Contacting new contributors

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[edit] Before you contact interested contributors

  1. Make sure you have clear documentation for how to get started on your project. This includes:
    1. How to get the source code, get dependencies installed, and set up your development environment.
    2. The issue creation, patch submission, and review procedures.
    3. How project contributors keep in touch, in particular IRC and the relevant mailing lists.
  2. Consider fleshing out the OpenHatch project page for your project, which centralizes links for a lot of information in the previous bullet point.
  3. Consider having a way to indicate easy, bite-sized, or new-contributor friendly tasks. An issue tracker makes this much easier; if you don't use an issue tracker yet, now may be the time to start. If you already mark bugs as bite-sized, make sure OpenHatch is importing those bugs from your project tracker by adding it here: https://openhatch.org/wiki/Bug_trackers - if it is a tracker we support at the time, it should be up quite quickly.

[edit] In your contact with interested contributors

  1. Explain your role in the project.
  2. Try to read the person's OpenHatch profile and mention something from the profile, to show that you have taken the time to understand the person's background. This will make the person more likely to respond to your mail.
  3. Offer to help get started, but leave it up to the potential contributor to decide how much help they want. Ask if the new contributor has preferences for what kinds of work he/she wants to do for the project, and suggest tasks based on that feedback.
    1. Make one or two suggestions for specific tasks the contributor could do. One common complaint from new contributors is that people don't suggest specific things to do. See this thread: http://www.mail-archive.com/debian-python@lists.debian.org/msg07108.html
    2. Alternately, ask the person if they need help setting up a development environment. Struggling to set up a development environment can turn away potential contributors before they've even had a chance to contribute.
  4. Make clear who/what resources are available to the new contributor. Are there specific maintainers who can be e-mailed or PM'd with questions?
  5. Don't be scared: even if the people you contact don't answer, it's okay. The more you try to reach out to people, the easier it will be to write these emails. You can treat the first few as useful practice, even if you don't get any answers.

[edit] After you contact interested contributors

  1. As a project community, strive to be prompt with reviews and feedback on work from new contributors.
  2. Keep track of which contributors you've talked to, what they're working on, and the last time you contacted them. (https://openhatch.org/bugs/issue282 will help with this)
  3. Check in with the new contributor periodically to see how things are going. New contributors are a great opportunity to get a fresh perspective on your development process and how to improve it (and make it more accessible to new contributors!). If you are unsure about how often you should check in, ask the newcomer what frequency is helpful for them.
  4. If you don't hear anything back from the prospective contributor after your initial contact, try again after a week or two. Maybe they missed the e-mail or got busy.
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