Development Sprints: A New Attendee Guide

Every year at DjangoCon US, we have Development Sprints (colloquially known as “sprints”). And every year, there’s someone who’s never heard of what they are or why they should attend. THIS is for you!

What? (In the ancient days of FLOSS…)

Sprints are most common around Free/Libre Open Source Software, or FLOSS projects. Most of these projects (like Django and Python) are built and maintained by a community of volunteers. These volunteers work together while being spread around the world. Conferences like DjangoCon US presented rare occasions for groups of these developers to be in the same place at the same time. And thus were born: Development Sprints!

Over time, these core developers realized sprints provided them an opportunity to help find new contributors. And that’s where YOU come in.

Why you should attend sprints

Sprints provide an opportunity for new contributors to make their first contributions while being able to get support or guidance from the project maintainers. They’re also an opportunity for developers to get exposure to the software engineering practices used on large projects.

What should I sprint on?

It’s up to you. We don’t know all the projects that are going to be having sprints, but we’ll have time at the conference for sprint groups to make an announcement. Alternatively, you can sprint on your own personal projects, while surrounded by your fellow developers and aspiring developers. It’s not a bad time to work on learning something new, while you’ve got plenty of potential help nearby.

Common concerns about attending sprints

  • I’m not a good enough developer to sprint/work on Project X.
    • All levels of developers are welcomed, encouraged and needed to sprint. Most projects have tasks that are designed for new developers, as well as people who’ll help you get started.
  • But I just started learning Python/Django/coding AT DjangoCon US!
    • If you’re worried about being a complete coding novice, there’s also documentation to contribute to. As a beginner, your views on documentation are especially valuable. If a true beginner can’t get started with the beginner documentation, it needs to be fixed. But the only way to know that is to have a beginner look at it and help clarify it.
    • Don’t forget about other skills you may have. Some documentation needs to be translated into other languages. You may be able to help with that. Each project has unique needs that you may be able to address.
  • I’m scared people will think I don’t know what I’m doing.
    • Most of us are. But people who attend sprints are very happy to help new contributors, no matter their skill level. Remember, you’re volunteering to help them. So, they want you to succeed. And if you’re still too uncomfortable, remember, you can also work on your own projects or tutorials. You can also observe the sprints during Day 1, then jump in on Day 2.

This year, we’re pleased to offer a Git help desk and FLOSS tutorial. These will support new and aspiring contributors getting started. We’ll have more information on that, as well as advice for those who wan to organize a sprint, coming soon.

No matter how you choose to participate, we hope to see you at the sprints this year or in the future.