Are you a contributor ?
Strange question, no? No, not at all :-) As part of the candidacy for my engagement to the membership committee there was this: "to grow the overall community and improve the communication between the language communities and the different areas of the overall project". So here I am! I'm going to post a series of articles on all the possible contributions you can be part of in our LibreOffice project. As you will see through the length of this section, there are many many ways to contribute, from a very small task to a full time work if you wish.
First of all, if you have never contributed to a project like ours, you may wonder what we call the "community". This word is very vast in fact and may have a different meaning whether you're a native English speaker or not. If you're new to that, just consider it as a proxy. A proxy that will help you to get connected with others, to get the task you've achieved included in the project, to learn about the tools that are in use at a local or international level. We are a project, but with very different areas of work and in different languages. Speaking about myself, I'm part of the Francophone project and I try to act as a liaison between the overall project and the French speaking community. Language is often a barrier even with the tools we use but it must not prevent anybody to feel part of our project. So several of us act as facilitators for the newcomers but also for those who don't speak English.
The most simple way to get involved is (and usually you even don't realize it) to answer questions from other users. Support is a very important area, it's a place where you can learn and give a lot. More, that will ease the propagation of our product and give an overview of the level of quality of our project. I've often seen users amazed by the rapidity of our answers on the support lists and the accuracy of their content.
I'll detail the different lists and forum where we give support on another post. But be assure that answering questions to the users is an important contribution and we have several masters playing on the lists or the forum in different languages, many thanks to them!
After a little time on the support lists, you'll see that often the same questions are coming again and again. That's normal, nobody wants to dig in a forum or a list to search for a similar question already answered. So what do you think about writing a FAQ? It's not complicated: you have the question and the answer just in front of you :-) But how, to whom, where will you send this FAQ article? It depends only on you. You're still a bit shy and don't want to act by yourself: just ask somebody on the list to add the article to the wiki. You want to do things by yourself: just subscribe to the wiki and create your article on the wiki of your language. You want to contribute to the overall community and you know English: contribute it to the English FAQ, other language communities will be able to translate it for their own use. You can even go further if you like it: be the one who takes care and maintains the FAQ in your language ;)
Now that you've done this, you may want to know how all this documentation has come on the wiki along with the FAQ. There is a Documentation project, in English for the international language, but also in several other languages, just have a look at the language bar in the wiki. Writing a documentation can be done by translating from another language or by creating a whole document. You can do that alone, but usually we are working as a group, some are translating or writing, others are reviewing and proof reading the document. When it's ready, one of us upload the document to the site or the wiki. You see, if you don't feel comfortable with the tools we use, no problem, the only thing you have to do to write documentation is to use LibreOffice and subscribe to the documentation list of your language community (or more often the discuss list for small language communities). Working with the group already in place helps to give to the documentation that we are providing a better uniformity and a better final aspect for our readers. And I find it always easier when I get feedback and encouragements from others, I feel the work is even easier!
There is another place where it's very simple to support the project: attending conferences in your area and manage a LibreOffice booth. It's a pleasant way to gather with other users or contributors and always interesting to learn about other usage in real life. Usually, to be 2 or 3 is enough for the manifestation and the material is reused from one meeting to another. There is a calendar where we add the conference we attend and Marc Pare will manage to subscribe it for you if you don't know how to do it, just give the names of the person to contact and it's done! ah and don't forget to take photos of your group on the booth, we like to have them for the shuffler on the site.
Then you've got a taste for marketing? and voila, there is a dedicated project where you can work with others on the strategy for our product but also for our community. Not more difficult to reach than the other projects: just a list to subscribe to and follow what's going on. There is always press release to work on, your opinion is important and translating them in your language is a great contribution too. Also you can have local actions specifically directed to the marketing in your language community or in your country. For example, with the help of other contributors, I'm publishing a news letter each month in French. It takes into account the news of our language community contributors (like Olivier who manage the spell checker project in French with a bunch of volunteers), the news of the international LibreOffice community and the work done by TDF. Also marketing needs a lot of material from the simple leaflet to more complex communication media, so don't hesitate to express yourself, we need it.
Working on a leaflet, you realize that it's not marketing that you like but design. No problem, we've got that for you too :) You'll see it while reading this article all the projects are related to each other and from one area you can jump to another because in fact we are all working together as a community. So design is quite vast and cover several aspects, there is the visual for the site(s) and the marketing material, but also an important part claimed by the product. You need to be a bit specialized to participate to the design of the product but you can always give your feedback as an experienced user. A new dialog box is never perfect at the first shot and you will be the one who will use it every day, so your opinion on usability will help it to reach the quality we aim for. The work is done on a dedicated list and on the wiki, you can also participate to the weekly IRC chat, usually on Saturday.
