by l.m. orchard
Open Source projects are most successful when they attract enthusiastic and capable contributors. But, often the first thing a new contributor to a web development project faces is a README file with a long list of instructions needed to even get the thing running.
And that’s if they’re lucky: Just as often, the necessary documentation is incomplete or missing entirely, leaving a new hacker no way to get involved without investing a lot of time up front.
This is no way to treat potential volunteers; they’re doing us favors by spending time with our projects. In return for their time, we should do the best we can to make our projects accessible and rewarding without unreasonable demands.
To that end, we can use modern tools like VirtualBox, Vagrant, and Puppet to turn walls of text into virtual machines. We can offer simple bootstraps and even bootable disk images to can get new developers started quickly, allowing them to explore a running system rather than demand they understand the complete stack before the first page view.
21st–24th June 2011