Franck Hecker, Gervase Markham and Chris Blizzard have all been talking about ways to get more people involved in open-source. What I find interesting about what they are saying is how similar it is to any other sort of volunteer work. Sporting clubs and charities around the world have been asking these same questions for ever. How can we get our members, to be volunteers? or How can we get our users to become contributors?
To me, one of the best ways to get and keep people involved is to lower the barriers of entry. If someone comes along to Bugzilla and tries to find out exactly how people would like the bug fixed and can’t get an answer, then they may just move on to the next thing. The same as if you want someone to work the canteen at your football match and they have to fill out 3 insurance forms, they will most of the time, forget about it.
Being a good mentor doesn’t necessarily mean dumbing down the work, but providing a lot more support along the way. Mozilla is starting to do this with devMo, but sometimes someone doing a bit of personal hand-holding is the best way. This carries over to Frank’s sales metaphor perfectly, by working harder to close the deal.
Mentoring involves telling people what to do, the same way you would teach a new employee how to do things. This means, rather than telling them to just jump in there should be a list of bugs that are minor, lower priority, low risk changes that someone can learn the codebase from, and receive feedback. Feedback in the form of advice on how to tackle the problem, landing the patch, and review.
As far as I can tell, the current state of Review is false economy. I’m aware that there aren’t enough reviewers to manage the all of the incoming patches. However without them being reviewed, new reviewers or engineers aren’t getting the aformentioned feedback.