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Getting Started with Open Source

Posted on:October 11, 2023

Finding my First Open Source Project

How did I come to build a free and open-source tiny web app used by thousands of flight attendants?

When I first started learning web development, I was eager to get out of ‘tutorial hell’ and build something that would be useful in the real world. Today I want to share the story of my first successful open-source project, AM I LEGAL. If you’re a web developer looking to gain some open-source experience but, like I once did, struggle to find a project where you can make a significant contribution, you can just spin up your own open source project based on solving a problem in your life.

You don’t always need to find existing projects to contribute to; sometimes the best project is the one that you start yourself!

Am I legal is a progressive web app

A progressive web app that everyone was looking for in the app store. 🤦‍♂️ I was the solo maintainer, UX researcher, designer and developer.

Getting Started in Open Source

If you’re interested in starting your open-source project or contributing to existing ones, here are some resources to get you started:

Don’t let misconceptions about open source hold you back. You don’t need to be an expert coder to make a valuable contribution. Everyone can have a place in the open source.

Check out the above guides for pretty much everything you will need to get going.

AM I LEGAL is a simple website that has made a difference in the lives of many flight attendants. The website calculates complex logic and time math to help flight attendants determine if they violate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.

Facebook comments on release

Nice reviews on a post sharing AAm I Legal in the flight attendant community.

These calculations can be complicated to work out, especially after working a 10 or 16-hour day. The airline should ideally have systems in place that automate this process and reschedule crews based on their duty days. However, due to a variety of circumstances and perhaps a lack of prioritization of this aspect of crew scheduling, this is not the case.

users of AAm I Legal Over Time

This image shows the website being visited over 80k times by flight attendants looking to get help understanding their duty day legality. The usage directly correlates with the level of disruption in flying that day. Major spikes usually point to a rough day for many travelers, airport staff, and flight crews. Notice the Covid dip.

Besides giving utility to flight attendants, interesting to me that we can use AAm I Legal usage statistics to track generally how bad the flying situation was for certain days.

FAA system outage that shows the app getting more users that day

We can see the relationship through the use of this small web app to larger scale issues like this FAA system outage.

Wrapping Up

Aamilegal is nothing fancy so remember you don’t have to build anything technically impressive. The goal was to help flight attendants better understand their duty days and the real work was understanding this problem. I conducted over ten user experience field tests to ensure flight attendants could use the web app easily, making changes as I identified issues. I learned a lot about building websites for people in the process and you can too! The positive response and usage reinforce my belief in the power of open source. Although I’m the sole maintainer and contributor to this small project, it has been a great experience for me to translate to my work on Mozilla Hubs and in contributing to other projects. Thanks for reading!

Happy coding, testing and problem solving!