When you walk into a party what do you do?
Interacting with an open source group is sort of like walking in on a party where it seems like everyone else knows each other. People are discussing topics you may be interested in, or sometimes they could be discussing topics you neither know nor care about.
If you're the type of person that would walk right up and introduce yourself at a party, then the best approach to getting started is to do what you'd do in real life. Contact the project, introduce yourself and ask questions related to your project.
However, if you're more likely to hang back and watch people for a while, spend some time observing community interactions before you jump in. You can also try to contact an organization admin for guidance, or with help introducing you to a community. If in doubt, have a look at the organization's ideas page for hints on where to go for help.
At the end of your "listening and research" phase you'll understand how, where and when the community interacts and know the best way to ask questions.
No matter what, don't wait until you apply to initiate contact! Engage with multiple communities once the participating organizations are chosen to get a feel for how different groups work.
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