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How to Increase Contributions from Volunteers

To the Debian Developers,

	The Debian Project of course is the ultimate volunteer organization with a democratic community and top notch “open source” ideals.  It is in my opinion this is a project that all others could greatly take notes from.  The intent of this post is address what I feel is two of the most significant things that will increase contributions to the Debian Project by volunteers.

	I believe the greatest barrier the Debian Project has in preventing widespread contributions from greater numbers of volunteers is a psychological barrier.  I have personally introduced Debian to several of my friends and always emphasize the idea that they too can contribute to the great cause whether by documentation, translation or adopting a package, etc...  Universally they are excited, desire to try it out, then come back having read what it takes to be a Debian Developer and are overwhelmed.  They then begin searching out other open source projects where it seems psychologically they will be able to be more of an assistance.   I must emphasize I am not trying to argue the process of becoming a DD should be easier.(I personally think maybe it should be harder :) ).  It is to suggest there might be two things Debian could do to Take away from this psychological barrier.

1.)All people psychologically want to feel important and that they are an official part of an organization.  I feel there should be an official title for all contributers so they feel like they are part of the community, not just a pion until they get official developer status.  I feel the the title should be something like “Debian Contributer” and the qualifications should be things like: They have a Public Key, e-mail, IRC name, subscribe to official mailing lists, and have documented contributions they can post, even if it at first is no more that wiki posts.  Just something they can document for others to see they are contributing. I do not think they need to be given voting privileges or if so I would feel it should only be given in a limited sense..

2.).People need to be able to know whether they are on the right track and making progress.  They need a way to measure how effective they are contributing and see how they could do better. For this I propose there be some website they can log into with 10-12 sections like these:

a) Bugs I have reported.
b) Patches I have made
c) Packages I have adopted
d) Translations I have done
e) Documentation I have contributed to
f) Posts I have made on mailing lists.

     There also needs to be at least one other category:
h) Advocacy I have given to the open source community.

         This category needs to be there to emphasize they need to open their mouths about the wonders of open source.  Surely, one of the biggest reasons more people to join open source communities is because there is so little publicity about them.  People just don't know such things exist. :(  This will encourage all to spread the wealth. :)

	This of course will not only help them see what they have so far done, but the different categories will help them see what areas they could be improving in to assist this great work.  It will also provide them a proper a path toward becoming a DD, pointing them in the right direction.

        Now there are I think two hidden benefits from this.  First It will keep track of who is active and who is not since it will be documented.  MIA's will be immediately discovered.  Second, many will become a “Debain Contributer” , last for a couple months, and fall away.  However, during that initial excitement while they are being extreamly vocal with friends about the project in order to earn advocacy points, others will become contributers from their advocacy and out of that group of others will often emerge a real gem for the Debian Project. 

      Like all ideas it will be healthy for many to be skeptical, for honest debate and discussion always makes ideas better.  I hope people debate the good and the bad about this idea remembering that only stating one sided opinions is not always helpful.  I admit these ideas could work, and they could also be a disaster.  Too much time and effort that could be spent in other areas of the project.  It may be something nobody signs up for or even cares about.  It may seem these are childish ideas for if people really wanted to contribute they would without needing a special title or login page. Maybe a login page for every person will take up too much space.  Or maybe because things are working fine just the way they are in Debian.  Whatever your arguments are I hope people will comment on both the good and bad so as everybody benefits from seeing the whole picture not just one side.

I am certain if these ideas were implemented it might seem slow at first, however I believe they set foundations for the future.  It is the future of Debain and of “Open Source” I have in mind.  I believe if these things were added to the project, Debian would see an increase in contributions from volunteers.  More importantly, I see more serious contributers joining who will be tomorrow's Debian Developers where this is the only way they could get over the psychological barrier of how hard the road seems.  I see this project thus expanding in ways it would not otherwise, for the good of open source.  Thanks for your time.  Sorry if the post was too long.  I just really feel strongly about “Open Source” and hope with all my heart the road to being a great help was made a little easier for those with great desire, but are just a little intimidated.
Joseph Smidt

422 Wymount
Provo, UT 84604
phone: 801-371-5564
email: jsmidt@byu.edu

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