Community-driven development: Getting started in open source software

Alyssa Rock — Tech writer. OSS community manager. DocOps enthusiast.
May 23, 2023, updated May 23, 2024 5 min read

Get ready to dive into the world of open source software! In this talk that I gave for Frontend Queens earlier this month, you’ll learn more about open source software and how it powers most modern software solutions. Discover insider strategies to find the perfect project, make your first contribution, and leverage the open source community to build a strong network with other professionals working in software. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or a coding newbie, you’ll leave feeling inspired and empowered to kickstart your journey as an open source contributor.

This 45 minute presentation went very well and I recommend watching it if the topic is interesting to you. It was originally given on May 10, 2024.

Side note: I used ChatGPT to help write that presentation summary

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry about artificial intelligence, I have been trying to experiment more with using ChatGPT for every day writing tasks to assess its abilities. It helped me write that summary that I sent to the event organizers.

The initial prompt I gave GPT was:

You are an experienced event planner with an expertise in writing engaging copy that will appeal to women from a wide variety of backgrounds and geolocations who are aspiring to become developers. Help me write a 1-2 paragraph summary of a talk I am giving about the basics of contributing to an open source software project for the first time. Include bullet points if you think it will make the summary more readable. In the tone of the summary, make it professional but also slightly casual, fun, and engaging. The goal is to encourage people to attend the presentation because they can see how it will benefit them.

If you need more information about the presentation before you begin this task, you may ask me any follow up questions to give you the information you need to be successful.

The presentation will explain how open source software is different from commercial software and why businesses choose to sponsor open source projects or use open source software. It will also provide strategies for successfully contributing to an open source software project, such as how to find your first project and how to get started working on your first task. It will also help new contributors understand how they can engage with project maintainers to build social trust and ensure their contribution is well-received.

I put it into both GPT 3.5 and 4 to compare how different the quality between them is.

This was the final version that ChatGPT 3.5 created:

Ready to embark on a journey into the dynamic realm of open source software? Join us for an illuminating talk where we’ll demystify the world of open source and equip you with the tools to make your mark! Discover what sets open source apart from commercial software and why businesses are flocking to support these projects. Learn insider tips on finding your perfect project match and navigating your first contribution with confidence. Plus, uncover the secrets to building strong relationships with project maintainers, ensuring your efforts are met with open arms. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or a coding newbie, this presentation promises to empower and inspire you on your path to becoming a valued contributor in the open source community. See you there!

And this was the final version that Chat GPT 4 created:

Dive into the vibrant world of open source software with me! In this engaging talk, we’ll unravel the magic behind open source, exploring why businesses flock to support these projects. Discover insider strategies for diving into your first open source project, from selecting the perfect one to making your mark with your initial contribution. Plus, I’ll share tips on navigating the community landscape and building solid relationships with project maintainers. Join us for an empowering session packed with practical insights to kickstart your journey as an open source contributor!

Now if you compare that to my final version, you see that I made significant edits to both of these versions and synthesized them into one:

Get ready to dive into the world of open source software! In this talk, you’ll learn more about open source software and how it powers most modern software solutions. Discover insider strategies to find the perfect project, make your first contribution, and leverage the open source community to build a strong network with other professionals working in software. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or a coding newbie, you’ll leave feeling inspired and empowered to kickstart your journey as an open source contributor.

What I learned from this experiment:

  • For copywriting tasks, there weren’t large differences in quality from Chat GPT 3.5 to 4.
  • It was helpful for me overcoming the blank page problem. By giving me an initial draft, even though it wasn’t quite what I used in the end, it maybe cut down on 10-15 minutes of drafting an initial rough draft.
  • It also helped me in areas where my writing tends to be weaker: writing succinctly and in a way that is engaging or salesy. I tend to be academic (boring and thorough) in my initial drafts.
  • Don’t just accept the first result that it gives you. Consider prompting it and nudging it to improve on its first take.