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    As much as I’d love to donate to projects that I use on the daily, being a student limits me as I don’t earn any money at the moment. Sure, I suppose I could contribute code but I’m just not good enough yet. :’)

    What I can do, however, is promote the project. I love telling others about the different FOSS tools I love and use. Call me a shill, but I’m sure someone, somewhere read my blog post or saw my tweet and checked out the project. Maybe they even donated!

    To others out there in a similar situation as mine – tell others about the free software that you love, write about it, tweet about it. I’m sure the maintainers would appreciate it.

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      Sure, I suppose I could contribute code but I’m just not good enough yet. :’)

      You could contribute something else: Documentation. You know how to read source code. That’s all you need to start writing and improving documentation. Take some pointers from PostgreSQL and OpenBSD what good documentation can be. Then just shove your stuff in there until upstream tells you to go away or accepts it.

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        I suppose I could contribute code but I’m just not good enough yet. :’)

        You’re probably better than you think :). You could fix a small bug that annoys you or add a small feature. The code doesn’t have to be perfect, someone else will review it and provide feedback or alter it slightly it to meet the project’s standards (if it didn’t already).

        Also the code is just one part of the project. Writing documentation is also very important, as is filing feature requests and bug reports. Finally, you could just hang around in the project’s IRC channel to help the occasional noob having trouble using the software.

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          You could fix a small bug that annoys you or add a small feature

          This is really great advice. Small code is easy not to get wrong, and you still get all the benefits of knowing you’ve contributed!

          I’m in a similar boat, as a student without much real-world programming experience, but one of the first (and only) things I contributed was updating a docstring in an Emacs package. I changed maybe two characters, but still know that what I did might have improved the experience for someone using Emacs.

          Start small. There are enough little problems in all the big programs to keep you going :)

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        At some point I decided to not generally give money to open source developers, and - and I agree this sounds bitter - it’s mostly because I never felt really appreciated either. I’ve been doing open source stuff for roughly 15 years now and I can count the thank yous on one hand and the “tangible” benefits. I got one item from an Amazon wishlist once and another time the project got a few bucks in a voucher so we ordered some stuff from a US shop where we usually wouldn’t have.

        That said, I still see it as a zero sum game - I contribute as much as I can, when I have time. As I use 90% open source applications anyway, where would I start? 1 EUR each? Measure usage and donate based on that? And no, that’s probably still a very egoistical point of view, but I’ve seen this too often that only the project lead gets anything at all and all the people who “just” contribute get nothing - and then even the project lead usually can’t sustain living from that alone. I think the only feasible way would be companies giving money, but so far I’ve never been in a position to greenlight money for that :(