Tips For Creating Contributor Friendly Open Source Projects

At Ombu Labs we are firm believers of open source. We use open source but also like to contribute back to the community and we have open sourced a few projects.

We know that contributing to open source can be a difficult task so we have been looking for easier ways help to onboard new and past contributors. Here is a list of tips and tools that we believe that can help you make your open source project a more friendly space.

Documentation

Having proper documentation for your project is key to make your project more friendly. Document the steps to setup the project, known issues and a guide on how to properly contribute to the project with a CONTRIBUTING.md or adding steps in your README.md.

Label issues

A nice thing about issue trackers these days is that you can label issues with a short text to know what is about before reading the issue. With this a contributor can filter issues by its label and pick something to work on of his interest.

Some nice labels for new contributors are:

  • Help Wanted
  • first-timers-only
  • Beginner
  • Good First Issue
  • Easy

Code Of Conduct

Having a code of conduct is important. Contributing to open source is more than writing code, there are people involved and a COC could help people feel safe and welcome by knowing there is a set of rules to maintain harmony.

We personally have been using The Contributor Covenant but there are many more that you can change and adpat to your project's needs.

Welcome New Contributors

New contributions are always appreciated no matter if they are a feature, bug fix or an issue report. Some times these contributions can go unnoticed and new contributors might feel discouraged and dissapointed for the lack of response. Luckily there are apps like Welcome Github app that can help you with that.

The welcome bot will post a message when a new issue is created, a PR is opened or a PR is merged for a new contributor. This is a nice way to make a person contributing to your project for the first time feel welcome.

This is an example of the welcome bot for our Skunk project

skunk welcome bot

Code Reviews

After a PR is submitted you would want to review it. Be objective but celebrate and encourage changes whenever you can, this will not only make the person changes welcome but it will encourage them to keep working on the PR if you request some changes.

Communication

Having a direct channel of communication with the users of your projects is a nice way to make them feel welcome. Depending on how big your project is you could have a slack or an IRC channel for people wanting to contribute. That way people could directly ask open ended questions about how to solve a simple problem or any doubt they might have.

Conclusion

Maintaining an open source project could be hard, but if you make your project a nice and welcoming space for other people to contribute it could make easier to maintain in the long run.