Open Source Design 500

A well‑received list of 500 influential open‑source projects openly seeking help from designers. A side product of many months of researching the best way to get involved in open source as a designer.
Open Source Design 500 on a screenshot

I wanted to get involved in open source, but I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t want to work on just any open‑source project. I wanted to work on a project that would have an impact.

Most open‑source projects are developed on GitHub. Projects are called “repositories” on GitHub. GitHub has a feature where users can star repositories. This is how GitHub describes stars:

You can star repositories to keep track of projects you find interesting and discover similar projects in your news feed.

Starring a repository makes it easy to find again later. […]

Starring a repository also shows appreciation to the repository maintainer for their work.

In the absence of better alternatives, I allowed myself to assume that the number of stars could serve to measure the impact of a project.

Things to do in GitHub projects are called “issues.” GitHub has a search engine. Is it possible to do a GitHub search for current issues labeled “ux,” “ui,” or “design” and sort them according to the number of stars awarded to their projects?

No.

I learned what I needed to learn and wrote a program that compiles a list of all such projects.

The first version

The first version of the program contained an error. An error that made incorrect lists look authentic. As a result, projects in created lists were unattractive. I carefully analyzed all the projects in the generated list and decided the idea with the “stars,” “issues,” and GitHub was a dead end—I couldn’t find a single project I wanted to help.

The mistake

After half a year, something made me come back to the topic. I did so with a fresh mind and enhanced patience, noticed the mistake from earlier, corrected it, analyzed the generated list, found some interesting items on it, and decided that it was worth investing some time and energy into this endeavor.

Serendipity

While working on this application, I came across an open‑source map editor, which I proceeded to help.

freeCodeCamp

Since I had learned about the power of publishing on Medium, I wanted to publish something on the freeCodeCamp publication—one of the largest publications on the entire website. I thought a list like Fortune 500 with open‑source projects seeking help from designers would be an interesting way to present the data I had collected. The gross revenue of most open‑source projects is unknown, so I decided to sort them by stars on GitHub. And thus, the idea for Open Source Design 500 was created.

I prepared the text and sent it to freeCodeCamp. I received an auto‑response email informing me that freeCodeCamp receives a lot of texts for publication, it takes a lot of time for them to review the texts, and to please refrain from asking about the status of submission. A month passed. No response.

For me, when I care about something, a month of silence on the other side isn’t a reason to give up. I wrote to the founder of freeCodeCamp. He answered the next day:

Thanks for your extreme patience. […] This article is great, and I think it will be really interesting for designers who want to contribute to open source.

Quincy Larson
Founder of freeCodeCamp

A day later, someone from freeCodeCamp published the text.

Results

The article was well‑received. I got to know a few interesting people from different parts of the world. And I achieved my goal: I wrote a valuable text that got published on freeCodeCamp.

Thank you for your timeEnjoy the rest of your day
© Gregory Wolanski