Tag Archives: contributor

Peer Bonus Experiences: The many ways in which you can contribute to open source

Recently, I was awarded a Google Open Source Peer Bonus, which I’m grateful for, as it proved to me that one can contribute value to open source projects, and build a career in it, without extensive experience coding. So how can someone with limited coding skills like me contribute to open source in a meaningful way?

Documentation

Documentation is important across open source and especially helpful to those who are new to a project! Developers and maintainers of projects are often focused on fixing bugs and improving the software. Therefore, documentation is harder to prioritize, so contributions to documentation are highly appreciated. Being experienced with applications won’t always help you in writing the documentation, since familiarity can cause you to miss a step when creating the doc. This is why, as a beginner, you are in an excellent position to ensure that instructions and step-by-step guides are easy to follow, don’t skip vital steps, and don’t use off-putting language.

If you have the opportunity to get involved in programs like Season of Docs as a mentor or a participant, as I did in 2019, the experience is hugely rewarding!

Events and Conferences

If you can help with mailing lists or organizing events, you can get involved in the community! In 2006, I became involved with the nascent Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo), where I was persuaded to set up a local chapter in the United Kingdom (going strong 14 years later!). It was one of the best things I could’ve done. This year we hosted a global conference (FOSS4G) and several UK events, including an online-only event. We’ve also managed to financially support a number of open source projects by providing an annual sponsorship, or by contributing to the funding of a specific improvement. I’ve met so many great people through my involvement in OSGeo, some of which have become colleagues and good friends.
The group meeting at FOSS4G 2013 in NottinghamAdd caption

If you’re interested in writing case studies, you can always speak about your experiences at conferences. Evidence that particular packages can be used successfully in real-world situations are incredibly valuable, and can help others put together business cases for considering an open source solution.

Assisting others

Sometimes the problems you face with technology can be experienced by money, and by open-sourcing your solution you could be impacting a lot of people. When I first started using open source software, the packages I needed were often hard to install and configure on Windows, having to be started using the command prompt, which can be intimidating for beginners. To scratch a problem-solving itch, I packaged them up onto a USB stick, added some batch files to make them load properly from an external drive, added a little menu for starting them, and Portable GIS was born. After 12 years, a few iterations, a website and a GitLab repository, it has been downloaded thousands of times, and is used in situations such as disaster relief, where installing lots of software rapidly on often old PCs is not really an option.

Mentoring Others

Once you are proficient in something, use your knowledge to help others. Some existing platforms for software use and development (online repositories like GitHub or GitLab) are extremely intimidating to new users, and create barriers to participation. If you can help people get over the fear-inducing first pull request, you will empower them to keep on contributing. My first pull request was a contribution to the Vaguely Rude Place-names map back in 2013 and since then I’ve run few training events along a similar line at conferences.

Open source is now fundamental to my career—16 years after learning about it—and something I am truly passionate about. It has shaped my life in many ways. I hope that my experiences might help someone who isn’t versed in code to get involved, realizing that their contributions are equally as valuable as bug fixes and patches.

By Jo Cook, Astun Technology—Guest Author

Open source by the numbers at Google

At Google, open source is at the core of our infrastructure, processes, and culture. As such, participation in these communities is vital to our productivity. Within OSPO (Open Source Programs Office), our mission is to bring the value of open source to Google and the resources of Google to open source. To ensure our actions match our commitment, in this post we will explore a variety of metrics intended to increase context, transparency, and accountability across all of the communities we engage with.

Why we contribute: Open source has become a pervasive component in modern software development, and Google is no exception. We use thousands of open source projects across our internal infrastructure and products. As participants in the ecosystem, our intentions are twofold: give back to the communities we depend on as well as expand support for open source overall. We firmly believe in open source and its ability to bring together users, contributors, and companies alike to deliver better software.

The majority of Google’s open source work is done within one of two hosting platforms: GitHub and git-on-borg, Google’s production Git service which integrates with Gerrit for code review and access control. While we also allow individual usage of Bitbucket, GitLab, Launchpad, and other platforms, this analysis will focus on GitHub and git-on-borg. We will continue to explore how best to incorporate activity across additional channels.

A little context about the numbers you’ll read below:
  • Business and personal: While git-on-borg hosts both internal and external Google created repos, GitHub is a mixture of Google projects, experimental efforts and personal projects created by Googlers.
  • Driven by humans: We have created many automated bots and systems that can propose changes on both hosting platforms. We have intentionally filtered these data to ensure we are only showing human initiated activities.
  • GitHub data: We are using GH Archive as the primary source for GitHub data, which is currently available as a public dataset on BigQuery. Google activity within GitHub is identified by self registered accounts, which we anticipate under reports actual usage as employees acclimate to our policies.
  • Active counts: Where possible, we will show ‘active users’ and ‘active repositories’ defined by logged activity within each specified timeframe (for GH archive data, that’s any event type logged in the public GitHub event stream).
As numbers mean nothing without scale, let’s start by defining our applicable community: In 2019, more than 9% of Alphabet’s full time employees actively contributed to public repositories on git-on-borg and GitHub. While single digit, this percentage represents a portion of all full time Alphabet employees—from engineers to marketers to admins, across every business unit in Alphabet—and does not include those who contribute to open source projects outside of code. As our population has grown, so has our registered contributor base:
This chart shows the aggregate per year counts of Googlers active on public repositories hosted on GitHub and git-on-borg

What we create: As mentioned above, our contributing population works across a variety of Google, personal, and external repositories. Over the years, Google has released thousands of open source projects (many of which span multiple repositories) and ~2,600 are still active. Today, Google hosts over 8,000 public repositories on GitHub and more than 1,000 public repositories on git-on-borg. Over the last five years, we have doubled the number of public repos, growing our footprint by an average of 25% per year.

