Being a software engineer, I feel the pain of opensource software engineer. I worked a lot on Opensource technologies (languages).. I am a PHP developer by profession and it is much easier to contribute small small projects to the community.
What I use to do?
I love CodeIgniter framework very much. It is the first web framework of PHP I worked for a long time. What I do is, I search for opensource vanilla PHP projects on the internet, and try to convert them in CodeIgniter MVC projects. I done some projects directly and without referring any other project.
I upload all of my work on my Github profile as repository, freely available to download and contribute. Lot of people actually download several of my repositories and use them in their product (project) development.
What is the pain? Where is the pain?
Pain is when you worked a lot for a project, and no body uses it. I (read ‘We’) as a software engineer don’t expect the appreciation. If some body uses my code or project to complete their need, its the highest appreciation for me. Even if somebody pays me million dollars for a project which nobody uses, I don’t have satisfaction of my work. This is pain of opensource software engineer.