As a Racker who works on the communications side of a very technical business, I know just how challenging it can be to contribute to the open source conversation. Sometimes the best way to stay relevant with developers, architects and designers is to dive headfirst into the projects that keep them busy.

OpenStack, for example, is a great place to start.

To date, more than 2,100 developers have contributed to OpenStack—and there’s still plenty of room for both technical and less technical folks to join the community.  There’s always a need for programmers who can write code and testers who can try to break it. Testers are also useful for reporting issues and reviewing incomplete bugs. But the developers and testers need help—they can’t build the community by themselves.

This year’s Summit showed that there’s a greater number of operators, cloud builders and maintainers who are getting more actively involved in OpenStack. There’s a need for gardeners, who can increase comments in code, reduce pylint violations and increase code coverage.

Documentation is also hugely important. There are lots of opportunities for folks with an eye for detail to write documentation and then review other writers’ drafts for bugs. User experience designers are needed to design new features and review existing features as a user. Security specialists are useful for identifying security issues and fixing code. And because the OpenStack community comes from more than 100 countries, we need bilingual contributors who can translate user interfaces, documentation and messages.

So if you want to be an OpenStack contributor, where do you begin? Yesterday afternoon, three Rackers—Iccha Sethi, developer; Angela Streeter, cloud technology instructor; and Egle Sigler, principal architect—explained it best in a breakout session at OpenStack Summit Atlanta. Before you can contribute documentation or code, you’ll need to set up a few accounts:

Launchpad is a publicly available bug tracking and release tool used for process management. This is how the web interface for the Gerrit Code Review system will identify you.

Gerrit is a code review system and framework for reviewing—you guessed it—code before it is accepted into the code base.

The OpenStack documentation and code is maintained in a GitHub repository.

The next step is to join the OpenStack Foundation, which will help you establish yourself as a member of the OpenStack community. You’ll be asked to sign a Contributor’s License Agreement, which helps the Foundation keep track of the number of contributions made by your company.

From there, you’ll need to identify a pain point (or, in other words, find some work to do). How do you want to contribute to the community? Scroll through the OpenStack website, pick up a book on open source or work with your colleagues to identify a feature or function that could be improved.

Then get to work. Create a local git branch based on master. Create a single commit based on your local branch. Make a patch using git review that’s pushed to Gerrit. Wait for reviews (and, in the meantime, feel free to work on other patches). Address the reviews and make any necessary changes to fix your code or documentation. And finally, encourage two core members to approve your work. Once this is done, you can officially call yourself an OpenStack contributor.

Even if you’re not interested in writing code, remember that there are still many ways for you to contribute to the community. You can write documentation or help bring the open source message to market. You can test or translate, and stabilize or secure.

And if the power of community doesn’t motivate you, then maybe this will: All OpenStack contributors receive a free pass to the next OpenStack Summit, which takes place November 3 through November 8 in Paris.

Rackspace specialists will host a number of talks and sessions throughout OpenStack Summit Atlanta May 12 through May 16. Here’s a full lineup of our Summit activities.

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