can learn how to obtain an account, where the repositories are, and the names of servers and where they’re located. And, how about a “starting-out” checklist, which walks the newcomer through all of those essential preliminary tasks?

But, to Ford, the most important part of this so-called “immigration” document is an accurate, up-to-date explanation of the project’s build process, which will not only provide the newcomer with a broad understanding of the system being developed, but will entice them to get involved in the project.

Clearly, Ford’s thinking is to turn complete newbies into productive team-players, without requiring any input from the existing team members. The benefits to both parties are potentially huge: the existing community receives a stream of new committers, with no active input from themselves; and the newcomers, interested in getting involved in an open source project, can dive straight in. According to Ford, where “immigration” documents are concerned, everyone’s a winner.

Please see Daniel Ford’s blog for more information.

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