How can I help the Free and Open world?

16 Apr

So, you recognise that the Open Source and Free Content world is a great idea, but don’t really know how to give back to it and contribute to its development?

Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

Know how to code? Get coding.

There are virtually an infinite number of projects that you can join. You can even start you own!

Some platforms you can join and start a project on are:

  • Lanchpad, using the Bazaar version control system, mainly related to Ubuntu (more than 31,000 projects)
  • GitHub, using the Git revision control system
  • SourceForge, with 324,000 projects

There are many more, and you can make your mind by having a look at this list on Wikipedia.

You can also get involved in the Google Summer of Code, with which Google promotes post-secondary developers getting involved into Open Source projects, every year, since 2005.

Getting involved in an open-source project is a great way to learn about coding and working as a team.

By the way, I’m saying all this, but I don’t know shit about developing. Anyway…

Not a developer? Release different creative Free Content

Free/Open content licenses are not made only for open-source software. You can release you cultural works – be it a book, photos, drawings or music – under a variety of licenses, in order to give others more freedom and promote creativity.

You can choose to release your photos under a Creative Commons license on Flickr for example, but maybe prefer open-source software-based websites like MediaGoblin or TroveBox. Also, if your photos have a encyclopaedic value, you could upload them to Wikimedia Commons so they can be used on other Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia.

Here are a few examples of digital libraries where you can contribute with your cultural works:

The Creative Commons license has a few parameters that you can tweak depending on how you want to be credited and what you want to let other people do with your work.

The Free Art license (called License Art Libre in French – see a definition in English) is a more permissive one. You can compare the different available licenses on the Freedom Defined website.

And if you are a scientist, consider publishing your research in an Open Access journal! This is rapidly becoming the norm for many around the world, and it is definitely the way of the future, probably giving you more opportunities to get cited too! Search for an Open Access journal on the DOAJ website.

Not an artist? Give some time!

If you are not exactly an artist, you can still give a hand at expanding existing community-built websites. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Everybody knows and uses Wikipedia – so why not give some of your time back to the community? There are lots to do, from correcting a typo to creating a new article. You can get started from here. However, if you don’t feel like you can contribute to an encyclopaedia, there are many other Wikimedia projects to spend some free time on, including media library, dictionary, travel guide and news source.
  • MusicBrainz is a music-related database. If you love music or own a few records, why not try and give us a hand? You can start from this guide.
  • OpenStreetMap is a great project that aims at building a open database of geographical data. It is very fun to contribute to, and you can start straight away by mapping your own street! Here is a beginners’ guide to get you started.
  • Another interesting one is OpenFoodFacts. This French language version is the most mature one, but you can start helping on any of the 12 available languages.
  • The Stack Exchange network includes 101 Q&A websites that compile a wealth of community-built knowledge licensed under a CC-by-SA license. You will probably find a topic you are knowledgeable in. (Home-brewing? Islam? Robotics? Cryptography? Come on, you MUST be good at something!)

Another way to give some of your time to the cause is by promoting and advocating the use of open/free content licenses, open source software and open standards. Talk about it to your friends and family, use the cultural works yourself, install an open source software alternative on a friend’s computer, organise an event or a presentation… There are many options!

Don’t have time? Give some money!

I could have gone with “Give some money!” first, followed by “Don’t have money? Give some time!”, but I reckon everything else should be prioritize over money. In my philosophy, the less we use and depend on money, the better.

However, we have to acknowledge the fact that the society we live in heavily relies on monetary incentives. So yes, vote with your money, but only after you voted with everything else.

There are many ways you can donate some of your income for a good cause promoting openness. Here are a few ideas:

Give to organisations that do an amazing job at promoting the Open World. Just to name a few: the Open Knowledge FoundationAPRIL (fr), AFUL (fr), Framasoft (fr), the Free Software FoundationLa Quadrature du Net, the Open Source Initiative, the Free Network Foundation… They will all make a good use of your pennies.

You can also fund specific projects directly. Go to your favourite software’s website and shout them a few cups of coffee. An other way to do it is participating in crowdfunding. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the two main websites for crowdfunding inovative projects. Just do an “open source” search (quick links: KS or IGG) and give some money to the projects you like the most. For example:

Well, there you go! Those are just a few ideas, but hopefully you found something that suits you, and we can all give back to the Open community!

Cheers for reading.

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