How Contributing to Open Source Projects Can Teach You Life Skills

Austin Luong 17-07-2017

We’ve previously discussed the benefits of using open source software 5 Reasons Why Software Should Be Free and Open Source Free software doesn't just mean you get to use the app or game without paying. It's about longevity, privacy, ownership, and much more! Read More , but what about the other way around: contributing to them? There are many reasons Why Do People Contribute to Open Source Projects? Open source development is the future of software. It's great for users because open source software is usually available gratis and often safer to use. But what compels developers to contribute code for free? Read More why people might do so, from the ideology to more practical gains.


While these benefits may include earning money Understanding How Open Source Software Developers Make Money The truth is: many OSS developers and projects do generate revenue. Read More , there’s far more to it than that. You can learn many different life skills, important in today’s world, by assisting these projects. This isn’t restricted to coding either — even things like donations 8 Ways to Help Open-Source Projects If You're Not a Coder We’ve covered why it’s important to contribute to open-source projects, but what if you’re not a coder? You don't have to learn how to program to help your favorite open-source projects. Many non-programmers volunteer some... Read More can help you develop them.


The climate of the internet 6 Things The Internet Has Taught Me About Etiquette [Opinion] Over the years, I've learned that the Internet has its own sets of rules and etiquette much like any other culture. Granted, I have also learned something else about the Internet – it's very cynical... Read More is shaky at best. Many things usually not said face to face are quite common online. Tempers can easily flare up from a misspoken word, or social faux pas 5 Internet Commandments To Live By Or Incur The Wrath Of The Web (And A Note On Porn) The Internet is a somewhat lawless place. Sure, there are various legalities concerning the posting and viewing of certain content -- including pornography and copyrighted material -- but generally speaking the rules that govern the... Read More . It’s these sorts of personalities you might need to deal with while collaborating on an open source project (or any sort of online work for that matter).

Working together is not always easy, even when you have the same goal in mind. Each and every person is unique, with different experiences about what’s worked best for them in the past, along with their own agendas. It’s no wonder that in an environment where everyone can have a say, conflicts can bubble up.

open source diplomacy

The above snippet of text came from Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel How to Update Linux Kernel for Improved System Performance The Linux kernel is has regular releases, offering new features and improvements that you have to wait for in a new distribution release - unless you manually upgrade the Linux kernel. We show you how. Read More . Any proposed changes to it must go through Linus before being accepted, and sometimes, they don’t, or are even explosively rejected.


It takes a thick skin to accept these sorts of words, common to many online mediums. Especially when there’s no actual face attached to them. However, if you want to make progress 9 Windows and Console Games Now Available on Linux "The Year of the Linux Desktop" yet to arrive, but until it does, you can play these popular PC and console games natively on your Linux OS -- no emulation or virtualization required! Read More , there’s nothing to do except listen, and handle such conflicts calmly.

Similarly, you’ll find varieties of people in life, who you’ll get along with to varying degrees. With enough diplomacy though, it’s easy to avoid any social problems.

Goal Setting

Many projects tend to have multiple milestones to achieve, as a way of keeping development focused. Like in life, the more tangible, well defined targets are more ideal, since it gives a sense of direction to contributors.

This can be more clearly seen in large scale works, such as web browsers Are You Using the Best Web Browser for Linux in 2016? Using the "wrong" browser can lead to a lot of unnecessary headaches, wasted productivity, and even lost data. So which browser is the best for your Linux computer? Let's find out. Read More . While there will be a few broad goals — the things people ultimately want to achieve — they’ll need to be split up into sensible chunks. This prevents contributors from being overwhelmed by details and noise, and focus on what’s important.


