So you like FreeBSD?Just by being here demonstrates that you’re interested enough about FreeBSD to read FreeBSD articles. That’s a good start.
Many people who start using FreeBSD quickly become very enthusiastic about it. You can see it in their eyes when they talk about the things they can do with FreeBSD. This excitement is especially evident in people who have never used a unix system before. They find they can do things they never thought *they’d* be able to do. And these things are pretty amazing when you think about it. Imagine being able to run a webserver from your home. Now that’s impressive! And what’s amazing is that all of that software is totally free!
I have no doubt that some of you are now sneering and scoffing at my example. I can hear it now: "Running a webserver? Bah. That’s easy!". You lot should listen up (the rest of you already know what I’m talking about). You cynics have forgotten what it was like the first time you got Apache running. Back in the deep dark recesses of your past is a significant event. If you can recall it, you’ll remember it with a huge sense of accomplishment. You were grinning from ear to ear. Chances are, you told someone that you just got your webserver running. It didn’t matter that it was still displaying the default Apache screen. You had a webserver! Achievements such as that go a long way to building self-confidence. It’s also what drove you on to become the FreeBSD person that you are. It is such milestones which actually pave the path of learning and exploration. These events, which in retrospect seem trivial, form a very important part of the FreeBSD advocacy movement.
People who retain that enthusiasm go on to influence other people. When they notice that their friends might find FreeBSD useful, they encourage them to try it. They give away their old CDROMs for others to use. They lend a hand when it comes to helping someone install FreeBSD for the first time. These people are priceless. They are the people who help out in IRC channels, answer messages on mailing lists, post messages to news sites, and write little how-to articles for others to read. The importance of these efforts cannot be overstated. But far too often these actions are dismissed or ignored.
Many people think they have nothing to contribute to FreeBSD. They can’t code. They can’t write HTML. They think they don’t have the technical knowledge to answer questions on the mailing lists. They lack either the confidence or skills to write an article. In general, they can’t see any way to give something back. But they can. And it’s easy.
Many of these people who retain that initial enthusiasm want to tell others about FreeBSD. And they do. They tell their family, their friends, and the people they know on IRC. They show enthusiasm and excitement. That gets other people interested. And that is how these supposedly unskilled FreeBSD users can contribute to the FreeBSD community. By introducing others to the FreeBSD community, you are providing one of the most sought after resources: new recruits. Do not underestimate the value of introducing someone to FreeBSD.
Neither The FreeBSD Diary nor FreshPorts would exist if it wasn’t for Jay Montilla introducing me to FreeBSD. Of course, Jay didn’t have those websites in mind when he loaned me his CDs. But he liked FreeBSD, was enthusiastic about it, and told me about it when I mentioned I wanted to create a gateway for my internet connection at home. The rest of the story you know already. So, if you look at it that way, Jay is the person we have to thank for those websites. Without his initiative, they would not exist. Jay probably hasn’t thought about this before, but now it’s time I pointed it out to him.
So you (yes, you!) can contribute to the FreeBSD community with one easy step: tell someone about it. You don’t have to become an op in an IRC channel. You don’t have to create a website. You don’t have to write code. You don’t have to be a committer. And no, you don’t have to be on the core team. You, anyone, can contribute. It’s that easy.