Inspired by a comment I received yesterday explaining the problems with non-programmers getting involved in helping Linux projects, I have decided to give a little guidance on how to help out if you are not the code monkey type.
Believe it or not, you do not have to be a programmer or have any extensive technical knowledge to help out Linux distributions. Every distribution has it’s own community project. Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE are some of the most popular. These communities are rather large, and include a jobs and work to be done that does not include “can program in three different languages” as part of the description. You might have heard along the way that non-programmers are limited to simply documentation or artwork. However, there is so much more that you can offer a distribution.
How do I know all this to be true? I’m not a programmer – I also worked with the Ubuntu project for almost three years in several different capacities, none of which involved programming. I’m a living example that you don’t need to be a programmer to get involved. Want some more good news? It was easy!
That’s great, but what can I do?
You might have heard that documentation or artwork were some of the only areas you could get involved. Of course, part of that is correct, you can get involved with documentation and artwork, but there is more than that. You also have marketing and the big one, advocacy, where you can really help out and make a difference.
Documentation is not only limited to the writing of technical articles surrounding your system. That would require technical know-how. Your job could be much more on the cosmetic side, making sure the writers of the articles are communicating their message smoothly and naturally, free of technical or awkward wording that might make it hard for new users to understand.
One of my first jobs in the Ubuntu project was working with documentation. I worked within the text editor checking the help documents for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, and then I sent the revisions to the team leader to be reviewed and uploaded. The process of getting involved was very friendly, and beyond the help I had in the wiki, there was extremely good help from team members who took me under their wing and helped me learn the entire process. If you were a strong English student, this might very well be the job for you! Also, don’t forget, if you are well educated in other languages, they always need your help and expertise in translating and writing documentation for other languages.
It would be an understatement to say that Linux needs good artists, and more of them. When we have to compete against Apple and Microsoft, how are systems look is very important. Linux distributions need clean, professional themes to compliment the software that is running on that computer. In the Linux community, there are some really good artists, and there are some really bad ones. We need more artists who are not of the immature anime or Microsoft bashing type. Basically we need to escape the basement-dwelling stereotype. Linux needs to be absolutely stunning, and you can help!
Another area that artwork is incredibly important is marketing. Every operating system needs some good graphics to go along with the marketing material. There are entire marketing teams set up within most, if not all, of the major distributions. They are always looking for people to help create relevant material that will help promote Linux to the general population.
You might have noticed by now that a lot of the work done in these different teams can be applied in different areas. Advocacy is where it really all comes together. Advocacy is such a big subject I considered writing another article on it alone, but for now I’ll just write about it in a nutshell here. Advocacy covers several different areas, from marketing, artwork, documentation, and support. Your job is to promote your operating system of choice in your locale.
You might find yourself running events, working with local organizations on various volunteer projects for the community, or speaking at conferences. You might be giving out support to a new user on a forum, mailing list, or chat channel. You might be creating personalized marketing material for your area. You will probably also get yourself a blog and start writing articles telling the world about how much you love your distribution. In this job, you will become a jack of all trades. With such a broad spectrum of what can be done with advocacy, it may be difficult to figure out where to start. Most major distributions have some sort of advocacy position. For example, Fedora and openSUSE both have “Ambassadors,” while Ubuntu has what are called “Local Community Teams” (LoCo Teams). Ambassadors and LoCo teams are quite similar, the only difference being that with a LoCo team it is not just one person going to conferences and providing marketing, but rather a team of people who can each work in their area of specialty. openSUSE also has something called “Local User Groups” (LUGs) which are similar to LoCo teams. Both Ambassadors and LoCo’s are highly effective in promoting Linux to the masses because they get out into their community and work with people face to face in promoting Linux. If you want to get exposed to many different areas of working with a Linux project and get to know other Linux users in your area, then this is definitely the job for you.
But how do I…?
So now you may be wondering “That’s fantastic Jon, but how do I get involved?” Like I mentioned earlier, it’s really not that difficult. I have provided links to all the teams I mentioned above below for the Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE projects. I have found all three to be a pleasure to work for, and I’m sure you will too. All you need to do is follow the instructions on how to join on the main page. In most cases, this involves joining the mailing list and introducing yourself. Make sure you mention that you are new and would like to learn the procedure of how things work. There will be people in those teams who are willing to teach you and will help you grow into your position. Also, don’t be afraid to tell the other team members to slow down if they are trying to teach you too quickly or are sending you too much work. They are generally flexible and can help you work at your own pace. Every bit of contribution helps!
Ubuntu Documentation Team – https://wiki.ubuntu.com/DocumentationTeam
Fedora Docs Project – http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/DocsProject
openSUSE Documentation Team – http://en.opensuse.org/Documentation_Team
*Note – These are specifically documentation teams who write help articles, system info, etc. There are other documentation teams for translation and wiki editing. Try the standard documentation teams first to get some practice working with each distributions tools.
Ubuntu Artwork Team – https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Artwork
Fedora Artwork Project – http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Artwork
openSUSE Art Team – http://en.opensuse.org/Art_Team
Ubuntu Marketing Team - https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MarketingTeam
Fedora Marketing Project – http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Marketing
openSUSE Marketing Team – http://en.opensuse.org/Marketing/Team
Ubuntu LoCo Teams - https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LoCoTeams
Fedora Ambassadors – http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Ambassadors
openSUSE Ambassadors – http://en.opensuse.org/Ambassadors
openSUSE LUGs – http://en.opensuse.org/Local_User_Groups