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“I don’t know where to start.” Sound familiar? Read on.

When asking contributors what the most challenging thing for them was when starting out on their open source journey, we started to notice some common frustrations that many have faced at some point or another.


Emilie Blum for OnlyDust ⭐. An open-source newbie that is learning more and more everyday!

Hi you 👋 future open-source buddy!

So you are intrigued by the endless possibilities that open source can offer you, but are having doubts about how to go about it? Don’t worry, you are not alone. Many before you have felt that initial hesitation.

When asking contributors what the most challenging thing for them was when starting out on their open source journey, we started to notice some common frustrations that many have faced at some point or another.

Whilst it’s true that it’s not always easy to embark on a new project, often times in a completely new ecosystem, there are ways to make the process much less tiresome.

It is also a great reminder for those in the open-source world that we still have quite a bit of improving to do to make the journey more fluid.

“Where do I even begin?”

😅. It’s true, the open-source ecosystem is huge and more often than not, hard to navigate. Especially if you are coming from a Web2 background and are starting to explore Web3. You’ve got a new language to learn, projects change rapidly and sometimes it can feel daunting to onboard onto a large codebase.

Contributors that have been faced with similar situations recommend to first start exploring ecosystems that you would be interested in.

The key is to be patient in the process.

GitHub is of course one of the most common places to explore projects, but also following influencers in your field of interest or having a look at forums, social media channels can help in discovering ideas.

OnlyDust has also very often come up as a platform that is greatly appreciated by newcomers (yay!) 🥳. Because we offer a direct entry point to explore exciting projects across multiple ecosystems that are of high quality (and that are looking for contributors), many are happy with this experience which not only saves a lot of time, but also a lot of tears 😉.

Another way in is to get recommendations from someone that you know.

A few contributors that we have talked with have said that they found a first project to contribute to thanks to someone who recommended it to them.

Others have discovered projects thanks to events that they have been invited to attend. So talk to your fellow friends or teammates, you never know what you might find!

“Ok, found a project, now what?”

🙈. Maintainers, this is where you come in.

A very common frustration encountered by new contributors is not knowing how to get started on a project. Whether it’s the lack of documentation, lack of a clear onboarding process or difficulty understanding which issues are good to start on, there are a lot of obstacles that can be solved from the get go.

Project leads have a very high responsibility to provide good and comprehensive documentation in order to help guide new members. Below is an example from a project found on OnlyDust - Kakarot - that provides detailed documentation on how to get started and background info on the project, which is very helpful for a newcomer.

Without clear documentation, it is often difficult for new contributors to know how to begin contributing and can be a waste of time to find all the necessary ressources. It is therefore highly recommended that maintainers prioritise structuring clear guides to ease the onboarding process. This also goes for organising issues and making sure to label them in different categories in order to make the process of contributions more smooth.

Now, when there is clear documentation and guidelines, experienced contributors advice newbies to take time to read the docs and tutoring repos if there are some available.

On OnlyDust, we highly encourage projects to highlight ways to reach out to them. You will either find this by looking at the contact details of the project leads, or under the "more info" part, you will normally find a telegram group, discord or their website which gives instructions on how to begin.

It is also recommended to reach out to project leads or the community if you have doubts or questions. Although it can be scary at first, many contributors find that in the open-source world, people are very supportive. But sometimes (not always), it can be difficult to get a hold of maintainers…

“How can I reach out to project leads?”

😬.Now that a new contributor has explored projects, found one that they’d like to start on, they are faced with another hurdle: getting hold of a project lead.

Argh, how frustrating!

It is not necessarily because project leads aren’t open to responding, but it is also because sometimes there are no contact details provided. So maintainers - please do provide a means of contact!


And please try to be receptive.

If there are contact details, but you still don’t have a response, try contacting them through other communication channels. Sometimes, you will see a few different contact details (Twitter, Telegram, Discord, e-mail), it is worth trying them all if there is no response from one channel. Oftentimes project leads prefer one sort of communication channel and may not have seen that you contacted them through another way.

Some contributors have also highlighted the frustration of not being able to reach out to get feedback or a PR review. This is quite unfortunate because it leaves contributors hanging and it can be discouraging. If there is still no response, either try to chat with team members in the group for more information, or simply move on… it just means that the project isn’t right for you at this time.

So maintainers - do watch out for this! If possible, try to organise a process where newcomers can be properly guided. It can only be a positive for the project.

“Is the community supportive?”

🤗. This is more of a fear than a challenge, but equally important. Quite a number of contributors that we have engaged with have wondered when starting out whether they would be able to contact other members easily and whether they will be able to get help if needed.

From what we see in our community and ecosystems is that newcomers do not need to fret! The open-source world is very supportive. Many contributors find that when they start their open-source journey they are usually met with welcoming support and some are pleasantly surprised to realise that the community is very friendly.


Of course, it helps when projects foster a nurturing community and make sure that their onboarding process is helpful. Many project leads make it their priority to have an engaging community where inputs by members are highly valued. We will publish an article soon that shows how cool most of the project leads in the community are and what they do to welcome newcomers, so stay tuned!

It is therefore important when starting out to take a look at a project’s community to see if you will fit in. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there (easier said than done, we know) and ask questions or interact with others. You will find that many are more than happy to share a good laugh or help if needed.

And finally: “Is it possible to get rewarded?”

🤩. We’d like to say, yes it is!

Having discussed with a number of contributors, we are aware that many struggle to find the right balance between contributing, because they are passionate about the project, and getting compensation, because let’s face it, we all have bills to pay.

And unfortunately, it is a challenge that is hard to overcome.

But because we understand that it may be difficult to find projects that have budgets or a clear process on how to reward contributions, we strive at OnlyDust to make this practice very straightforward for both project leads and contributors.

One of the features that is greatly appreciated by our members is the fact that as project lead you can easily reward a contributor in just a click, and as a contributor, you just receive it without having to do anything special (other than of course when you sign up to include your bank account details).

If more and more projects and tools could be more transparent in how they handle contributions and rewards, it can help eliminate this “pain point” many contributors encounter.

OnlyDust is a platform that helps connect developers with the most exciting open-source projects. The added bonus? A strong community and rewards for contributions.