#1 Get others to help you in open source

#1 Get others to help you in open source

Open source is a new reality. It's been around for quite a while, but not quite so ubiquitous in the Microsoft space. The great thing about it is that you can just start using it. Pull down the software and assuming you're okay with the license you're good to go. But it's only a matter of time before you hit a block. Something's not clear in docs, something's not working as expected... so how do you get the maintainers to help you?

Here's what you need to know before you ask for help: maintainers are human and have full-time jobs which often aren't maintaining the thing you're using. Often they do it in their spare time. So first and foremost, you need to show gratitude. This is just basic etiquette.

Next, help them to help you. Be specific, tell what's wrong, show what you tried and where you're stuck. The key is minimal repo not your 2 million lines of code project. The simpler the repo and the clearer your question the bigger the odds you'll get an answer. Again, they do it in their spare time so be conscious of their time.

Last, leave the ego outside. Complaining is not constructive and doesn't lead anywhere. Yes, it sucks that you're stuck, the docs might've been better/clearer/whatever. You had a bad day. It's all fine. Write your question, let it sit for a minute or two, re-read, edit, submit. No emotion, just facts.

Be appreciative of people's time, their willingness to help and the fact they've spent their time to build the thing you use in the first place.

💡 Pro tip: if the issue is simple, offer help. We're in this together and there is nothing better than you helping others the same way they helped you. No change is too small, even if it's a comma that improves the readability of the docs. But discuss it first. No one likes surprises and it would be a waste of your time if your help was denied for some reason.

Photo by Alexei Scutari on Unsplash


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