Coding sprints (in open source contexts) have been around for quite a while, either as standalone events or, more frequently, as events attached to conferences or developer summits. Most of the folks that contribute to open source projects do it in a distributed or remote way. So, coding sprints at significant events such as conferences is an excellent opportunity to get contributors to bounce ideas and work together in person.

Reframing contribution sprints

Naming matters - contributing to open source goes far beyond code contributions. The opportunities to contribute to open source are almost limitless, from writing documentation to organising events, designing visual assets, and improving governance and diversity, inclusion, and accessibility policies. Hence at Mentored Sprints, we prefer the term Contribution Sprints over coding sprints. We believe this term is more inclusive and does a better job at reflecting the objective of such events.

Mentored sprints - what?

Contributing to open source can have a significant impact on both the broader community and the individuals contributing to open source projects. Though not everyone in the community has the same opportunities or availability to do so. On the one hand, Contribution Sprints attached to large conferences run after the main conference events, which means an extra pair of days away from work or care responsibilities. Also, folks who have never contributed to open source might find it daunting and often quite hard to get started. Sometimes we, as newcomers to a project, struggle to ask questions for fear of being labelled as “silly” (or else) or simply struggle to find issues or tasks to get started with. The core team of Mentored Sprints has a clear yet challenging goal: make contribution sprints more accessible and friendlier, especially to newcomers and folks from underrepresented groups in the open-source ecosystem.

So Mentored Sprints events revolve around these principles:

  1. Work closely with OSS projects and their maintainers- maintainers serve as mentors to participants on the day (after all, they know the project and its issues better than anyone else).
  2. Support mentors- provide guidance on preparing for this kind of sprints and identifying actions that can make contributions to their project more accessible and inclusive.
  3. Keep it personal- we aim to have a ratio of 10:1 contributors to mentors to ensure nobody is left behind nor overwhelmed. Encourage contributions beyond code - we want to shift the focus about what a meaningful contribution is. Therefore we make sure there is a diverse set of tasks folks can contribute to.
  4. Everyone is welcome- from beginners to mentors, everyone’s voice and contributions matter.
  5. Mentored Sprints are safe and welcoming spaces- we have a Code of Conduct that is enforced at each of the events. And we also provide mechanisms to raise any Code of Conduct violations safely and anonymously. All reports are handled and taken very seriously. Our team is continually being trained, and our CoC and processes are reviewed regularly.
  6. Celebrate all wins- we make sure to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments, all being equal.

If you are interested in attending any of our Mentored Sprints, make sure to check the Events section on our website. If you want to organise a Mentored Sprint for your project or community, make sure to check the Community handbook or get in touch.