Mario Danic will talk about inspiring new contributors

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Mario Danic is a Software Engineer who is part of the Nextcloud Android application development team. He studied Informatics and Organization and has been leading Libburnia and Gnomebaker, popular open source projects, for over a decade.

Danic will be delivering a talk at the upcoming Nextcloud conference aiming to inspire new contributors. Danic describes the talk as 'bout a young hacker that always wanted to contribute, but was too afraid. It’s about a young designer who wanted to redo the icon, but felt he/she wasn’t good enough. It’s a talk about a young sysadmin who felt deployment could be easier, but never felt invited to contribute. This is a talk about you and me, he said.

Can you tell us what is your talk about?
We see room for improvement in how we work with our developer community on the Android and iOS app side, and we’d like to improve on that, lower the barrier for people to get involved. This talk is the first step in that direction.

Can you tell us what was the primary inspiration behind the subject of your talk?
Sure - I like announcing stuff, especially if “stuff” includes pancakes. I chose this particular subject because it’s a topic that’s very dear to my heart, and that resembles the experience I’ve had when I started contributing to open source. People all over the world try to contribute and have different experiences - both bad and good. Our goal here is to make that first step a little bit easier.

Have you come across people who you think could have contributed to open source but could not?
Definitely. I’ve met so many talented people all over the world who were just too afraid to even start contributing. Sometimes it was their age. Sometimes it was the maintainer of the project they wanted to contribute to - they were just too damn scary.

When they finally got the strength to contribute, they got scared off rather harshly. While this is highly dependant on the community we’re talking about, it definitely continues to this day in many places.

Experience matters rather little when you’re just starting. Maintainers need to remember their enthusiasm and mistakes they’ve made when they were just getting started. They grew and learned because somebody embraced them and gave them an opportunity to learn.

What do you think are the primary barriers for entry?
I still think the primary barrier is not technical. It’s not the documentation. It’s not the test environment. Sure, all of those can be improved.

The primary barrier to entry is that emotional twist, a feeling of being welcome. A feeling of a human connection, somebody who will guide, not judge you.

And that is not an easy thing to solve.
How can projects like Nextcloud create a more welcoming environment for budding contributors?
I guess there are many many ways we can create a more welcoming environment. From having a more unified voice across all our projects to having a central point where potential contributors can jump into without feeling they’re swimming with the sharks. And that’s our focus here: creating that central point where people can find somebody who will help them, guide and support them.

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This is something really to look forward to. More contributors would be very much needed for this project.

I too see this as a very positive message from Nextcloud. It just so happens that I’m in the process of making career for myself as an Android developer, and, being a Nextcloud enthusiast, I have been considering contributing to the Android client for some time now. Probably mostly wondering whether my skill level would be sufficient, but also whether there would be a welcoming atmosphere with room for new folks to join in.

Naturally, posts/talks like this one makes me even more motivated to get on board :slight_smile:

In many NC repos you have starter issues or junior jobs that are usually less complex and a good starting point for interested developers.