For example, Mozilla Firefox 7 Reasons to Switch From Google Chrome to Mozilla Firefox Google Chrome is the most popular web browser, but is it right for you? Here's why you might prefer Mozilla Firefox. Read More uses an annual road-map as a way of publicly announcing where they will be going. It details potential major changes in the browser, along with the versions and time frame they expect them at. Something important for add-on developers to note is the phasing out of old extensions in favor of Web Extensions Running Chrome Extensions in Firefox: What You Need to Know Soon, you'll be able to run your favorite Chrome extensions in Firefox. This game-changing development is likely to bring about a new renaissance in Firefox users and revolutionize the way extensions are created. Read More .

firefox roadmap

With this general focus set, everything else tends to fall into place. Problems can now be solved by importance to one’s overarching goals Use Excel & Google Tasks to Create the Best Goals Management Tool Ever Lately, I've started to realize that I'm working very hard, but if someone asked me whether or not I feel that I'm working toward a larger purpose, I'd have to say that I really don't... Read More , with others at a lower priority. And sometimes that’s how life works. With multiple obligations swirling around, it can be very easy to lose track of what you’re doing in the first place. And that’s where goals come in.


Many open source projects attract people from around the world. As a result, opinions on how things should be can be wildly different, and even divisive Open Source Software and Forking: The Good, The Great and The Ugly Sometimes, the end-user benefits greatly from forks. Sometimes, the fork is done under a shroud of anger, hatred and animosity. Let's look at some examples. Read More . It can take hard work to put aside some of these disagreements, in exchange for the general well-being of a project.


For example, the community around Debian is built on top of a strong ethos of discussion alongside a strong group of administrators. People are encouraged to settle disputes constructively and without rancor. This helps keep an environment of cooperation with each other, and larger authorities focused.

If such problems can’t be solved personally, they are processed formally by Debian’s higher ups: the Technical Committee. Involved parties are meant to interact with each other here, now being properly mediated and judged.

debian technical committee

Along with this, there’s also the matter of language barriers. Popular works can easily become a global affair, meaning that there may be people of multilingual descent. While English is generally known by many, people’s fluency can vary wildly Perfect Your English Speaking Skills With These 5 Udemy Courses Learning English can be tricky. Grammar is one of the stumbling blocks. These five Udemy classes will help you speak and write English with better fluency. Read More .


shaky english

A certain level of courtesy should be expected between people in communication. Whether that stems from language difficulties or more lofty, opposing ideals, it’s important to work together, and cooperate. Life works better connected, after all.


Many open source projects What Is Open Source Software? [MakeUseOf Explains] "Open source" is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. You may know that certain things are open source, like Linux and Android, but do you know what it entails? What is open... Read More are driven by people with a desire they want fulfilled. There are many reasons someone would decide to start contributing. Anything from fixing a bug in their favorite program, or adding in a new feature might be the trigger.

For example, as a response to the bad support of Android file transfers on Linux, a single person developed an easy, graphical solution, similar to the Android File Transfer app on macOS How to Transfer Files Between Android and Mac: 7 Easy Methods Need to transfer files between your Android phone and Mac computer? Here are simple ways to move data between those platforms. Read More . Solved problems include things such as properly recognized album art, along with random crashes. As such, the program was made to work simply, without any hassles.

android file transfer

While not everyone has the ability to write programs themselves, it’s fairly easy to bring attention to bugs and suchlike 6 Reasons Your Favorite Linux OS Is Plagued by Bugs You found a new Linux operating system to try, and you loved it. But then it went wrong. Sometimes Linux gets buggy after a month or two. The question is, why? Read More . It can be difficult for developers to keep track of problems, especially if they’re hard to find. Taking the first step of pointing them out may not be very technical, but it’s extremely important to do.

Likewise, life is much better off when you decide to take matters into your own hands. Actively seeking out and asking for things can do a lot to improve yourself Where Do You Start with Self-Improvement? If you know that you want to engage in a self-improving lifestyle, but don't know where to start, these simple, time-proven strategies can help you get your footing. Read More . After all, nothing really changes if you don’t try to do so.

A Lesson Learned

Contributing to software Open Source vs. Free Software: What's the Difference and Why Does It Matter? Many assume "open source" and "free software" mean the same thing but that's not true. It's in your best interest to know what the differences are. Read More isn’t just great for the community, but for yourself as well. There are a number of important skills you can pick up which can be carried over to the rest of your life:

  • Diplomacy
  • Meeting goals
  • Cooperation
  • Working proactively

These are all qualities that can help in your personal life, and professionally.

What has open source software taught you? Did you develop any new qualities? Tell us how your open source contribution helped you grow.

Image Credit: ra2studio via

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *