How Can I Contribute To Open-Source?

A high level guide on how to get started

Nate Geslin
4 min readJan 12, 2022


Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

In my very first software engineering interview I remember a question that was asked. “What is one thing you’d like to accomplish in the next 5 years?”

My answer was “Contribute to open source”. At the time, I had no idea what that even meant.

I hear about it all the time. Hell, half the internet (or more) is built on top of open source software. Surely there are projects that need help. I could help, right?

What Is Open-Source

Wikipedia defines open-source as:

Computer software that is released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software and its source code to anyone and for any purpose — Wikipedia

Find A Project

There are many different kinds of open-source projects, in all kinds of different languages. The first step to contributing to open-source is finding a project that needs help.

GitHub suggests adding a dedicated file to a repository that documents the contributing process. If a repo has this file, it’s likely there will accept contributors. Open-source projects can be found in places other than GiHub, too.

A Tale Of Two Projects

Open-source is a very broad definition for a wide array of unique projects. For the purpose of this article, and more specific explanation, I’m going to focus on two specific projects. One is a small JavaScript project and the other is an enterprise application using Ruby on Rails and Go.

openScope Air Traffic Control Simulator


OpenScope is the first open-source project I contributed to. This type of project is a great first project. It’s small, it needs help, and the community is active.

Contributing to this project starts with reading the Contributors Guide. In that document, we call out all the steps you need to follow to get up and running. Who you should talk to, where to…



Nate Geslin

Software Engineer, Tinkerer