What we work on: In addition to our own repositories, we contribute to a wide pool of external projects. In 2019, Googlers were active in over 70,000 repositories on GitHub, pushing commits and/or opening pull requests on over 40,000 repositories. Note that more than 75% of the repos with Googler-opened pull requests were outside of Google-managed organizations (on GitHub).
This charts shows per year counts of activities initiated by Googlers on GitHub

What we contribute: For contribution volume on GitHub, we chose to focus on push events, opened, and merged pull requests instead of commits as this metric on its own is difficult to contextualize. Note that push events and pull requests typically include one or more commits per event. In 2019, Googlers created over 570,000 issues, opened over 150,000 pull requests, and created more than 36,000 push events on GitHub. Since 2015, we have doubled our annual counts of issues created and push events, and more than tripled the number of opened pull requests. Over the last five years, more than 80% of pull requests opened by Googlers have been closed and merged into active repositories.

How we spend our time: Combining these two classes of metrics—contributions and repos—provides context on how our contributors focus their time. On GitHub: in 2015, about 40% of our opened pull requests were concentrated in just 25 repositories. However, over the next four years, our activity became more distributed across a larger set of projects, with the top 25 repos claiming about 20% of opened pull requests in 2019. For us, this indicates a healthy expansion and diversification of interests, especially given that this activity represents both Google, as well as a community of contributors that happen to work at Google.
This chart splits the total per year counts of Googler created pull requests on GitHub by Top 25 repos vs the remainder ranked by number of opened pull requests per repo per year.

Open source contribution is about more than code

Every day, Google relies on the health and continuing availability of open source, and as such we actively invest in the security and sustainability of open source and its supply chain in three key areas:
  • Security: In addition to building security projects like OpenTitan and gVisor, Google’s OSS-Fuzz project aims to help other projects identify programming errors in software. As of the end of 2019, OSS-Fuzz had over 250 projects using the project, filed over 16,000 bugs, including 3,500 security vulnerabilities.
  • Community: Open source projects depend on communities of diverse individuals. We are committed to improving community sustainability and growth with programs like Google Summer of Code and Season of Docs. Over the last 15 years, about 15,000 students from over 105 countries have participated in Google Summer of Code, along with 25,000 mentors in more than 115 countries working on more than 680 open source projects.
  • Research: At the end of 2019, Google invested $1 million in open source research, partnering with researchers at UVM, with the goal to deepen understanding of how people, teams and organizations thrive in technology-rich settings, especially in open-source projects and communities.
Learn more about our open source initiatives at opensource.google.

By Sophia Vargas – Researcher, Google Open Source Programs Office

Paving the way for a more diverse open source landscape: The First OSS Contributor Summit in Mexico

“I was able to make my first contribution yesterday, and today it was merged. I'm so excited about my first steps in open source", a participant said about the First Summit for Open Source Contributors, which took place this September in Guadalajara, México.
How do you involve others in open source? How can we make this space more inclusive for groups with low representation in the field?

With these questions in mind and the call to contribute to software that is powering the world's favorite products, Google partnered with Software Guru magazine, Wizeline Academy, OSOM (a consortium started by Googler, Griselda Cuevas, to engage more Mexican developers in open source), IBM, Intel, Salesforce and Indeed to organize the First Summit for Open Source Contributors in Mexico. The Apache Software Foundation and the CNCF were some of the organizations that sponsored the conference. The event consisted of two days of training and presentations on a selection of open source projects, including Apache Beam, Gnome, Node JS, Istio, Kubernetes, Firefox, Drupal, and others. Through 19 workshops, participants were able to learn about the state of open source in Latin America, and also get dedicated coaching and hands-on practice to become active contributors in OSS. While unpaid, these collaborations represent the most popular way of learning to code and building a portfolio for young professionals, or people looking to do a career shift towards tech.


As reported by many advocacy groups in the past few years, diversity remains a big debt in the tech industry. Only an average of 8.4% of employees in ten of the leading tech companies are Latinx(1). The gap is even bigger in open source software, where only 2.6% of committers to Apache projects are Latinx(2). Diversity in tech is not just the right thing to do, it is also good business: bringing more diverse participation in software development will result in more inclusive and successful products, that serve a more comprehensive set of use cases and needs in any given population.


While representation numbers in the creation of software are still looking grim, the use of OSS is growing fast: It is estimated that Cloud and big-data OSS technologies will grow five times by 2025 in Latin America. The main barrier for contributing? Language. 

The First Summit for Open Source Contributors set out to close this fundamental gap between tech users and its makers. To tackle this problem, we created, in partnership with other companies, 135 hours of content in Spanish for 481 participants, which produced over 200 new contributors across 19 open source projects. When asked why contributions from the region are so low, 41% of participants said it was due to lack of awareness, and 34% said they thought their contributions were not valuable. After the event, 47% of participants reported that the workshops and presentations provided them with information or guidance on how to contribute to specific projects, and 39% said the event helped them to lose fear and contribute. Almost 100% of participants stated that they plan to continue contributing to Open Source in the near future… and if they do, they would raise representation of Latinx in Open Source to 10%.
Organizing Team
This event left us with a lot of hope for the future of diversity and inclusion in open source. Going forward, we hope to continue supporting this summit in Latin America, and look for ways of reproducing this model in other regions of the world, as well as designing proactive outreach campaigns in other formats.

View more pictures of the event here.
View some of the recorded presentations here.


By: María Cruz for Google Open Source

(1) Aggregate data from Tech Crunch: https://techcrunch.com/2019/06/17/the-future-of-diversity-and-inclusion-in-tech/
(2) Data from the last Apache Software Foundation Committer Survey, applied in 2016, 765 respondents (13% of committers)