Joining Sugar on a Stick

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This page is for people new to the Sugar on a Stick community who are wondering how to get started in helping with the project.

What do you want to learn?

If you already know what you want to work on, skip straight to introducing yourself. If you'd like to help but aren't sure what you can do, we can help you figure that out. In the open source community, we tend to help people come up with their own ideas of what they would like to do rather than simply giving them a job assignment from the start, since we've found that people tend to do better at the things they're interested in.

For most new contributors, the most important thing is not necessarily what you already know how to do, but what you're interested in being able to do - what do you want to accomplish, and what do you want to learn? We love new contributors, and are always willing to teach others in the community what we know, because the more people we have helping out, the more progress we can all make towards accomplishing our goals.

Alternatively, what do you already know that you would like to teach the rest of the Sugar on a Stick community? If you know how to set up a test system and notice we don't have one, or think we could improve our outreach to teachers by mentioning state standards, or want to run a small online workshop on curriculum design, that's a great place to start as well.

Make a list of things you'd like to learn or teach; don't worry about being too formal about it, we're not going to hold you to this list forever, we're just looking for a starting place. Spend 5-10 minutes writing down things that interest you right now.

What do you want to do?

Based on what you'd like to learn (or teach), take a look at the list of things you can do and see if there's something that fits, and come up with your own ideas for a first small concrete goal. Some examples:

  • Attend a deployment meeting on IRC, which means figuring out how to use IRC as a new (to me) chat system.
  • Learn enough Python to add a feature to an Activity.
  • Figure out what hardware I would need to run a pilot at my local school.
  • Learn how to package my favorite Activity that isn't already on Sugar on a Stick.
  • Write a lesson plan for using Sugar on a Stick to teach 4th graders multiplication, and have at least one teacher in the community try it out and give feedback.
  • Anything else you can think of.

Take another 5-10 minutes to up with a few ideas.

Introduce yourself!

Now it's time to tell the Sugar on a Stick community your ideas, so we can start working with you on your projects! We use OpenHatch for welcoming and coordinating new volunteer efforts, so here's what you'll want to do.

  1. Go to the Sugar on a Stick project on OpenHatch and click the I want to help! button, which will prompt you to create an OpenHatch account if you don't already have one. This will help us figure out who's new to the Sugar on a Stick community, so we can help you get started.
  2. Join the Sugar on a Stick mailing list, then email an introduction, so we know who you are. Some things you may want to include:
    1. Your name, what you do, how you found out about Sugar on a Stick, and why you're interested in helping.
    2. The list of what you want to learn
    3. The list of what you want to do
  3. Within a week or so, someone will probably reply to your introduction and give feedback on your ideas and generally help you get started. (If you don't get a response within a week, feel free to email the list again.)
  4. If you know how to join IRC channels, join the #sugar channel on and start asking questions. Stick around; it may take up to 10 minutes for someone to respond to your question (we're often in the middle of something else and may not be able to answer your question right away) - or folks may be sleeping and not there to answer questions at all, in which case come back at a different time and try again. (If you don't know how to use IRC yet, don't worry! We'll teach you.)

A sample template for an introduction email is below - feel free to use this, or to make your own.

Hi, my name is _________________ and I live in _______________ (location or timezone). My IRC nick is __________. (OR: I am new to IRC and would like help getting started!)

I learned about the Sugar on a Stick through ___________, and am interested in joining because _________.

This is the first FOSS project I have worked on! (OR: I've worked in open source and/or Free Software in the past. Some of the projects I've worked on, or communities I've been involved with, include: ____________________.)

Some of the stuff I know how to do, and would like to do or teach for Sugar on a Stick:

  • something you know how to do
  • something else you know how to do

I'd like to learn these things:

  • something you'd like to learn
  • something else you'd like to learn

And a few first project ideas I had:

  • something you'd like to do
  • something else you'd like to do

When I'm not working on Sugar on a Stick, I am _________ at ________________. (Studying at this school, working at this company, pursuing this hobby.)

I am wondering about ________________. (What questions do you have?)

(And then put anything else you'd like to talk about here!)

Please help me get started!

Get started!

You don't need to wait for a reply, further instructions, or permission to start working on the project(s) you've proposed or to tackle an existing task. Figure out what you think the first step should be, start doing it, and email the mailing list either...

  • When you'd like people to join in and help you do it
  • When you're stuck, and have spent more than 15 minutes trying to figure out what to do next
  • When you're finished (or at a point where you have something that you're proud of and would like to share and get feedback on).

One of the cultural mantras in open source is "be bold." There's not much that you can do that can't be undone - in other words, making mistakes is great, because we've set things up so that mistakes are fixable so we can make them and learn from them. We would rather you do something than wait for permission. Our culture doesn’t run on permission, it runs on people recognizing something needs doing, then doing it. If you feel you have found something worth doing, please go ahead and do it. And encourage others to be bold while you are at it. (Thanks to Karsten Wade for this text.)

What are you waiting for? Get started!