Contributor Recognition within the Open Source Community

If you’re here, I’m assuming that you already know what Open Source is. I won’t be talking about how open-source software (OSS) works and who open-source contributors are. Instead, I’ll specifically talk about the need for contributor recognition in the open-source community and how various organizations can follow it. If that’s something that interests you then you should give this one a read. To make sure we’re on the same page, I’ll write it down in the form of questions followed by their answers.

What is contributor recognition?

When I use the term contributor recognition, I am referring to the act of recognizing the efforts of a contributor who, in our case, can be a developer, a designer, or practically any individual who takes out the time to enhance an open-source project.

Why is it important?

Well, in simple words: if someone goes beyond their comfort zone to help you out then they deserve more than just a “thank you!”. It gives them a sense of belongingness, which benefits the organization in long term. How? Well, for starters: they stick to the organization and popularise their projects within the tech community. I understand that OSS brings with it an overload of experiences and learnings for the contributor, however, in the end, if that experience doesn’t help them in their career then it’s not being put to its full use. If you are just using volunteers to get your work done without giving them anything in return then I would say it is not very different from the exploitation of human resources.

How can an organization follow contributor recognition?

Of course, there exist a countless number of ways to recognize somebody’s efforts, but you need to make up your mind regarding the degree to which you want to express it. Goes without saying that the degree also corresponds to the quality and quantity of contributions made by the contributor. Github does a pretty good job of quantifying an individual’s contributions. Your work would be to check if the work done qualifies as a valuable contribution. Based on stats and your observations, you can follow some of these contributor recognition practices:-

🥉 First (1st) degree:
Github Org Invitation: Send them an organization member invitation on Github. (Something that FOSSASIA is pretty popular for.)
Contributors.md: a markdown file that lists down all the contributors and their work in a single place. Allcontributors.org does a pretty good job of automating it.

🥈 Second (2nd) degree:
SWAGs: If you’re a company that can afford to deliver courier packages internationally, then you should consider sending out a bunch of contributor SWAGs. It also acts as an advertisement strategy.
Wall of Fame: If you have an organization website, you could create a Wall of Fame section which lists down all the top contributors’ names and media links. This not only gives them a sense of achievement but also exposes their contributions to potential employers. You could gamify the experience by sending out gift cards or vouchers to the top contributor of the month. Letter of Recommendation: If you’re maintaining a Github project and feel like someone has gone above your expectations, write them an official Letter of Recommendation appreciating their constant work. If you’re not very comfortable with an official LOR, you also have the option to give them a LinkedIn Recommendation.

🥇 Third (3rd) degree:
Hire them: If you’re a company that can afford to hire them, then please do. Send them an internship/part-time job/full-time job offer. Don’t wait for them to write you a huge-ass email begging you to hire them. If you feel like they deserve it, just send it.
Pay them: As a friendly gesture or gratitude for their services, you could pay them through platforms like Github Sponsors, Buy Me a Coffee, Patreon, etc. This makes them feel really special.

Be humane and express your gratitude, the right way! 🙌

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