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KohaCon10: How to Participate

Oct - 25 - 2010
Nicole C. Engard

I obviously couldn’t blog myself so Ian Walls wrote up my session on the ByWater Solutions blog and I’m going to share it with you here (with his permission).

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A presentation by our very own Nicole Engard.

As Nicole was writing her last book, Practical Open Source Software for Libraries, she did a word cloud on the first few chapters. After “open”, “source” and “software”, the next largest word is “community”. What is the role of the community in Koha? We look out for the best interest of the software, deciding how to move forward with the governance of the project and with the management of the code itself (and related community tools). I say ‘we’, because if you choose to be a part of the community, you are (and I do).

So how do you participate? Just jump in. Everyone has a skill set that can be of use; you don’t have to be a hacker or a power user for your contributions to be valid. Several ways to participate:

  1. Test the System: Install it, try to break it, and share your results. Even if you’re trying to do something that Koha isn’t designed to do, we’ll all now know that someone out there wants to do it, and the community perspective is increased.
  2. Ask Questions: There are no stupid questions, and there are no “mean” people in Koha. We’re all here to help, and the worst response you’ll get is a link to the portion of the manual that answers your query.
  3. Answer Questions: If you have experienced a problem, and found a solution, help the next person to come along and ask. Let others learn from your experience.
  4. Add to the Wiki: Put your SQL reports, JQuery customizations or tutorials on the wiki, even if you think they’d never be of use to anyone outside your library. Chances are, someone else is looking for just that bit of info.
  5. Write Documentation: We manage the manual in the same way we do the code, so EVERYONE can submit and translate. You don’t have to use this tool, you can just email Nicole or the list, whatever your comfort level.
  6. Write Code: you don’t have to be a super-hacker to fix a minor bug or a typo, but Koha needs those things fixed, too. You can become a committer for fixing a single incorrect line!
  7. Attend Meetings: Log into IRC at the agreed upon time and speak your mind. If you don’t speak up, you don’t get to complain that you haven’t been heard.
  8. Educate Others: Share your experiences with those around you, and help to dissipate the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) that is floating around out there about open source in general, or Koha in specific.
  9. Be a Mentor: If you see someone trying to be a part of the community, but running into obstacles, offer to give them the tools to overcome those obstacles. This doesn’t have to be a “sink or swim” experience as one dives into the community.

Nicole also brings up a couple of general practices that apply to all of the above:

  1. Be Honest: Speak the truth as you see it. No, not everyone will agree with you all the time, but withholding the truth will impair the open source process. I would argue this is a good principle for life in general, not just participation in Koha.
  2. Be Transparent: Share what you’re doing, so things don’t fall through the cracks. Publicly comment on what others put out there, so they know whether it’ll meet everyone’s needs. We code openly, so we should discuss openly.

The presentation wraps with the important links:

  • Code & Documentation
  • Bug Reports
  • Mailing list
  • IRC channel
  • Koha on Social Networks

Nicole’s slides for this presentation are available here (PDF format).

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