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In the realm of technology, open-source software has emerged as a powerful force, driving innovation, collaboration, and accessibility. With its potential to empower developers, foster community, and solve real-world problems, open source is more than just a movement—it's a way of life for many in the tech world.
For us at CodeSandbox, we stand by it as a company but also as individuals. We released our browser editor, Sandpack, and parts of Nodebox as open source and we want to give back any time we can!
So, let’s look at the open source ecosystem, why it’s a big deal, and which tips CodeSandbox engineers have for everyone wanting to contribute.
The universe of open-source
Open source refers to software that is made available to the public with a license that grants anyone the right to view, use, modify, and distribute the code. This transparency fosters collaboration and innovation. Popular open-source projects like Linux, Apache, and Python have had a profound impact on the technology landscape, demonstrating that collective efforts can lead to world-changing results.
One of the most exciting celebrations of open source is Hacktoberfest, an annual event held throughout October that brings together developers from around the globe to contribute to open-source projects.
Like all things on this planet, it is not a perfect event. It has gone through its struggles and some negative reputation, but we want to emphasize the positive side of it. For us, the quality and the impact of the PRs are important. People learning to code, work in a team, contribute, and collaborate through open source are our drive. You can easily spot this as part of our values.
Hacktoberfest exemplifies the collaborative spirit of open source. The event encourages developers to engage with existing projects, identify issues, and contribute meaningful solutions. It's a fantastic opportunity for both beginners and experienced developers to learn and grow by working together on real-world code. It is a great way to expand your technical skill set. Go beyond writing feature code by fixing bugs, improving documentation, or enhancing user interfaces.
Tips on contributing
In the true spirit of open source, we asked our engineers to share some of their advice with our community. So let’s unroll them below!
Our first stop in the team is Danilo, Product Engineer and maintainer for Sandpack.
When contributing to an open-source project, remember to focus on one specific problem and aim to solve it effectively, keeping the project's purpose clear and avoiding unnecessary feature additions. But it’s also important to have fun: try our different approaches, introduce new (but stable) technologies, do different! Keep a welcoming, kind, and responsible environment in your interactions with the community, and consider that the project belongs to the community, not just to you.
Danilo shared a longer version on his blog.
Ioana, our Engineering Manager has more than 15 years spent in open source! Here is what she believes is the most important thing.
Always show up. Whatever you decide to contribute to, be it code or driving initiative, once you commit to something, show up regularly. Everyone has busy lives, and encounters different issues in their personal or work lives that might interfere with the free time that they want to dedicate. Everyone understands things can change. So if something happens, be there to let others know.
Jasper, our Staff Software Engineer and one of the main contributors to Sandpack and Nodebox puts the emphasis on value.
Do something you like or start off with simple things to add value, for example, if you use a project a lot it's very valuable to contribute to its documentation, or if you find a bug that seems easy to fix, try to dive in to fix it and don't be afraid to ask maintainers for help, they're usually pretty helpful if you show initiative to fix it yourself. Basically, start with something small and easy, some projects even have issues tagged "good first issue" for this case
Our Principal Software Engineer, Christian, encourages you to share more about your learnings with others. He also runs a live stream series that we call Engineer @ Work.
When developing and maintaining open source projects you very quickly become “out of touch” of what it is like to see the tool for the first time and try to use it for the first time. The absolutely best possible way to contribute to open source is by helping people understand and get going with the tool. This can be direct contributions to the existing documentation or your writing a blog post. With a blog post, you have more freedom and can do things like comparing different tools, explaining where the tool shines and where it does not shine, etc. Medium.com is a good way to get started writing blog posts.
Mihai, one of our Infrastructure Engineers, helps a non-profit run its infrastructure too.
When you want to start working on something, be sure to assign you to it and update it regularly. The maintainers need to know the status, if you encounter any problems or you need help. You might not be able to finish it or not have time for it, and that is no problem. But do update the status so people know what’s going on with that issue.
Alex, Product Engineer, conference and meetup organizer, shares the ultimate encouragement.
Don’t be afraid to get involved in communities and open source, because it can change your entire perspective on coding and building software!
Finally, here’s a tip from everyone on the CodeSandbox team: to focus on coding and contributing instead of spending a lot of time configuring and maintaining a dev environment, use our CDE! Import a repo to CodeSandbox and let our microVM infra spin up your projects in 1.5 seconds. Plus, don’t forget to use our contribution branches to speed up how you contribute to open source (here’s a tutorial).
It’s your time to shine
The impact of Hacktoberfest doesn't end when October concludes. The contributions made during the event continue to benefit users and the open-source community. The collaborations created during this month often extend beyond, as participants find themselves more involved in open-source projects year-round.
As we wrap up this series of tips and tricks, we invite you to be part of this global celebration of collaboration and innovation. If you've been inspired by the stories and technical examples shared in this blog, it's time to take action! Share your open-source journey, your experiences with Hacktoberfest, or any valuable advice you have for fellow developers. Your stories can inspire and guide others on their own open-source adventures.
The first step? Open your favorite open-source project in CodeSandbox. Everyone in a team can do it, no matter if they write code daily or ad-hoc—you can easily share your code for a review and collaborate in real time doing it! Literally, everything you need is at your fingertips.
Get involved. Together, we can shape the future of technology, one pull request at a time.