Finding Your First Open Source Project

Codecademy Team
Resources for finding a "good first issue" out in the world of open source.

So you’ve learned about the joys of open source and you’d like to get involved. That’s great! The first step is to find a project to start contributing to. You’re in luck: many other developers have created a vibrant open-source scene ready for anyone to join. We’ll talk about some tips, resources, and places to start in the article.

A person sitting facing a computer screen and keyboard, where there are multiple roads each with their own forks in the road. There is a question mark above their head.

Start Small

The best way to ease yourself into open source is to start with small, relatively simple contributions and work your way towards bigger ones over time. Many open source developers got their start with documentation typo fixes or other small changes. Getting used to the flow of open source contributions is much easier when your contributions are one-liners rather than large feature additions that include blocks of code in different files – as tempting as those may be! So where can you find bite-sized pre-defined amounts of work to do?

On GitHub, discussion for open-source contributions usually happens under the Issues tab. Within the Issues tab, the open-source community often puts the good first issue label on those small issues that someone new to the project could contribute to. That could be you! For a real world example, check out the issues tracker on github.com/Codecademy/docs labels issues:

INSERT ALT TEXT screenshot of docs issues

Helping Projects You Already Use

Let’s say you’ve already been working on a software project for work or personal study. Maybe your project relies on an open-source software like Node.js. If you’re looking for a project to contribute to, why not the projects that you depend on day-to-day? Pause and think of one. Big open-source projects are easily searchable on GitHub, and you can access their public Issues board. Try searching through the issue trackers for packages the projects you’re already developing depend on.

Even more, as you’re using the open-source project, consider adding to their issues board by suggesting bug fixes, documentation improvements, and feature enhancements. Then, if the project maintainers mark your issues as accepting pull requests, you can be the one to push the suggested changes, - making it better both for you and everyone else!

Good First Issue Finders

On top of searching projects you already know about, there are a few tools that can help you find good first issues in projects that fit the technical area you’re familiar with. GitHub provides a good-first-issue topics page that lets you browse recent issues marked as good first issues.

For more resources, check out a tool called First Timers Only, which includes several more search engines for different kinds of good first issues, as well as detailed guides for how to get started on a few types of open source journeys.

Next Steps

However you find your first open source issue -whether it’s in a project you’re already using, or one you found through an issue finder- you’re off to a great start. Welcome to the wonderful world of open source!