Getting involved in Ubuntu by programming IS EASY!

It seems to be quite a common belief among potential Ubuntu contributors, that it is very difficult to contribute source code to Ubuntu. I have met with such opinion many times, in bug reports, comments at OMG!Ubuntu!, at AskUbuntu. There is quite a lot of people who might help and write some real code, but are not willing to do so, because they are overwhelmed by the size of the project.

It indeed may be sort of frightening for new developers to get started.  And it may seem even harder, if there is an established team working around the code one might contribute to. Is it so?

Some time ago I got involved in the Ubuntu Accomplishments System. Describing how I got here may be treated as encouraging material for those who might be helpful for Ubuntu Community, but for some reasons feel it’s out of their might.

It all began the day I accidentally found the wiki page concerning Accomplishments System. I decided to give it a go, and followed instructions on how to install it. Worked cool. But these days the project was still in it’s infancy. I have noticed a bug, very simple one – notifyOSB bubbles were displayed in a wrong order. I’ve dropped in to #ubuntu-accomplishments to consult whether it was indeed a bug and if I should file a report about it. Having reported it I thought:

“This must be a matter of reordering two lines of code. Why won’t I have a look and tell the developers where to look for bug’s cause?”

It did not took me much time to find that. That was indeed such a small problem. Encouraged by Jono, I committed this change to the branch, and sent a merge proposal. To my delight, it was accepted quickly after, and this way I made my first contribution to UAS!

Happy about my success, I decided to help with another bitesize bug. Again, being encouraged by UAS developers – particularly Jono Bacon, fixing this was a real pleasure. Again, my contribution was accepted.

At that part I was slightly familiar with the code. I began looking for greater bugs, and soon after my contributions to UAS became very significant, and now that 0.1 was released, I consider myself as one of the main developers.

It is also worth writing, that I have never before seen anything written in Python. I’ve learned it by reading UAS source, consulting documentation when needed. In short time I got heavily involved, starting from scratch – the only thing I had before was a great desire to contribute code to one of Ubuntu projects.

If anyone is ever (again) going to tell me that he will not get involved in Ubuntu, although he wants to, because it is difficult to start - I’ll be proud to encourage him by presenting my own example.

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4 Responses to “Getting involved in Ubuntu by programming IS EASY!”

  1. Ziv Leyes (@tuxsax) Says:

    I’m wanting to contribute since the first time I’ve heard about Ubuntu.
    What I find difficult is how can I contribute, as I don’t really have any programming nor developing knowledge.
    after a few years working with Linux I consider myself as a self taught “just fine” bash scripting writer, not more.
    I’ve been trying some online courses about programming, but I don’t think I’m gonna get so far this way…
    What would you recommend me to start with?
    You say you didn’t have python knowledge, but did you have some other programming language background knowledge?
    I could drop Jono a few lines too, perhaps he can help me guiding me to the right directions…
    I’ll appreciate any inputs you can enlighten me with
    Thanks!

    • Rafał Cieślak Says:

      First, be sure to decide whether programming is really what you want to do. Keep in mind that there is lots of things to do which do not require any development skills – you can help with writing documentation, contributing translations, working for your LoCo, publishing articles, helping with user support, and lots more – so it is not necessary to be a programmer.
      If you indeed want to develop real code, then whether basic skills will be enough depends on where would you like to contribute. Although I did not know Python, I am quite experienced with C/C++. Of course contributing to huge projects like Unity will be very hard, because it already has lots of code and a very complicated structure. So my suggestion is that you searched for a small project, and investigated – by asking other developers – if you would be helpful there. It maybe also a good idea to join a just-started project, or join a team that is about to start creating something – this way you will be sure you won’t get lost.
      If you are not familiar with which Ubuntu related projects are new and small (and thus easy to join), or if are you interested in looking for a team that searches for somebody like you – head to Ubuntu Forums, lots of projects are announced there! You can also find ideas by asking for suggestions on the IRC – try #ubuntu on irc.freenode.net, maybe you will find someone interested in providing you with mentoring? So do not worry about your little skills, I believe you can find a project where you will both learn a lot, and be useful.
      Good luck! I hope to see you soon programming for Ubuntu! :-)

  2. Links 11/5/2012: Quetzal Logo, Feodra 18 Named | Techrights Says:

    [...] Getting involved in Ubuntu by programming IS EASY! It seems to be quite a common belief among potential Ubuntu contributors, that it is very difficult to contribute source code to Ubuntu. I have met with such opinion many times, in bug reports, comments at OMG!Ubuntu!, at AskUbuntu. There is quite a lot of people who might help and write some real code, but are not willing to do so, because they are overwhelmed by the size of the project. [...]


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