Being a Small-Time Software Contributor–Non-Developers Included

OpenWayback

At the IIPC General Assembly 2015, we
heard a call for contributors to IIPC relevant software projects (e.g. OpenWayback and Heritrix). We imagined what we could accomplish if every member institution could contribute half a developer’s heritrix-logotime to work on these tools. As individuals though, we are part of the IIPC because of the institutions for which we work. The tasks dealt by our employers come first, not always leaving an abundance of time for external projects. However, there are several ways to contribute on a smaller scale (not just committing code).

How To Help

1. Provide user support for OpenWayback and Heritrix

Join the openwayback-dev list and/or the Heritrix list, and answer questions when you can.

2. Log issues for software problems

github-social-codingAnytime you notice something isn’t working as expected in a piece of software, report the issue. For projects like OpenWayback and Heritrix that are on GitHub, creating an account to enable reporting issues is easy. If you aren’t sure if the problem warrants opening an issue, send a message to the relevant mailing list.

3. Follow issues on the OpenWayback and Heritrix GitHub repositories

Check issue trackers regularly or “Watch” GitHub repositories to receive issue updates via email. If you see an issue for a bug or new feature relevant to your institution, comment on it, even if only to say that it is relevant. This helps the developers prioritize which issues to work on.

watch_github_repo
https://github.com/iipc/openwayback

4. Test release candidates

When a new distribution of OpenWayback is about to be released, the development group sends out emails asking for people to test the release distribution candidates. Verify whether the deployment works in your environment and use cases. Then report back.

5. Contribute to documentation

For any web archiving project, if you find documentation that is lacking or unclear, report it to the maintainers, and if possible, volunteer to fix it.

6. Contribute to code

OpenWayback currently has several open issues for bugs and enhancements. If you find an issue of interest to you and/or your institution, notify others with a comment that you want to work on it. View the contribution guidelines, and start contributing. OpenWayback and Heritrix are happy to get pull requests.

7. Review codeBinary code

When others submit code for potential inclusion into a project’s master code branch, volunteer to review the code and test it by deploying the software with the changes in place to verify everything works as expected.

 8. Join the OpenWayback Developer calls

If you are interested in contributing to OpenWayback, these calls keep you informed on the current state of development. The group is always looking for help with testing release candidates, prioritizing issues, writing documentation, reviewing pull requests, and writing code. Calls take place approximately every three weeks at 4PM London time, there is also a Google Groups list, email the IIPC PCO to join.

9. Solicit development support from your institution

Non-developers have a great role in the development effort. Encourage technical staff you work with to contribute to software projects and help them build time into their schedules for it. If you are not in a position to do this, lobby the people who can grant some of your institution’s developer time to web archiving projects.

What You Get Back

Collaborating on web archiving projects isn’t just about what you contribute. The more you follow mailing lists and issue trackers and the more you work with code and its deployment, the better your institution can utilize the software and keep current on the direction of its development.

If your institution doesn’t use OpenWayback or Heritrix, the above ways of helping apply to many other web archiving software projects. So get involved where you can; you don’t have to fix everything.

lauren_koLauren Ko
Programmer, Digital Libraries Division, UNT Libraries

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