If I were to pick a month to brand “Open Source Month”, it would be December. I could list personal reasons for it, such as December 1999 was the first month I ever contributed to Open Source. That happens to be the same month I married Amelia and have often joked, “I’ve been married to them both ever since.”
The real reason is December is the month open source heroes are born.
December is Your Time to Shine
I’ve noticed a pattern of December being a very prolific month for open source contribution. In December 2006 the OpenEJB 3 codebase was born and lines of code in the project went from 91k to over 122k, which is a 31% increase in a single month. The phenomena repeated itself for Apache TomEE in December 2012 when the project went from 420k to 466k lines of code, which is a whopping 47k lines of code written surrounded by snowflakes and holiday cheer.
For the Apache TomEE community and the OpenEJB community that preceded it, December has a reputation for being a prolific month with huge jumps forward.
I think the reason for this is simple. Workloads are lower. Free time is higher. Vacation time is plenty. For those who are motivated, it’s the one time during the year you can get closest to being a full-time open source hacker. Have a cool idea that may take 2 weeks of around-the-clock hacking? December’s your month. Try that in July during your family vacation and you’ll have one unhappy family on your hands.
For people who aren’t lucky enough to be paid to work on Open Source, December is Open Source Month. Period.
We’re Celebrating You
In this spirit, we in Tomitribe are dedicating our December to you in a campaign we’re calling “TomEE for the Holidays.” We want to help as many new people contribute to Apache TomEE as we possibly can. Not only that but when you do we want to celebrate your first contribution to TomEE by making you a personalized badge like the one below.
We will tweet that as a thank you and memento for your contribution. You and everyone can retweet it and in doing so you’ll have not only contributed to open source, but you’ll be encouraging everyone to do the same. The result, we hope, will be a snowball effect. (pun absolutely intended)
What Contributions Count?
Anything. Open Source is not about the quality of your contribution, it’s that you bothered to do it at all. If you don’t know what to do, go to the list and ask “How can I help?” and before you even get an answer, start writing some Javadoc.
People laugh when I tell them to start small and grab a piece of code, see if you can understand it and then just write some javadoc. What they don’t know until they’ve done it is that they’ll have accomplished many of the hardest and most valuable things in open source; making yourself known, learning some of the code, adding some value, making it easier for other people to get into the code. The most wonderful part is you always win. Even if your Javadoc is wrong, someone will tell you how it actually works and in the process, you and likely many other people will learn something from the experience which you can immediately redirect into the code.
Most people want to start immediately with some amazing new feature. I guarantee you will struggle. I also guarantee it’s impossible to javadoc more than 6 classes before you start seeing opportunities to improve the code. No code is that perfect. Language changes happen all the time. Of course, once you start tweaking the code even a little, you’ll need to run the tests, maybe even write one.
If you do this one simple act, you’ll look up from your keyboard and realize a month went by and you have 20 commits in. You will be vividly imaging 2 major changes that need to happen if you could just make a little more time for them. Come January you’ll be saying “just a few minutes more” at bed-time.
You’ll be hooked.
Take Your First Step
With open source, the most important step is the first one. Just take it. We know how truly important it is and no matter what your first step is, we’ll celebrate it and celebrate you. The choice to start deserves thunderous applause. This is how open source heroes are born.