Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic, recently offered this advice to aspiring developers: “Contribute to open source.

Mullenweg — a political science dropout whose software (Wordpress) now powers nearly a quarter of all websites — says that you can “100% compensate for a lack of professional experience” by proving your abilities through open source contributions.

If you can grow into a recognized position in an open source project, that puts you ten steps ahead of applications even from folks with 20 years experience in the field, at least to an Open Source-biased company like Automattic.

And the undisputed center of the open source universe is GitHub. Some people have gone so far as to say that GitHub accounts have replaced resumes.

Or as John Resig, the creator of jQuery, quipped: “When it comes to hiring, I’ll take a GitHub commit log over a resume any day.”

Free Code Camp Wiki maintainer Rafael Rodriguez has come up with an way that you can start contributing to open source in just a few minutes, without even leaving GitHub’s website.

Rafael Rodriguez maintains Free Code Camp’s wiki and is active in our Wiki chat room.

Adding an article to Free Code Camp’s Wiki

Free Code Camp’s wiki is filled with articles about technology. Where as academic articles aim to be detailed, and technical documentation aims to be precise, our wiki articles aim to be easily understood by new developers.

Here are some examples of things you can write about on our wiki:

  • a new JavaScript library like Redux
  • an important person in the software world, like Dan Abramov
  • how to deploy a Wordpress e-commerce site
  • how to install Ruby on Rails on Windows
  • how to wire a Raspberry Pi into a thermostat
  • the history of Git
  • your city’s Women Who Code chapter

Basically, anything related to technology is fair game. We will err on the side of inclusion.

First, check to make sure the article doesn’t already exist (if it does, you can help us expand it.)

And if you can’t think of anything off the top of your head, you can choose a topic from our article requests and write a few paragraphs about it.

We also welcome translations of existing articles into any world language.

Then you can contribute in by following these steps:

A recording of me making an example contribution in less than a minute.
  1. Go to Free Code Camp’s open source Wiki repository. (If you don’t have a GitHub account yet, you can create one in about 2 minutes.)
  2. Click the “New File” button. This will automatically create a fork (your own personal copy) of the repository.
  3. Name your file “your-wiki-article-name.md” (the “md” stands for Markdown, a popular alternative to plain .txt files).
  4. Type out your article. If you’re unfamiliar with Markdown, you can write your article here, then copy and paste it onto GitHub.
  5. Scroll down and fill in a commit message (for example, “Create wiki article about the Minimax algorithm”) and optionally add a description. If you’re writing this article in response to an article request, you should reference it in the description like so: “Closes issue #177.”
  6. Click “Propose new file.”
  7. Click “Create pull request.”
  8. Your pull request will already be populated from your commit message and description. So click “Create pull request” again to finalize it.

Voilà! You have created a file, a commit, and a pull request (and maybe even closed an issue in the process)!

Raphael or another volunteer will review your pull request and may ask you to make some further improvements to your article. (In some situations, you may need clone the repository locally to squash commits or resolve merge conflicts — we’ll help you with this if it comes up.)

If you have questions about any of this, hop on over to our Wiki chat room and ask.

Once they accept your pull request, GitHub will merge it into Free Code Camp’s Wiki repo, and it will look something like this:

Once your pull request is accepted, you can check your GitHub profile. See that green square on your heat map calendar, and that streak? You’ve made an open source contribution!

This is the beginning of something meaningful.

Contributing to our wiki is a good way to ease into open source.

After writing a few wiki articles (and making edits to existing articles), you’ll want to venture out and see what other projects you can help with.

You won’t be able to contribute to most of these projects without leaving the relative comfort of your browser and GitHub’s website. But don’t be intimidated by the process of developing on your local computer — it’s not that hard.

As you contribute to larger and larger projects, you’ll get better at learning codebases well enough to track down bugs and add functionality.

That’s how you learn. That’s how you grow as a developer. And that’s how you prove to future employers that you can collaborate with other people and write code that’s worth using.

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