How to Manage Casual Contributors to Open Source Projects

Increasingly, people want to contribute to projects casually—when they want to, rather than adhering to a schedule. This is part of a broader trend of “episodic volunteering” noted by a wide range of volunteer organizations and governments. This has been attributed not only to changes in the workforce, which leave fewer people able to volunteer with less spare time to share, but also to changes in how people perceive the act of volunteering. It is no longer seen as a communal obligation, rather as a conditional activity in which the volunteer also receives benefits. Moreover, distributed revision-control systems and the network effects of GitHub, which standardize the process of making a contribution, make it easier for people to contribute casually to free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) projects.

Although it may be tempting for communities to focus on habitual contributors and newcomers who may become habitual, there are several reasons to devote attention to casual contributors. First, research has shown that casual code contributors deliver benefits to a FLOSS project.


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