My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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... and two things you can do to remove them

The way I see it, there are three hurdles for programmers to cross to get involved in an open source project:
  1. Motivation to help out in the first place
  2. Fear of rejection in asking to be involved
  3. Lack of knowledge about the project
There's nothing you can do about motivation - if a programmer doesn't want to contribute, he simply won't. But the other two roadblocks are something the project can remove from the programmer's path to contribution. Charles Nutter with JRuby recently demonstrated what I consider to be an excellent way of getting motivated programmers to contribute to a project by removing those other two impedences:
  1. Remove the fear of rejection by asking people to get involved
  2. Improve the knowledge and lower the barrier of entry by posting a list of easy to fix items
In particular, by posting the list of easy items you offer a great place to start where the newbie on the project will feel comfortable getting his feet wet, while at the same time learning the conventions and design of the code base.

Finally, once someone shows interest, don't forget to be helpful and follow-up on answering their questions. It will go a long way to show them that you value their help.

Thoughts?

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