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Becoming an Astro maintainer

A week ago, I got a DM from Dan (@jutanium). The DM simply said: “hey, I heard some news came out, any idea what it is?“. I was at a family gathering, so I missed the DM by a couple of hours.

Turned out, I completely missed a DM from Fred (co-founder of Astro and CEO of HTML), saying that I was nominated and voted as a new maintainer on Astro and asking if I would accept. Of course I couldn’t be happier 🥳!

Astro’s maintainer and core programs are based on a nomination and voting system, there is no application process. So I wasn’t expecting this, but I made a little jump when I read the message!

It’s a real honour and I’m so privileged to be able to work next to so many outstanding people and learn from them!

👇 Image Astro tweeted a couple hours after I accepted!

Promo image containing Astro's mascotte with the words "New Maintainer: Elian van Cutsem"

Getting started in open source

Since I get a lot of questions on how to get started into open source. It’s a good time to shine a some light on that topic.

This is different for everyone, so don’t take it as a recipe for success. There was also a lot of luck involved.

My open source story started somewhere around 2021. I was still studying and working on an essay about frameworks (specifically JAMStack focused) for school and came across Astro. When I read through the documentation for the first time, the concept instantly made something click. It reminded me a lot of PHP, which I used to do a lot. The island architecture looked so simple and useful that I wanted to give it a spin. My first experience with using Astro felt so natural. The onboarding and DX was so awesome!

Don’t take the following as a guide, but if it worked for me, it can work for you too!

Astro’s Discord

After playing around with Astro for a couple of weeks, I joined their Discord server. I remember looking at Astro’s website sourcecode and seeing a Discord link show up in the browser’s console. I simply had to take a look what was going on there.

I felt so welcome in the server! Everyone was so friendly and helping each other out. There were a lot of interesting conversations going on about a lot of different topics, which enabled me to learn a lot.

At that time, the Astro Discord was a small community and because of that, it was easy to talk to core members and ask them questions, which I totally did all the time while I was rebuilding my personal website.

My first PR @Astro

While learning Astro, I noticed that the Astro website didn’t have a 404 page. I instantly thought; “Hey, I know how to do that!“. So I asked in Discord if it was okay to build one and open up a PR.

I opened my first PR on 6 October 2021: link to PR

Back then, I was completely new to open source and had totally no idea what I was doing, so yeah, look at me now! I know my mom is proud of me!

First talk about Astro

Because I talked a lot to maintainers and core at that time & felt like this was such a new and fresh direction at web development, I decided to try and give a talk about it at a meetup in my city about it. From there, the ball started rolling!

A picture of Elian speaking in front of an audience at a meetup

☝️ My first time talking about Astro

Since then, I’ve given about a dozen talks about Astro. Most of them were very beginner friendly and -oriented. I hope that I introduced some people to their first steps in the magical universe of Astro.

Becoming an Astronaut

After my first talk and some little PRs, I felt like a part of the Astro team! A big boost in that, was Fuzzy helping me prepare talks, guide me through PR’s and awarding me with the unofficial official “Astro Ambassador” title.

It still baffles me how friendly the whole open source community is. I made a lot of friends among the contributors and core members of Astro and open source in general.

Another shifting point for me was React Brussels. This was my first ever experience at a JS-focused conference. I met so many people that I still talk to, such as Dan and Josh. It motivated me so much to spend more time in open source and Astro in specific.

A picture of a room full of people busy talking at React Brussels

☝️ Me, talking to people at React Brussels. (Yup, this is where I met Dan and Josh for the first time)

What’s next?

There is a lot I want to accomplish as a maintainer at Astro.

1. The ambassador program at Astro

I want to introduce some kind of ambassador program into Astro! A program where we (as maintainers or core members) help people speaking about Astro, get involved into the community. Not every contribution to open source, has to be code.. This can contain a couple of things, technical writing, blogposts, doing support, giving talks, … . With this program, I think we could improve the knowledge about Astro.

2. Astro: Explain It Like I’m Five (ELI5)

A new series where I (or someone else) explains Astro (or maybe even general web) concepts on a very easy-to-understand level! This to increase the general knowledge about Astro and make it accessible to all levels of engineers.

3. Improve docs

Since I tend to do talks about Astro from time to time, I also see myself as an entrypoint into the Astro ecosystem. Because of that, I get a lot of questions from newcomers to the Astro ecosystem. I try to use those to improve Astro’s documentation and examples to make it as easy and accessible for everyone from every skill level as possible.

4. Get the best DX possible

One of the reasons I was drawn to Astro was the developer experience. I’m always betting on it and I think Astro still could improve on it. So I’m going to make it one of my goals to keep increasing and learning about developer experience!

The future is bright

I’m so happy and excited to be part of Astro’s community. I hope to make a positive impact not only in the Astro eco-system, but also in the wider open-source space.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I’m easiest to reach on Discord or Twitter.

Written by Elian Van Cutsem

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