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Newcomers to open source often want to dive in and help as soon as they figure out just how cool open source really is. Unfortunately, one of the main barriers to entry is the projects themselves – not only are there thousands to sift through, it is a very large task just to find one that welcomes contributions from newcomers. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there were an automated way to find bite-sized bugs to work on in welcoming communities for grateful open source projects?

Well, now there is.

My friend Asheesh, who gave a great talk at the Teaching Open Source Education mini-summit at LinuxCon last month, has invented something seriously cool called OpenHatch. I have been meaning to write about it, and since he has a student hack-a-thon and introduction to OpenHatch planned for the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia this weekend, this is a great opportunity to share some thoughts about OpenHatch.

OpenHatch.org provides an automated way for connecting interested developers with projects. Moreover, it matches up the project’s needs with the developer’s skills, and it doesn’t stop with just developers. Documentation, marketing, and other non-coding skills are just as vital to the success of open-source projects as software coding, and there are categories for these. One of the best features of the site is the integration with Google maps, so if a new developer wants to find a local project where they can meet someone face to face, they can do so.

Asheesh has created an unprecedented win-win-win situation with OpenHatch:

  • Newcomers win because the barrier to entry into the open-source community is lowered considerably – and this applies to documentation writers, marketers, and other less-technical or non-technical contributors as well as software developers.
  • Open-source projects win big because they can finally source the help they need for small bugs, especially for well-established projects in which the regulars are usually out solving big problems.
  • The open-source movement in general wins big, as OpenHatch not only makes it possible to easily find bite-sized bugs, it legitimizes the whole process and makes it friendly rather than daunting.

The full schedule for the Philly event shows that it is a 2-day exploration of open source for 20 lucky students, who must register by email. In addition to a free lunch on both Saturday and Sunday, September 25-26, participants will receive hands-on learning sessions with OpenHatch, a guided presentation of open-source concepts and precepts, demonstrations, and a guide to participating in the open-source landscape. Sunday is a full-scale hack-a-thon, with representatives from several projects on hand to help.

This no-cost event is a fantastic opportunity for Philadelphia-area students to get their feet wet with open source, with a real education in community development.

In my opinion, it is not possible to find a better way to dive into open source. Go to this event if you can.


I’m off to New York City this week to attend the first Open Hardware Summit, where we will discuss all there is to discuss about using open-source concepts to license, develop, and distribute hardware. I feel like I’m at the start of something big, possibly even bigger than the SETIquest summit last month. Forward, open source people!

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