How to Get Involved with Open Source

Free UK Genealogy software is Open Source.  If you want to participate in a Summer of Code programme, add some volunteering to your CV, pick up as a volunteer the bits of work you enjoyed before you retired, or just wonder if Open Source is for you ... there are loads of opportunities (and not just with us!).

Don't stop reading if you can't code in the languages we use ... or any language ... you still have skills we need!

To find a good opportunity for you, you may find it helpful to ask yourself some questions:

  • are you looking to use existing skills / develop them, or are you looking to start with a new language or a different part of the many processes which lie between 'wouldn't it be great if ...' and 'the end'.
  • what is out there that you enjoy using?  We hope you answer includes our projects, but we expect you will have several favourites.
  • how much time can you commit?  An hour a week for the next 10 years?  The next 10 weeks, 35 hours a week?  
  • what are you passionate about?  wildlife? F1? music? knitting? robotics? family history? There are open source projects where you can combine work on software that supports your interests.

With some self-understanding of what you might want to get out of volunteering on an Open Source project, you will be in a good place to find the right project for you. The Open Source how-to-contribute guide is an excellent place to get started. It will help you to understand the jargon, and to identify a number of projects that could fit your needs. 

We have several projects on github, managed via waffleboard (a kanban-style interface - think of them as digital walls with a lot of sticky notes on them, each note being a single task or issue).  Currently the most active (and where you will find 'Good First Issue' tasks to get you into the swing of things) are: 

https://waffle.io/freeukgen/myopicvicar - where we manage the development of www.freereg.org.uk including the transcription and quality control tools, database and search technology (our languages are csv, mongodb, ruby on rails and refinery) and

https://waffle.io/freeukgen/freecenmigration - where we manage the development of freecen2.freecen.org.uk, the replacement for www.freecen.org.uk and the underlying transcription and quality control tools and database and search technology (our languages are csv, mongodb, ruby on rails and refinery).  

We've brought together some of the developments that we think might particularly interest you and put theideas here.

You might also like to look at https://waffle.io/FreeUKGen/New-Projects which is where we work on future projects.  This includes discussion of what a project might achieve, the technological approach(es) we we could take, the resources needed to undertake the project, and applying for funding (if that's needed).  

We are currently writing the Project Initiation Document for the new interface for www.freebmd.org.uk - we will be using https://waffle.io/FreeUKGen/FreeBMD2 to manage the project, but there isn't much there yet. The database will continue to be PHP, but we are discussing the CMS to use with the new interface over on freeukgenealogy.slack.com right now.

Next steps 

Plunge right in and help with a 'Good First Issue' - often this means seeing if you can replicate a problem that one of our users has experienced.  Or checking that something is working properly now we've put a fix or new feature in place. Or contact us - ask if there is anything you could help with, a particular skill you'ld like to build, or if a particular new project on the New Projects catches your eye. If you are intersted in participating in a particular Summer of Code, please let us know, and we'll see what we can do.