The best way for any individual to help is simply to participate. Join something, or if you're feeling inspired (and no one's doing it already), start something! After all, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) exists because the FOSS software user is the developer. In many cases, the user becomes the developer, because FOSS ensures that they have that right. It can be empowering, exhilirating, or scary, and sometimes all three.
Getting involved doesn't necessarily mean becoming a programmer (although we certainly encourage that - anyone can program. It just takes a bit of enthusiasm, and some free and open source software!). Other ways you can get involved include:
- have a look at some of the Free and Open Source software services we host and make available - these are all available at no cost, although in some cases you may need to request that an account is created for you (we have issues with spam accounts...). Some of these might inspire you to want to learn more and/or use more FOSS...
- join our live NZOSS Chat, check out the various channels for something that interests you, and start listening and talking to people. That's participating.
- sign up for an NZOSS mailing list - OpenChat is the main one, but there are special interest lists, too. Develop an understanding of the issues we, as a community, face and find interesting. If you're interested, too, then participate! We're a diverse bunch, but drawn together by our interest in building community (we're pretty friendly).
- for collaboration in real life, join one of our meetups! They're currently going in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.
- use free and open source software. Start small, see how you go. If you like it, and the opportunities it provides, explore a bit more. That's how all of us got into it.
Before you know it, you'll find yourself doing helpful things like
- organising or helping with events,
- advocating free and open source software to government and businesses (starting with your employer),
- teaching others (join or start a CodeClub at your local primary school to teach FOSS to kids!),
- contributing documentation or bug reports to FOSS projects that interest you,
- and before you know it, you might even find yourself "cutting some code" (writing software)!
When it comes down to it, FOSS is really just a software-focused manifestation of what every child learns in kindergarten (if not before): "share and share alike". It's a good lesson to learn in general, and (contrary to many people's expectations) it's produced an incredible amount of great software.