My Path into Open Source

This is just a rant on how I got stuck on Open Source community and loving it.

6 month ago, at about October 2016, I just a normal college student who love programming. I like reading about new, hottest framework or library on hacker news, exploring on Github, or just read some random blog post and articles.

I feel kind of frustrated though. I do nothing productive or creating something useful. Real practical programming I do is only on college assignment or some side freelancing job. College assignment is grim. We work in group and then have a goal too grand. The result is failure and just some “at least we should bring something in class presentation tomorrow” job. It is not very inspiring. And.. I don’t know, it not felt right. Maybe I have some irritated mindset that I don’t like to do anything that ordered by teacher, I feel so lazy to do college assignment in general.

Freelancing job? Sound great on paper. I get to do something that I like, and also… money!! Money is always nice. But, there is always a but. Job that I got always have something to do with WordPress. Like creating company profile, some event website, school profile page, and the like. It’s boring and not really make me improved as programmer. Also I am not really a people person, and freelancing work kind of really need that for communicating with client. Luckily I have partner that gladly take responsibility of that. She was managing the client, doing design job, and take the frontend stuff. I, on the other side, mainly just take care of backend stuff like setup the server, installing WordPress, and make sure the site is not down. Maybe it’s a great path, maybe I just haven’t found the perfect job or client. But in the end of the day, I got other opportunity.

Meet Besut Kode

It was about beginning of October 2016. I notice a new poster on my campus notice board. It is a Besut Kode competition poster. I was interested at first glance because it have the word “Kode” (Indonesian for… code) in it. In the sea of scientific paper conference, call of paper from lecturer, academic and other notices, it is really a fresh breeze. I immediately open the website and read further about it. I was surprised that it require a Github pull request in order to “register” to the competition, oh wow this will be a cool competition!

Of course, like a real college student, I am ~procrastinating~ waiting for the most strategic and critical time to do all the registration stuff and creating the pull request. That was my first PR to other people that I never meet in real world (other PR was for my college assignment ofc).

The process is hard. We as participant was forced encouraged to do various task in order to familiarize on how to contribute to open source. First it seems trivial, find any project that doesn’t have license yet and raise the issue in discussion. Then in the end of the month, for another task, we must collect various open data about a small island in Indonesia and compile it to a map.

In the end, I was lucky enough to became one of 2 grand finalist of the Besut Kode competition and got a free ride to FOSSASIA 2017 in Singapore. That was my first trip to foreign country, and a open source meeting on top of that! That was a wonderful experience and hopefully I will wrote about it too if I am not procrastinating distracted by daily life.

Hooked up into coala and getting into GSOC

Through one of Besut Kode task, I find coala. I read around their code, silently lurking their chat channel on gitter, and other things. As far as I know, coala is the best open source community for me yet. They provide a welcoming community, interesting project goal, high contribution standard so I can keep improving, and non archaic tools for communication and collaboration (apparently I am still not in the phase of programmer who praise mailing list and some unique, random, bug tracking software).

Then come Google Summer of Code. This is another interesting challenge for me because it provide a chance to be forced encouraged to create a productive and useful work in programming. Also money. Money is always nice. But mainly I was using it as motivation to create something that I would be proud of.

And the happy ending is I was accepted! Thus also part of reason why this blog got to life again.

In the end, I realize my old self question on why people want to waste their time away provide help to open source project. It was rewarding. You got to work on whatever you like and however way you want (as long it doesn’t piss other people). Also, you know that your work was useful for people in the other side of the world.

Special thanks for John (@jayvdb) and Wikimedia Indonesia, as he is my mentor in Besut Kode and now in coala. Through Besut Kode he introduce me on how I can going to open source. Through coala I got the reason and feel why.

Hopefully my path into open source will keep going further and learn more things that keep me excited.