4 Tips to Transition from Contributorhood to Maintainership

4 Tips to Transition from Contributorhood to Maintainership

I Have a Question for You

You know the saying “There’s nowhere to go but up ”? I have been watching you grow during your contributor stage, and I can honestly say...you're ready to become a maintainer!!!!

Diverse group of people cheering

Now before we pop the sparkling juice, I want to let you know that transitioning from open source contributor to maintainer is no easy feat. It requires much more discipline and focus than you might think. But don't fret, I'm here to help with four tips on how to make the transition a smooth one.

Mini Doctor Strange says let's go!

Tip 1: Network with community members

As cliche as this sounds, building positive rapport with other community members is important to becoming a maintainer on a project. Consider doing things like reviewing other people’s pull requests, sharing your perspective on an issue that someone has raised on GitHub, connecting with other community members via social media, and talking about your interests, goals, hobbies, etc. For example, my colleague, Rupali Haldiya has asked me to be a maintainer on her project LinksHub after noticing my contributions to EddieHub’s Linkfree project, seeing my blogs, and enjoying the perspectives I bring to the community whenever she facilitates discussions about open source on Twitter Spaces. Overall, don’t underestimate the power of conversing with others. Now networking is only one aspect of transitioning to maintainerhood. Let’s look at another way to transition to this point in your open source journey!

Penguin saying "Next!"

Tip 2: Use your current skills

Remember when I said “You don’t have to be a coding genius to contribute ” in my post, Beyond Code: Creative Contributions to Open Source? Well, this skill applies to becoming a maintainer. While having coding knowledge is helpful, there are other skills that you can use to effectively maintain an open source project. If you’re strong in UX/UI design, consider improving the design of the open source project’s website. Love teaching? Consider a guide to help contributors make the first contribution to the project. In my case, I love writing so I mainly focus on maintaining LinksHub’s documentation. Since the project is a website where people in the tech community share and describe resources that can aid others in their tech journey, I also do pull request reviews that focus on checking their descriptions of the sources for grammar and punctuation, and clarity. All in all, use whatever skill you have to maintain an open source project. Now hold on before I send you off into the interwebs, there is another tip to consider when becoming an open source maintainer.

Next with moving red areas moving to the other side

Tip 3: Be proactive

Remember when your parents would scold you for not washing the dishes(or something similar) as a kid and tell you that you need to take more initiative? As annoying as that phrase must have been, being a leader is an important skill when maintaining another person’s open source project. Creating an open source project is not easy and it takes more than one person to keep it alive. For example, Rupali has expressed concern about not being able to distinguish GirlScript Summer of Code participants from regular participants, so we created a checkbox on an issue template to solve this problem. Even though this helped with deciphering these two categories of contributors, I took things further by asking people who checked the GSSoC checkmark to confirm their participation and placing this protocol in the project’s README file. From there, it was even easier to differentiate and issue and pull requests. Overall, don’t just sit and wait to maintain. Be like Nike and “Just Do it!”. Now before you go, there’s just one more tip that I have to transition from a contributor to an open source maintainer.

"Almost Done" is being typed out in pink letters

Tip 4: Seek Feedback and Continue Learning

I always say “It takes a village to raise a coder”, but this is definitely applicable to being a maintainer too. Contributors are key to the success of an open source project so it’s best to be willing to receive and implement your contributor’s feedback. In my experience, reading the suggestions contributors put in their issue requests to very helpful in gaining and implementing feedback. For example, a contributor pointed out how the contributing guidelines did not mention the database folder as the designated location to add links to resources. So, we both added this information to Contributing file. Since then, more pull requests had been sent to their proper categories. In general, being an open source maintainer is not only about guiding contributors but being guided by others and growing.

"It Takes A Village" is blinking in neon lights


There is it folks! 😊 Four tips on how to grow from a contributor to a maintainer! 😊 I know embarking on this part of your open source journey is scary, but I promise you, becoming a maintainer is a very rewarding experience. If you need support or more tips, click on the follow button on top and connect with me via my socials on Linkfree. Now go forth and maintain! 😊

Doctor Who is saying "You can do it!"


Arrow GIF by STEYR-Traktoren

Doctor Who Encouragement GIF by Giphy

Happy Ian Hecox GIF by SMOSH

It Takes A Village Fostercare GIF by Foster Village

In Progress Logo GIF by WIESEMANN 1893

Lets Go GIF by Marvel Studios

Open Source Pyramid Image from The Open Source Contributor Funnel (or: Why People Don’t Contribute To Your Open Source Project by Mike Quaid

Penguin GIF by Eugene Kong

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