Starting a new Open Source project

Julia McGeoghan
Nov 7, 2018 · 2 min read

I’ve become a contributor/maintainer on a new project built with a group of fellow students. It’s a Github Dashboard and its primary purpose is to work with the Github api to display data relevant to a given user’s account. I’ve created my own repositories before, but this event is notable since it’s the first I’ve begun with others, from scratch.

Nothing is Scary

Starting was daunting; the idea for the project wasn’t fleshed out beyond its basic concept and a few preliminary features. I was staring at an empty repo not yet sure what to do.

I assumed that, to make progress, I needed to meet with other group members to reach some sort of consensus. We would, together, need to determine the languages/frameworks used, each specific feature we wanted, how it would interact with the api, etc, before starting anything. I created a slack group and waited for others to join so we could start planning.

However I ended up being pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t that those things didn’t need to be determined, but that adequate direction could be found by each person brainstorming and contributing ideas through the issue tracker. Everything would be figured out in a more piecemeal fashion from there, with discussion being had in the issue threads themselves.

Planning the First Release

I realized that we needed to determine what our features were for our first release. Taking inspiration from a previous project I worked on, I decided that I’d list out what we’d need, have others eventually add to the list, then organize everything through Github’s ‘Projects’ tab so we could track things more easily and have a good sense of our progress.

An example of a project planned through Github’s ‘Projects’ tab

I didn’t need to ask for permission, didn’t need agreement before hand, I just created an issue for it. Nobody seemed to object to it and I thought it reasonable, so I self assigned it, started the project’s wiki, and began listing goals/features in a new wiki page.

Going Forward

It will be exciting to see where this project will lead. While it’s still in its starting stages and a lot about it is still unknown, as time progresses it should get easier and easier to find momentum.

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