Open source contribution along with your job

Doing open source contribution can be, writing a Node.js module, a PHP library, help fix bugs in another library, or even helping in writing documentation. Suppose, you have written a new module, and it is working and you release it. But then you have to reply to the issues, fix bugs, add new features, do code refactoring, etc. When it comes to maintenance, it becomes difficult. You have to do your work for which you are getting paid for (regular job), spend time with family, spend time for yourself, and maintain the module. Carrying on like this, you don’t get enough time to maintain it, and finally, you lose interest in it.

I too had this problem. And, I found a way.

Use the first hour of every weekday.

I get up around 8:30, so by 10 I am at my working desk. Starting from 10 till 11, that one hour is completely dedicated to open source. I am doing this for around 3 months, and it is helping. I have been working on a Drupal module for these 3 months, giving the first hour every weekday. And, I am seeing the change, the module is in much better condition now. A few days ago, I released the 8.x version of the module.

Why the first hour?

Because that is the hour when your brain is the freshest. You can easily concentrate. For best results, do not open personal or company mail, Slack, etc. Just sit down with a cup of coffee, boot your computer, cd into the directory containing the code, open the editor, and start working on the next feature.

By doing this you will give 5 hours every week to the project. 5 hours is not bad, it is enough to add a new feature over a week, fix bugs and replying to issues.

I got this idea from some of my friends who are also into technology, and they love it.

If your open source project is a library in a language that you know very well, then this first-hour trick will work. But, if your project is more of learning a new language, then the first-hour may not work because you will have to invest more hours in it. In that case, try to take some time during the weekend and learn the language, once you get a good grasp, you can then turn to the first-hour rule.

You can also extend the first-hour to “first two hours”, but that depends entirely on you.

Past experiments

Before, I used to do the exact opposite of what I am doing now. I used to spend the last hour of my day doing open source. It was not possible for me to give the first hour of the day, because, I had to travel to my workplace and attend stand up calls.

At the end of the day, my brain used to be like numb, I can hardly do any logical thinking. The last hour trick never worked for me.

Once you build a project and get it done, the real effort is to maintain it. Normally, the tendency of a developer is always to go for “new and shiny things”, and leave what he is good at. But believe me, you have to resist that temptation :smiley:

If you are lucky then you will get paid for your open source contribution. In my case, Acro Media funded the 8.x release of the Drupal module. But at some point, you have to do it on your own, and that is when the first-hour trick works.

Final words

I am sure, I will be a good maintainer if I carry on like this. The thing is - I am a single man now. And this trick will be put to the real test when I will have a family to look after :smile:


Thanks to Vinit Kumar and Ashish Thakur for their ideas :+1:

Got inspiration from Jeff Geerling. I am amazed the effort he puts to maintain Drupal VM, you create a new issue, and within a day he will reply you. I got the idea of giving 5 hours every week from his blog Why I close PRs (OSS project maintainer notes), although the blog says he invests 5-10 hours every week.


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