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I have known Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) for many years, but I have never made up my mind to participate and become a contributor since I always had thousands of excuses such as “I don’t have time” “I don’t have enough skills”.
When I learned about there is a kind of remote and paid internship with mentoring and aims to contribute to FOSS, I screamed in my mind and was thinking Outreachy is definitely what I need. What I was most excited about is I would be guided by experienced contributors that make me less scared. I decided at that moment to make my best effort to seize this opportunity.
Pick 2 projects
For me, I would like to pick projects which best match the skills I have and I could learn new things as well. At first, I paid attention to projects that listed Python as the required skills since Python is a programming language that I am most familiar with and I have been working on some research using Python at school. That got me 18 projects (a lot!). Then, I read project descriptions one by one to narrow down. In the end, I chose two projects that are from Wikimedia and Mozilla. They are:
#1 Wikimedia – “A system for releasing data dumps from a classifier detecting unsourced sentences in Wikipedia”
- Python or Java
- Machine learning
#2 Mozilla – “Finding Representative Users of Prerelease Firefox”
- Comfortable with Python or R. Needs to comfortable with data manipulation.
- Understanding of statistical inference and/or machine learning.
From the skill described, both projects require applicants to have Python skills and an understanding of machine learning.
After choosing which projects to apply for, the important next steps are
- Join the project chat right away
- Figure how to contribute to the project
Joining the project chat gets me in touch with the project mentors and also the latest announcement from mentors. It may need some time to set up and get familiar with the UI depending on what communication platform the community used.
Mozilla uses Gitter as the project’s chat that is easy to use and supports both web and mobile apps. Wikimedia uses IRC and Phabricator. IRC is mysterious to me with its old-fashion chatroom interface. It took me a whole day to install client software for it on Mac and figure out how to register my nickname and then I found I can just use a web client freenote (it automated disconnect though). Phabricator is a platform with an interface like a forum not only used for communication but also for project management and task tracking.
The way to contribute to the project during the contribution period is varied from project to project. Most of the blog posts I read from past interns mentioned the process is to read the codebase, pick an issue, work on the issue, initiate a pull request, and get it merged. However, my experience applying for Mozilla and Wikimedia projects is different. Instead, mentors announced several programming tasks for applicants. All applicants worked on the same task and encouraged to ask questions on the public chat if facing any difficulty and encouraged applicants who know a solution to help them.
Many people would like to ask how to stand out among other applicants in the contribution period. I provided the following “strategies”:
- Pick your projects the sooner the better
In this way, you can quickly get into the swing of things and determined the individual tasks you need to complete for each project and prioritize them wisely.
- Be active on the public chat
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and also give help as best you can. I answered a model-installation question and also made a small documentation improvement on the project repo. These actions all required me to communicating with other applicants or mentors. I felt awkward at first because I didn’t have such chances very often before.
- Stay curious on your project
After completing the tasks requested by mentors, I continued to think about the project and read related work, materials and codes. That made me have a clearer image of how to accomplish the project and easier to fill in a timeline in my final application.
In my case, I only submitted a final application for Wikimedia’s project because I was screened out for Mozilla’s project at the first step in the middle of October. However, that makes me pay full attention to Wikimedia’s project.
After submitting the final application, there are about twenty days to wait for the result announcement. I browsed more information about the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia research team. The more I know, the more I love the community and more passionate about the project I applied to. I learned about 2030 Wikimedia’s strategic direction that sets the goals for the community: Knowledge as a service and Knowledge equity.
In this period, I would suggest applicants to:
- Keep getting in touch with the community
Not only keep following the community chat but also I attended the monthly Wikimedia research showcase to know more other on-going projects in the community.
- Make a self-introduction letter to mentors
I wrote an email to mentors that talked about why I want to apply for the project and introduce my background and what makes me best qualified as the intern for the project.
A journey begins
On the 26th of November at 00:00 UTC+8, I got the happiest message of the year: I am accepted as a Wikimedia intern in Outreachy! Thanks for my mentors Miriam Redi, Guilherme Gonçalves and Sam Walton for choosing me and really grateful to have this opportunity. I am so excited to start my journey with Wikimedia during the 3-month internship. Lastly, stay tuned for more posts about my Outreachy internship in Wikimedia. 😀