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Be More than a Consumer: Getting Involved in Open Source Software

You love the free open-source community, but have you ever delved deeper into it than just the consumer level? There’s lots to love about the community, and it needs your help. Games. Office programs. Web browsers. There’s almost no shortage of need. Here’s how to get involved.


Open Source Software



Mozilla is one of the coolest browsers out there. It’s well-known that this is made for developers. It’s long feature-set makes it ideal for anyone looking to build and test web pages, debug code, and help play test new ideas.


But, you can also get involved in the development of the program. Thunderbird (Mozilla’s email client), and Firefox’s nightly builds are pretty exciting. About:mozilla is the weekly round-up of news and contribution opportunities available. Check it out.




Maybe Mozilla isn’t your thing. That’s OK. You can always go to work helping Google improve its browser, Chrome. The Chromium browser and Chromium OS are both open-source projects that welcome your contributions.


You can submit patches, or even just join a discussion group to make suggestions for improvement. A lot of developers will use a bittorrent client to distribute ideas for improvements – especially conceptual mock ups that involve large image files that cannot easily be sent via email.




The Apache web server project is huge, but it isn’t the only project for this community. There’s a long catalog of projects for you to choose from, download and try out, and contribute to. Join a mailing list and download the latest releases to try them out, and report bugs and errors to the community so that they can be fixed. The one thing with this community is that it’s close-knit. Membership is only granted to volunteers who have actively contributed to Apache projects over time.



Most people use WordPress these days, but Drupal is a huge content management system (CMS) that’s used by the bigger bloggers and corporations out there. It’s free and open source, but that didn’t stop NASA, The White House, Zynga, and Ubuntu from adopting it as their platform.

Help contribute to the community’s 16,000 themes and 1300 modules. Work on translations and documentation, report bugs, and play-test new builds.


GNOME is always looking for writers to develop user guides and other content. If you’re a coder, go to the GnomeLove to help with current projects.


Ubuntu is a Linux distribution. They need your help too. Because Ubuntu usually has a 6-month development cycle, there’s always lots of work available. Test the latest builds, report bugs, and join the community. One of the more unique things about the community is that it has a Ubuntu Women section, which encourages women to get involved with the development process.


It’s not a snake. It’s an open-source programming language that runs on Windows, Linux/Unix, Max OS X, and can even be ported to the Java and .NET virtual machine environment too. It’s reported that large companies, like YouTube, Yahoo!, CERN, and NASA use this scripting language. Check out the developers guide and get active.

Audrey Brown is a computer programmer with a joy in collaboration. Whether she’s teaming up with emerging minds or refining old codes for new uses, she enjoys blogging about her insights into software and computing in the digital age.

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