Debian : Getting Started


As someone who is new to the world of contributing to Debian.  I have decided to write this article to help others get started.

First point of call should perhaps be the Debian Website where you can read up about the Operating system and I would also check the About Debian page(s) too so you have a good idea on what the project is.

It may be a good idea to Install Debian by downloading the ISO file, creating install media and either installing on a spare computer / laptop, in a virtual machine.  If you need help with this  please ask.

Your first point of call for help should be the Debian users e-mail mailing list, which is a non moderated e-mail discussion list,  non moderated means anyone can post.   However before you post or join please read the code of conduct for Debian.    There is also a code of conduct for mailing lists which is helpful to read too.

Once you have signed up, consider posting a introductory message,  but have a look at the Debian Diversity statement,  the community is open to everyone regardless of background. There is no need to disclose information about such as Age, Gender,  Orientation, Ethnic group,

It maybe a good idea in the first instance to hangout on the list and lurk for a while to get a feel for list culture, then if you feel you can offer input,  jump in.   You may find that this leads to something interesting.   If you are already familiar with Linux or Debian, great, if not then you could post that you are a new user looking to get started.

By now you may be thinking, this is a lot of reading before I even start.  You are right, and the community are happy to answer questions, however it usually helps when you do ask, to refer to something you have read, this demonstrates you have tried to find out the answer before asking on a list.

Ok so where do I go from here ?

The Help Debian link on the main website has lots of information as to where help is needed,  development, testing, documentation etc.    So think about

  • What skills you have?
  • What would you like to do?
  • What skills would you like to develop?

As Debian is a collaborative effort, then most related projects can be found on which is a collaborative platform.  If you have heard of Github, then salsa is very similar to that, uses the same tool chain to push, pull and collaborate on projects.   So it may be a good idea to sign up to this and see the sort of projects that are hosted on there.

Finally we have a real time chat system called Internet Relay Chat the Debian community are hosted on the oftc network. Maybe check out the web interface.  If you’re familiar with IRC great, if not,  then it is a good opportunity to learn.

For me I got started by creating a presentation to help promote Debian,  the reason for this is that I was unable to find anything that had been created recently,  so I started putting something together., after posting I received great feedback from the community.  By hosting on Salsa Francisco was able to issue a merge request and add more information to this presentation.

I have also shared screen shots of Debian applications on Salsa, as well as levels for a game, Rocksanddiamonds, so hopefully someone can collaborate on that.

The community is really helpful, you don’t need to be a super programmer to help either, as there are numerous programming and non programming jobs.

Above all have fun, it can be very rewarding knowing that a small contribution can sometimes have a really big impact.

Update 18/5/2019

Further reading

Francisco M Neto has written an excellent guide to how the Debian release cycle works: