This note goes out to the maintainers and contributors of free and open source projects. (Cross-posted at asheesh.org.)
I recently had the chance to look at Mozilla Quality Assurance’s research into the people who help out with testing versions of Firefox. I saw numbers that really spoke to my experience as a volunteer.
On one hand, the vast majority of people put in three or fewer hours a week, most of whom put in one hour or fewer (such as zero).
On the other hand, a huge number wish they could put in a lot more:
Now imagine you’re that one-hour-a-week contributor. You have all these other bits of your life tugging at your time. You want to make sure that when you sit down to work on free software, you’re doing something that really helps out. Otherwise, not only will you feel bad that you aren’t giving free software as much time as you wish, you’ll feel bad that you’re not even making a difference.
In my experience, even reading the project mailing list counts toward that time you’re putting into the project. But that doesn’t feel productive.
So fellow contributors, I have a request for you: Would you be willing to make it super easy for someone to stand waiting, on guard, for instructions from you? Imagine if all they had to do is click a button on your website, write a little bit of info about what they could do, and you would suggest something for them to work on. Maybe you can offer them a bitesize bug to fix, or maybe you need someone to download and test the latest version before you release it. If you’re handing out assignments, then part-time contributors don’t have to spend their time figuring out what they should do.
I want to tell you that I can give you such a button. It would look like this:
To get it, you just have to add a little snippet of HTML to your project website.
Just go to the OpenHatch project list and find your project. If it’s not there yet, search for it, and click the link to create it. Then find the box labeled “Have your own website?” and click.
Ta-da! HTML source code you can copy-paste. Since OpenHatch itself is an open source project, we added the button to our own “source code, etc.” page.
When people click it, they appear in a list of “People willing to help” on your project’s OpenHatch page. Like all the friendly faces on the Gwibber page.
Would you try it, too?