Contributing to Open Source

Last week I successfully submitted my first patch to an open source project and it was accepted. 

I like the bpython interpreter for all my python needs. It is quite handy for a python newbie like me. A few weeks ago I was in the middle of building an elaborate datastructure to learn list comprehension in python, when bpython crashed and took all the history with it. I whined about it on twitter and one of the developers of the project prompted me to submit a bug report. I was quite impressed by the fact that a core developer of bpython replied to my bitching on twitter.

After I filed the bug report, I decided to get the source code and poke around. I finally implemented a feature that saved the history after each command instead of waiting till the end of a session. 

The following factors were the main impetus that led me to contribute to the project. 

Project Hosting: 

The project was hosted on bit bucket which is a Github equivalent for mercurial. This makes it so easy to fork a project and issue pull requests, compared to the traditional source forge model of submitting patches in a mailing list. The social coding sites like Github and BitBucket have reduced much of the initial friction in starting an open source project.

Project Size:

This one has a huge impact when I decide to dive into the code. Traditional C projects tend to have a ton of files that are too big which is daunting for a beginner. The bpython project was written in python and had a total of 13 .py files. This makes it dead simple to make a quick change and run the project without compiling it. Again the choice of language has a lot to do with this. 


The welcoming nature of the community around a project does a lot to encourage a new comer. The IRC channels are a great way to interact with the developers compared to a passive form of communication such as emails. I jumped on #bpython irc channel and started asking questions when I ran into an issue with bpython source code. People on that channel are really helpful and prompt in answering questions.


My first pull request was scrutinized by the core developers and some suggestions for improvements were given. During that process I learned a lot about code review and how to check for corner cases. Finally after I made all those improvements the pull request was accepted and merged with the main repo. So having a beginners mind (no ego) is an absolute must when getting started on any project. Don't be discouraged if your first attempt is unsuccessful. 

Now I'm proud to say my name is listed in the AUTHORS file of bpython project.