I said quality, but how can you test the quality of a dialog box before it's in your version ? he he, there is an area where you can put your fingers without any skills at the beginning else than knowing how to use LibreOffice and subscribe to a list. Before you get a version for production use, there is several testing versions that are released. At first, there is daily builds, containing the new patches of the day from developers. Those versions are very unstable but allow us a first check. Then comes the betas, less unstable but still with bugs and possible regressions. Then, after some more testing, comes the Release Candidates (as known as RC) that should resemble at most to the final version. And when we are satisfied with it, the last RC become the final. All along this process, you can become a tester. Installing versions in parallel is not very complicated and playing with your usual functions will help to point any possible bug or regression. You don't need to know how to speak English, reporting a dysfunctional behavior to your language community will be enough. Somebody will pick up your bug, will check if it already exists and will report it if not. Other contributors in the group will check on the different OS if the bug appears too and will give their feedback. On the FR project, we organize also some IRC sessions to speed up the process and work in a closer way. As most of them don't speak English, only 2 or 3 of us are dealing with the bug database, but their help to reproduce and narrow the bug is very important.
In the same way we will experiment filling the bug in another language than English. For example, the QA team in the FR list will check for the bug report in French and once done, one of us able to deal with the bug database will fill the report. No need for this team to know BugZilla, they only need to have a clear representation of the bug life and how it is dealt all along the process. We have translated the QA page on the wiki so the team get all the information to understand. The more they participate, the more they learn and feel happy to improve their skills either on the office suite and in bug chasing :) Speaking about BugZilla, there is a lot to do there, but I will detail this in another post dedicated to QA. Participating to the bug triage, checking for fixes, checking for features request and consolidate them, you see, I can spell a long list of tasks, some difficult or boring, some very interesting, all helping the project and the product to become better. There is also several tools that we are using, some are dedicated for end users like MozTrap, some are more specialized, but all in all it's not a matter of tool.
But, but, if you are interested by the tools we use and find you a curious player with infrastructure running behind this big project, here also we have food for you! As you can see, we have sites, mailing lists, mirrors, wiki, dedicated tools for QA, Localization, Development... a lot to go behind the scene for the day to day life of the project and make it comfortable to each. The work goes from the simple tasks like monitoring the spam on the wiki or moderating mailing list to the administration of the servers we are running. There is already several people here, you don't see them any where, but be sure that their work is highly appreciated by all the community.
What else? no, no I'm not done :) Have you ever heard of l10n? Yes, it's Localization! LibreOffice is available in more than 100 languages, sometimes incomplete or fully translated, sometimes only the UI or the help too. You know it's a big product, with a lot of strings inside and this is the work of the localizer to make it fully understandable for the user. It's quite technical and specialized work, but if you are interested in learning, it's very easy to make suggestions and learn step by step how to become a member of this group. Even easier is to review the localization and make suggestions on your language list. This is what we do in the FR community: I'm translating, and when the translation is integrated to the product, I call on the list for review and our members check for the quality of my translation. With their help, we narrow the best meaning for our users and improve the quality of the product.
There is another area that is not enough developed in our project and I would like to focus on it in the coming weeks. It's internal or cross projects communication. As you can see our project is very diverse, in topics that are dealt with and this in different languages. We need people able to enhance the communication between the different places, some members who like a Griot inform every body of what is happening in the other part of the land. We have a lot to learn from each other but we can only do it if we know what our friends are doing and how they are doing it.
I'll end this post for today and will come back with detailed sections on each area and more on how to participate, so you'll be able to answer my question ;) Did I forget you? Are your contribution not covered by my article? So please, raise your voice, either on a comment or in a private mail at sophie.gautier<at>documentfoundation.org. Even if you want more information or if you don't know how to proceed, don't hesitate to write me. I'm in open source projects for more that 10 years, so I know how counting on each other is important and I'm here to help you.
And I deliberately left out the developers area, they are essential to our project, but I wanted to focus on what we usually don't think about when we speak about software development in open source communities.
As a volunteer of the LibreOffice project for two years now, I would like to thanks all of my colleague contributing every days to this big family. I don't know your names, you're not listed anywhere, but seeing what we are achieving, I know you're there all around me and it's a fantastic story that all your fingers are writing, and a love story to me :-)