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Contributing to Open Source Best Practices from the Major League Hacking Fellows

Recently, we asked some of the Major League Hacking (MLH) Fellows what tools and practical applications they found to be useful for getting started contributing to open source. Check out what they have to say about getting started in open source, the MLH Fellowship program, and the Facebook Open Source ecosystem.

On Open Source Contributions

“It's a bit tricky to get acquainted with open source projects at first, but follow the updated docs to get set up. Don't be afraid to make pull requests related to small things like correcting documentation or finding a fix for a bug. The maintainers are very encouraging and helpful. Opening issues and/or directly keeping in touch will help you get around any roadblocks you may face.”

- Sarthak Khattar, Pysa contributor

“I would say you should debug and trace the repo right from the beginning. It would help you ramp up faster on the codebase. Also remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help!”

- Samuel Adjei, Docusaurus contributor

“No solution is considered ‘bad’! If your contribution solves the problem well, it will always be welcome as a solution to employ.”

- Zhixiang Teoh, WebXR contributor

“The best advice I can give future contributors is to READ. That was probably the most effective way that I had of familiarizing myself with how various tools, or even how VISSL itself worked. Read code, read articles, listen to mentors.”

- Aanand Kainth, VISSL contributor

“I’d say that you should feel free to create issues and add suggestions wherever you feel is right. Although it may not be exactly the issue you’re working on, you might catch a bug or notice a mistake in the docs that could save a lot of trouble for someone else. The Pysa community is very friendly and I’m sure that they would appreciate your ideas, even if your PR is not perfect and you’re unsure about the problem.“

- Grace Gao, Pysa contributor

On Mentorship

“First, try to find a mentor who is an active maintainer or an avid contributor to open source in general!”

- Scott Moses Sunarto, CrypTen contributor

“It’s important to not get intimidated by the experiences others have had and the amount of code that is in the project when you first try to contribute. All you need to remember is that it’s a community where everyone wants to learn and grow together to build something that would help a lot of people. As soon as you take that first step, most of your inhibitions will go away as you realize how readily everyone is available to help and welcome you to the community.”

- Lisa Chandra, Docusaurus contributor

“Ask for help when you need it! Stack Overflow can only get you so far, and you don’t get to learn as much by copy-pasting quick fixes that you don’t understand. What makes open source different from self-learning is the network of support you have from the maintainer and community, so don’t forget to take advantage of this!”

- Grace Gao, Pysa contributor

“Have fun in open source. Participate in community events like hackathons and CTFs. Make a lot of new friends and connections. Reach out to project maintainers and get acquainted with community members within that domain.”

- Samuel Adjei, Docusaurus contributor

On the MLH Fellowship

“Be active, book pair programming sessions at Raise.dev, develop a working relationship with the maintainers, reach out to your technical mentors about the current issue that you're having, and give your best when tackling the issues that are given to you. Above all, manage your time wisely.”

- Steven Hansel, Docusaurus contributor

“Facebook and MLH provide all the necessary resources needed to succeed in the Fellowship program. Utilize and leverage your pod leader, Raise.dev, the career advice sessions and pair programming sessions, and workshops.”

- Grace Omotoso, VISSL contributor

“MLH Fellowship is much more than just code, it is about having fun. It provides an amazing opportunity to get to know the maintainers behind a project, and ideologies behind the open source project. It gives you a glimpse at best practices when it comes to software engineering and the key pillars that make projects successful.”

- Soham Parekh, WebXR contributor

“Have fun, engage in activities as much as possible, talk to the maintainers and other software professionals and ask them all career/ technical doubts you have. The more active you'll be, the more you'll get out of the entire fellowship experience.”

- Sarthak Khattar, Pysa contributor

“Actively communicate with your maintainers, mentors, and project teammate(s)! It is always important that everyone is on the same page and that expectations and goals are clearly defined.”

- Zhixiang Teoh, WebXR contributor

Tips for Getting Started

“Check out open source blogs and forums for guides to get started. As for working on Docusaurus goes, as always, the most helpful resources are the maintainers and technical mentors!”

- Lisa Chandra, Docusaurus contributor

“I want future contributors to know that no two projects will be the same. When assigned to a new project, things may look very daunting but utilize the community to ask questions and things will start to make sense to you.”

- Grace Omotoso, VISSL contributor

"Raise.dev mentors (both the career advice and pair programming is super helpful!) along with the weekly maintainer sync - extremely knowledge filled calls!"

- Scott Moses Sunarto, CrypTen contributor

“Try out pair programming sessions with teammates or other community members, dive into previous code reviews and ask for live debugging with experienced mentors.”

- Steven Hansel, Docusaurus contributor

“Check out open source resources like the MDN Web Docs and the Immersive Web documentation, or other resources that provide specifications to how your project is built and what it uses.”

- Soham Parekh, WebXR contributor

“Our technical mentors have been an insanely useful learning resource. It has been incredible witnessing how much knowledge they have, and I am so glad that I was able to get connected with them right from the beginning of the Fellowship.”

- Aanand Kainth, VISSL contributor

We’d like to thank all of our Spring 2021 MLH Fellows for their continued contributions to the Facebook Open Source ecosystem.

If you’d like to learn more about Facebook Open Source, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for relevant updates. Check out our “Contributor’s Story” series for more insight to our MLH Fellow’s work, and visit the projects these Fellows have worked on here: