Code-In with coala

Over the past few years I’ve become an avid supporter of FOSS and the open-source community, and it became a goal of mine to start contributing to the open-source world. Google Code-In seemed like the perfect opportunity to help me achieve this goal (and much sooner than I thought!), so I signed up without hesitation.

Once the contest began, I had to choose my first task. I picked a task from coala because, well, I thought “coala” was a cute name. coala is a handy tool that can lint and often fix problems in your source code. They have a very helpful guide for newcomers too, making it easy for anyone to get started with contributing.

My first task was a coding task, but the process of using git and creating tests proved far tougher than writing the main piece of code. I made a lot of mistakes in these areas, and didn’t do things quite the way I should have been doing them, but with some help from my mentors my work was eventually merged, and I had made my first contribution. Success!

Almost a month later, and I’ve completed an array of different tasks and learnt a ton of new stuff. School, exams and other priorities meant I couldn’t dedicate as much time as I would have liked to Code-In, but I made sure to attempt a variety of different tasks in different areas. Naturally, I encountered difficulties on almost every task — there was a lot of time spent meticulously reading through source code in an attempt to understand things, and I lost count of the number of times I had to ask for extensions. These difficulties are of course key to improving and amongst other things, I’ve finally got the hang of git, I’ve dabbled with graphics and regex for the first time, and (after several run-ins with coala’s linting bears) I’ve learnt to write cleaner and better code.

But I think the most important things I have learnt come from the experience of working within a real-life organisation. The process I had to go through in order to understand and build upon existing code taught me a lot, and using various tools to complete my tasks has given me valuable practical skills and knowledge that will no doubt be helpful in the future.

I’m incredibly grateful to the mentors at coala for providing very detailed and justified feedback where necessary, answering questions and helping me to resolve any problems. Working with such knowledgeable and friendly people has been extremely rewarding, and I hope to continue contributing to the organisation.

Finally, I’d like to thank Google for making this wonderful experience possible. I’m a little sad that I didn’t find out about GCI sooner as I’ll be too old to participate again next year, but nonetheless, I have had a lot of fun and look forward to diving deeper into the world of OSS!

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