But at the same time, I’m a bit disappointed. Some of the students that I talked to about applying never bothered to put in a submission. It seems a bit weird to me that after punching through that first psychological barrier of getting into a text chat channel, people still manage to convince themselves that it’s not worth applying. I mean, the worst that can happen is you’d be turned down; what’s the big deal?
I see this around in general. I bug people a bit about contributing to this or that project that they use all the time, or people come to me asking how they can become a better programmer and I tell them they should find an open source project and contribute. (Seriously, what a great way to build your resume. For free!) And I get back weird answers like “I’m not good enough” or “I wouldn’t want to have people relying on me and then I’d let them down.” I can see how it would be intimidating to try and get started on an enormous existing codebase, but it’s not like a project is going to suddenly fall over because some contributed a flaky patch. The way it really works (at least in GeoServer) is that you make some changes. You show them to someone who’s already familiar with the code. If the code is good, it goes in. If not, we’ll give you some advice on how to make it acceptable and you can try again. Even before someone is contributing directly to the project they can be learning, see how that works?
So, to sum up: if you are thinking about contributing to an open source project, go ahead and do it!