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2.5. Climbing Contributor Mountain

Participation in FOSS projects is similar, in many ways, to an apprenticeship. It takes some effort, and some help, to work your way to the top. Let's watch the path a typical newbie takes up Contributor Mountain.

2.5.1. User

Everyone begins at the base of the mountain as a user of software. Let's take our hypothetical friend Alice as an example.
Alice is a budding artist, and she likes to share her work with friends online. She's a big fan of anime. One of her friends suggests that she might be interested in a program called Inkscape, a cool illustration program.
So Alice goes and downloads Inkscape and installs it on her computer. She plays with it. She doesn't understand it very well, but it seems kinda cool.
Then her friend points her to a couple of Inkscape anime tutorials online, and Alice's opinion of Inkscape changes from "kinda cool" to "incredibly cool." Within a few short months and a lot of practice, Alice becomes a devoted Inkscape user. As it happens, developers sometimes forget that users are the reason that software exists. Alice, in becoming a devoted and expert user of Inkscape has taken the first, critical steps to being a valuable contributor to the Inkscape project.
Note: Alice may not yet know, or care, that Inkscape is FOSS software; in fact, she probably doesn't even know what FOSS is. It's irrelevant to her. She loves the fact that Inkscape is freely available, which is one of the great features of FOSS software -- but beyond that, the concept of FOSS just isn't meaningful to her. Yet.