Picking the Right Repo(s)

Once you’ve signed up to CodeTriage, the next step is that you find repos to help out.

Many people come thinking that this service sends them a random issue from ANY open source project, but that’s not what we do. Why?

Helping an Open Source project is an investment. It takes consistent effort over a period to make an impact. Rather than sending you a random issue from a random repo, we want you to look at the same repos, and we want you to have a stake in the repos you’re helping.

The best way to stay motivated about contributing is if that repo is impactful to your life. The best tip to picking a repo to subscribe to on CodeTriage is find repos that you use in your daily life.

The TLDR; of this guide is:

  • Choose repositories you’re already using.
  • Pick more than one. Two to three is an excellent place to start.
  • Choose at least one “large” repo with lots of activity.
  • Select at least one “small” repo where you can make a significant impact.
  • Use your project’s “lockfile” to identify smaller projects you use.
  • Add a project to CodeTriage if you don’t see it listed yet.

Giving Forward

While most people view Open Source contribution as “giving back” to the community, it’s also giving “forward” to you and your career. Pick a library you’re also using. Then you can solve your problems, document your edge cases, and maybe even ship features that can be used in your code and all around the world. How cool would that be!?

While contributing to a library that you use is a worthy goal, there is another benefit to picking repo that you’re invested in - context.

You’ve got the Context

The best people to write features and documentation for a piece of software are the ones who are actively using it. Since you’re using the software, you already have a ton of context. You already understand your use case. Picking software you’re somewhat familiar with means you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

How many Repos should I subscribe to?

When you’re getting started contributing to open source, many developers have a goal. For example, they want a commit in a large library or framework. For instance, many Ruby developers want to contribute to rails/rails. If your open-source goal includes a specific repo, then definitely subscribe to that one right away.

In addition to a famous repository, we also suggest that you subscribe to a smaller repo. Why? One person can make a significant impact on a smaller project. Also, smaller projects are generally easier to fit into your brain. You’ll pick up different complementary skillsets when you work with projects of various sizes.

If you’re following our advice, you’re planning on subscribing to at least two repos. Is that a good number? You don’t want to overwhelm yourself too soon. If you want more options, then subscribe to another repo or two. However, remember that the more repos you’re subscribed to on CodeTriage, the more you’re diluting your attention. It’s better to be very involved and impactful with only a handful of repos now than to be lost and distracted with too many issues. Remember, you can always subscribe to more repos later.

Which Repos Exactly should I Pick? Use the Lockfile

Most languages these days have some kind of a lock file, for example, Gemfile.lock in Ruby or Yarn.lock in Node. These files not only list the dependencies of your application, they also list the dependencies of those dependencies.

Make a list of five dependencies that sound familiar and five that don’t seem familiar. For the five you’ve not heard of before, look them up. What do they do? Do they look interesting?

There’s a good chance that if you’ve not heard of it before, then not a lot of other people know about it either. Out of those five dependencies, pick one or two of the most interesting ones and subscribe.

Finding your Repos on CodeTriage

The format of CodeTriage follows GitHub. Copy the path of a GitHub URL and put “codetriage.com” in front of it, and that’s the page.

For example, if you wanted to subscribe to the https://github.com/schneems/derailed_benchmarks repo, you would go to https://www.codetriage.com/schneems/derailed_benchmarks.

What if the Project isn’t already on CodeTriage?

If the project you’re interested in is not on CodeTriage, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. Lots of Open Source projects have been very successful for many decades before CodeTriage existed. If your fave repo isn’t on here, then you can add it first and then subscribe to it.

Subscribe today!

Don’t wait for the “perfect” contribution opportunity. Don’t wait for the “perfect” time. Do it now. Subscribe to a few repos today! The sooner you get started, the sooner you can start making an impact.

You can find repos listed on the homepage.

For additional tips on finding contribution opportunities, check out the How to Open Source book.