3 ways to contribute to open source (that don’t involve coding)

There are many ways to contribute to ASF projects—and not all of them involve coding!

Many people incorrectly assume that everyone in the OSS community is a software developer, but that’s not true. Open source requires more than source code to be successful. As the old saying goes, “It takes a village,” and in the OSS space, our “village” includes a wide variety of contributors, like marketers, event planners, technical writers, community managers, mentors, and advocates. 

In this blog, we’ll highlight three important non-code contributions and introduce members of the ASF who used their skills in these areas to make their #firstASFcontribution. 

1) Technical Documentation

First, meet developer advocate and project maintainer Navendu Pottekkat, who first got involved with the ASF because the Foundation’s philosophy (The Apache Way) aligned with his values.

“When your values align, you make the best contributions,” he said.

It was ASF Member and APISIX PMC Zhiyuan Ju who first introduced Navendu to Apache APISIX, an open-source data store designed for sub-second queries on real-time and historical data. Navendu was drawn to APISIX because it enables faster time to insight and action for massive amounts of event-driven data. 

His #firstASFcontribution was revamping the APISIX project’s documentation. Since then, he’s given APISIX talks at ApacheCon Asia, Open Source Summit Europe, and Open Source India. 

Navendu is now a maintainer of Apache APISIX. He enjoys helping newcomers contribute to open source through programs like Google Summer of Code and the Linux Foundation Mentorship Program.

2) Web Design

Next, meet the Founder and CEO of Constantia, Melissa Logan. She’s worked in open-source marketing and communications for over a decade, but her #firstASFcontribution was in 2020 when she got involved with Apache Cassandra, an open-source NoSQL distributed database.

After exploring the Cassandra website, she realized that while the community was buzzing with activity on the mailing lists and Slack, the website didn’t accurately reflect this level of participation and energy. Furthermore, some of the community buzz included complaints about the outdated Cassandra website. “I connected with other community members to discuss how we could update the Cassandra website and highlight the great work happening within the Cassandra community,” she said.

She and her team revamped the content and design to work with the community’s chosen back-end, as well as created a new blog series – the Cassandra Changelog – to showcase project activity and updates. 

With the help of key community members and her Constantia teammates, Melissa began the redesign, created an information architecture, and started a content refresh in August 2020. The new site went live in April 2021. 

“My team and I love the open-source development and community model because it enables greater co-creation and collaboration than ever before,” said Melissa. “It’s a privilege to do this work as our day jobs.”

3) Social Media

Finally, meet developer advocate Dipankar Mazumdar. As part of his role at Dremio, he advocates for open-source ASF projects such as Apache Iceberg and Apache Arrow, helping increase project visibility among the data engineering and data science community.

Some of Dipankar’s most notable contributions can be seen across social media, where he posts content that breaks down highly technical concepts. He educates and engages developers across a variety of social networks, including Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Slack (arguably a social network in disguise).

As the creator of the Iceberg community Twitter page, he established a place where more than 400 practitioners can gather to share their resources, knowledge, and best practices on the Iceberg open-source high-performance format. 

One of the things he likes best about working with ASF is the variety of projects that fall under the foundation’s purview.

“The diversity of ASF’s projects really motivated me to get involved and inspired me to continue working in open source,” said Dipankar.

If I’m not a developer, why should I contribute?

The reasons non-coders contribute to open-source projects are the same reasons that coders contribute. Not only do you get the unique opportunity to work alongside peers from other organizations, but working on OSS projects allows you to expand your knowledge, skills, network, and portfolio.

We highlighted three non-code contributions—documentation, web design, and social media engagement—but these are just a few examples of the many diverse contributions that help us sustain the ASF’s 320+ active open-source projects. 

For those of you who are already involved in the ASF, please consider sharing your stories with us for a chance to be featured in upcoming posts. You can

Stay tuned for more stories as we continue our #firstASFContributions campaign!