Discussion: Ending the Eternal September

As part of our ongoing discussion around improving the contributor journey, I recently asked a few folks their thoughts on Eternal September in open sourceOpen Source Open Source denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. Open Source **must be** delivered via a licensing model, see GPL.. More specifically, I wondered:

  1. What makes it difficult for our seasoned contributors to mentor new contributors in the open source project?
  2. What happens for existing contributors when we have an influx of new contributors?
  3. Where are the pain points for existing contributors when we bring in new contributors?

Some Initial Thoughts

There were a lot of interesting responses, but there we a few common threads I heard:

Lack of Clarity

It’s hard for existing contributors don’t know a new contributor is in their onboarding, and therefore also hard to see if they are stuck or what could get them unstuck.

Lack of Skills

The primary work for teams is focused, i.e., marketing, coreCore Core is the set of software required to run WordPress. The Core Development Team builds WordPress., etc. Welcoming and teaching new contributors is a different skill set from those specific focuses. And ever after accounting for that skills gap, there are unspoken cultural norms to get work looked at and moved forward which takes time and observation to learn, rather than task-oriented training.

Lack of Certainty

No matter whether a new contributor makes a single contribution or returns regularly over the coming months, the time required to make sure they have their bearings is the same. This creates tension among team members/existing contributors—they wonder whether they should prioritize existing work (new contributions) or training/support for new contributors.

What do you think?

I’d like your thoughts on the questions I posed above, but I’d also like you to consider this:

If we believe that speed of feedback on a contribution is key to helping a casual contributor become a regular contributor, then what would a good first contribution experience look like for a mentor?

#5ftf, #discussion, #five-for-the-future