Every piece of software relies on a number of open-source projects. We all depend on open source one way or the other (check this dependency analyzer if you don’t believe me). We should make sure we take the time to thank all the contributors behind the open-source projects we use.
Some times I hear people (outside the OSS community) saying that they don’t know how to give back to those projects. Here you have a list of 5 (+1) ways to thank the projects you love and use, no matter your technical level or funding availability:
- Contribute to the project. It doesn’t matter if you contribute code or docs or help with the design. Any help is appreciated. If you want to contribute code and you’re new to the project look for issues/bugs labeled with first-time, good-first-bugs or similar tags
- Sponsor the project. If you can’t give a hand yourself, money is always welcome. This money will allow the contributors to devote more time to the project or enable them to hire more people/services to maintain the project and ensure its future sustainability. There are many options to make sure your money goes to the right place. Just to mention a few (each of them with a slightly different focus): Open Collective, Tidelift, Github Sponsors or CodeFund. There are even very cool projects to help open source projects decide how they should distribute these funds, e.g SourceCred and the Octobox philosophy.
- Promote the project. Talk about the project on social media. Mention the contributors. Recommend the project. Help them get more attention and visibility. Even if you couldn’t contribute or fund, some of the people you’ll reach out will do.
- Star and watch the project. Most projects are on GitHub. And people tend to correlate the number of stars and watches with project popularity and impact. I don’t really think it’s true. To begin with, “popularity” is a very ambiguous concept. But regardless of my opinion, projects need to brag about their massive following to attract more people/money. So help them. Despite their flaws (we know GH stars won’t pay your rent!), these two are one of the easiest metrics they can use.
- Just say hello and thanks. A simple message or note thanking the contributors means a lot. Nothing easiest to do but, unfortunately, so rarely happening. Even better if you explain where and how you’re using the project. Again, open source maintainers have very little visibility on how their project is used so any little insight will help and motivate.
(+1) And if you’re a researcher, cite the paper behind the tool. Current academic evaluation systems still favor much more paper citations than any kind of tool-related metric. So use our projects but cite our papers!
Would you suggest others? Which one do you prefer?