How To Start Contributing to OpenTelemetry

Austin Parker
Published in
4 min readOct 24, 2019


This post originally appeared on the LightStep blog.

The strength and durability of any open source project is, quite often, measured by its contributor base. Projects with a large and active community — not just users, but also individuals who give back by opening issues, fixing bugs, writing documentation, and so forth — are generally ones that produce higher quality software. If you’ve been reading about OpenTelemetry then you may be asking yourself how you can get involved. It’s a great question, and it’s also a great time to dig in and start making pull requests during Hacktoberfest (you can get a free t-shirt!), so let me tell you the best way to get started.

Join The Discussion

Nearly all communication related to OpenTelemetry is public, and if you want to get started contributing, then it’s easy to join in the discussion. Every SIG (Special Interest Group) has regular meetings, all of which are published on a public calendar (links to which are as follows: gCal, iCal, web). Recordings of past SIG meetings can be found on our YouTube channel. Want to just dip your toe in on the community in general? Everyone is encouraged to join in the monthly meetings, held on the second Wednesday of every month. You can also join the mailing list to keep track of discussions and questions. The mailing list will publish announcements, project updates, and other important news in an easy-to-follow format. If you just want to chat, check out our Gitter!

Honestly, if all you feel like you can contribute is your awareness, then that’s great! Being aware of what’s happening in the project and making your voice heard about decisions like the API and design of the SDK are valuable — we love hearing from people with experience instrumenting their code for telemetry, or running observability systems. Your expertise not only matters, it can be used to help push the state of the art forward.

Join A SIG

If you’re interested in participating more concretely, then you should think about joining a SIG. We organize our community members that want to work on specific aspects of the project into SIGs by language, or area of interest. For example, if you wanted to help implement the OpenTelemetry API specification into code, you could join the Java or .NET SIG. If you want to debate the finer points of the cross-language specification, then the Specification SIG might be more your speed. If you want to support the community by maintaining the website, then there’s a SIG for that too.

There’s nothing special that you need to do to join a SIG — just drop in to a weekly meeting and go from there!

Your First Contribution

If you’re looking to contribute, then the easiest way to jump in is by doing. Find a repository in the OpenTelemetry organization that you’d like to make a commit to, then make a fork of it into your account. Want to know what to work on? Check the issues tab and filter the list by labels such as “up for grabs” or “good first issue”. These will be some places you can start contributing immediately! Be sure to post in the issue and let a maintainer know that you’re taking the issue for yourself so they can update the issue accordingly.

If you want to add new functionality, it’s generally a good idea to create an issue and discuss it with that SIG’s maintainers first, to make sure that your idea is in line with the overall project goals. You can also create issues in order to report bugs, make suggestions, or give feedback to the SIG maintainers.

You don’t have to limit yourself to contributing code, though. The project needs more examples, sample code, documentation, and other resources to make it as easy to use as possible. You can find issues for building documentation in the website repository that are ready-to-go for Hacktoberfest, with more to come. Finally, you can contribute by communicating about OpenTelemetry itself. Tell your friends! Tell your coworkers! We’re extremely excited about our alpha releases that are coming out over the next few weeks, and would love to get more users to look at them and give their impressions.

So, again, if you want to contribute to OpenTelemetry, there’s three things I’d suggest:

  • Subscribe to the mailing list, join the Gitter, and follow/star the project on GitHub.
  • Check out the public calendar and attend SIG meetings, and/or the monthly community meeting.
  • Open an issue, make a PR, write a tweet, or create some samples that demonstrate how to use OpenTelemetry — anything, and everything, is appreciated!

We’d love to have you, and the community will be better with you being a part of it. See you out there!