Skill #14: Contributing to Open Source Projects

An open source project is a software program that’s open for anyone to use or modify as they see it. For example, a developer—anywhere in the world—could create an open source project that gives users real-time updates on the location of, let’s say, city buses.

The developer had the idea, coded the software, then released a rough version to the world. It likely has bugs and missing features. But because it’s open source, anyone who’s interested in the project can use their expertise to make the project better—including technical writers.

As you’ll learn in this episode, documentation is essential to a successful open source project. However, for developers actually coding the software, documentation is an afterthought. The result: possible users don’t know what the software does—and even if they do—they struggle to figure out how to use it.

This is where technical writers—both new and seasoned—can use their skills not only to contribute to the beauty that is open source projects, but also challenge themselves to learn new types of documentation.

To help us unpack this skill, I’ve got Kyle Taylor, solutions architect at FFW and President of a Denton-based technology nonprofit TechMill, on the podcast to share with us how technical writers can contribute to open source projects, including:

  • how to choose the right project to contribute to

  • how to translate your contributions into your portfolio

  • how to create open source documentation that developers will love.