Over the years, the process for contributing to projects has gotten easier. Even more recently, it has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to Github.
Case in point. I've been using the twitter bootstrap project for parts of the design of my new company Voost. I like the project a lot. Like millions of other projects, it is hosted on github.
Yesterday, I noticed a small bit of documentation was missing, so I forked the project by clicking a button on the website, created a branch to work on (git checkout -b docadditions), edited the documentation, committed and published my changes and then created a pull request which tells the developers of bootstrap that I have something to contribute:
Mark, one of the developers, who I've never met in my life, was able to take my contributions and combine them with his code by simply clicking a button on the website. Yes, it was that easy.
I also had an enhancement request... so I created an issue...
It was resolved in a few hours with just a small bit of effort. I can then merge his changes into my local fork of the project with a couple easy commands. We stay in perfect sync together.
Bam. That is how collaborative development should work.
As a comparison, in the past, I've done a huge amount of work for the Apache Software Foundation. They have a great open source license, and a huge following. But, they don't use github.
With the ASF, it feels like 1993 again. For each project I want to contribute to, it feels like I'm making a lifetime commitment to that project.
I have to go to the project website and navigate around to figure out how to join a mailing list. This takes several contextual steps in an email client. I need make sure to setup a mail filter to deal with a potentially insane amount of email that I really don't care about. Then, I email a patch to the list (or put it up on gist / pastebin)... and I hope maybe one of the developers might be watching my carefully crafted subject line. Chances are that nobody would respond or the email would get lost, so I'd have to keep nagging people because everyone is busy...
I don't really contribute to the ASF nearly as much anymore.