very helpful lioness

The "Novice" tag: helping new Drupal contributors with their first patches

Tue, 09/13/2011 - 20:25 -- webchick

Ever use Drupal or Drupal.org and come across some kind of minor, annoying issue... say a typo, or a code comment that could stand to be improved, or some other change that's only a couple of lines of code... and you think to yourself, "Self, this would take you about 5 minutes to fix, but your to-do list is 43.4 km long. Pass."

Well, the next time that happens, please pause for a moment, and file an issue for that minor problem, and tag it as "Novice".

Thanks to the efforts of brand-new contributor demarcoz, we rolled out a new Drupal.org improvement this week: a link to the queue of all Novice issues on the Dashboard! (which was itself a Novice issue: http://drupal.org/node/1266380 :))

New novice link in the dashboard

The goal of the "Novice" tag is to help identify "low-hanging fruit" issues. This way, people who haven't been using Git and rolling patches since they were in diapers can have something bite-sized to chew on while they work their way up the learning curve of setting up a development environment, figuring out quirky git commands, and finding their way around Drupal coding standards and API peculiarities. This is a much nicer introduction to contributing than showing them an issue queue with 50,000 issues in it and saying "There ya go! Pick one that sounds interesting!" :)

And while it might take a new contributor a few days to solve something you could solve in a few minutes:

a) It's really fun to walk new people through this process and see what sorts of things trip new people up.
b) They're now equipped to tackle even harder issues in the queue, and they can eventually help you with your own 43.4 km long todo list.
c) They can also help improve documentation in places where they got stuck, and even help mentor other novices!

So the next time you find a small issue you could solve yourself in a few minutes, please don't! Instead, tag it as "Novice" and help to usher in a new crop of eager new contributors. :)


This is a great idea. After following the "make core maintainable" discussions going on the past couple weeks, i felt the need to help out where i could, but not being familiar with git, and the whole patching thing, i didnt feel confident enough to start tackling the bugs and issues.

I recently set up a local dev environment so i could teach myself git. This is going to be a big help.


Submitted by drupleg (not verified) on

This is a great idea! I have been sitting on the sidelines for a while not knowing where to jump in, I'm excited to look over this Novice queue and help out where I can, neat idea!

Submitted by Sree (not verified) on

This really looks to be a wonderful idea for getting more & more contributors hands on the contribution area ...

I'm a very slow coder, and I'm still new to git and the whole open-source development workflow. I've even found starting my own sandbox theme project difficult. But I think this initiative will help my core skills as as a PHP programmer, as well as enabling me to play a slighty larger part in Drupal. So I definitely perceive there being a lot of pay-off for people like me. I'll definitely try to build some time into my schedule for working the Novice queue.

Thanks again!

Submitted by Raf (not verified) on

Sweet! I doubt the novice things'd be a challenge, bug-wise, but it gives some actual data to test git and patching on, so it'll help big time! I'll see if I can set something up after finishing my (not-so-long) todo list for today.

Submitted by Gareth (not verified) on

I really like the idea of issue triage, but I wonder if this could go a little further.

I don't always have as much time as I would like to contribute back, but 5 min jobs means I could help out while I'm waiting for a sync to go through or waiting for something to download.

While, I'm all in favour of supporting people to learn and to let less experienced coder feel like they can help out and so I wouldn't want to abuse the system and take away from this opportunity, I do however feel that the issue queue could do with this kind of thing for non-novices as well.

For devs whose time to devote to bigger issues is limited perhaps because they have found themselves working for an unsupportive company or they just have to work long hours to support themselves, being able to grab a couple of quick issues and contribute would be amazing. A couple of five minute fix jobs could be done during a lunchbreak and the task of finding these quick fixes sometimes can be more time consuming than the task itself and so I could see this as something I would be visiting again and again.

Submitted by webchick on

I think the rule to apply there for more experienced people is "for every Novice issue you take out of the pool, put three back in." :) That way you could do this sort of work guilt-free.

Absolutely brilliant idea. This is exactly the sort of thing needed to try and redress some of the balance that Dries touched on in his keynote about Drupal seemingly becoming more for professionals and less for hobbyists, if people can chip in on small bits like this rather than straight in on massive issues it can only be good for all of us. And if people feel like they can make a difference, even a small one that's got to be encouraging for the whole community.

I'm excited about this. I have wanted to get into core development for a while, but every time I've started following an issue, I seem to be in over my head before I even start. I'm going to keep an eye on novice core issues and see if I can start getting more involved that way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

This is great. Does it need the 'component' section as I've seen on the core issues advanced search?

That's cool! Lets see if I'll find a nice issue on my next train ride.

Thank you for creating the novice tag, this first greatly with our attempts in the Padwan initiative to create a mentoring queue: http://groups.drupal.org/node/171729

I would suggest to create a lot more visibile for the novice tag, put it also in documentation, create a link on other pages, etc. People new to Drupal are often overwhelmed with the info so some repetition about the novice tag would be good.

I wish I could find time to work on helping Drupal and tutoring more, but currently my work has explode in my face. I've got about 500 students, which I need to supervise for (non-Drupal) projects in the next semester. I'm also assisting my advisor on building a new research institute and all this should be secondary to wrapping up my PhD .... talking about luxury problems ;-)

Submitted by Maksim Pecherskiy (not verified) on

Wow. This is really great. What a wonderful way for people to jump into Drupal!