It is much more gratifying for a contributor if his effords have
So what can people who want to help Debian do to achive more imminent gratification? Pick projects that let you help directly with direct svn/git/whatnot access (Security team, Debian Edu, Debian-Installer…)
While I agree that Instant Gratification is very important, I don’t think that the proposed solutions solve anything. It’s easy to have things sleep in an SVN repository instead of the BTS (lots of teams do that, sometimes for good reasons, like the lack of sponsors – hint: Games team). It doesn’t make things any better. What we need is tasks whose results will be available without too much wait in Debian unstable, for everybody.
Also, I must admit that I know very little about the inner workings of the Security Team. But I have the idea that it involves quite a lot of procedures (helping with bugs tagged security probably doesn’t, but going further than that probably does). Contributing to Debian already involves A LOT of procedures. A new contributor, even very good technically, can easily get lost in all the different ways to package stuff and solve common problems. So we should identify tasks that don’t have huge requirements. Ubuntu has the concept of bite-size bugs.
I started working on a page explaining the different ways someone can contribute to Debian. The goal is to provide a good entry point (not something that replaces existing documentation) and keep it at a manageable size. Its focus is mainly to replace the emails we write to people asking “I’d like to contribute, but I don’t know what I can do or where I should start!”. The page is available on wiki.d.o/HelpDebian/Start. Don’t hesitate to improve it (see also wiki.d.o/HelpDebian for a TODO list). When it will be good enough, I plan to move it out of the wiki (the content shouldn’t change much anyway) to eg http://help.debian.net/, so we can improve the design (I really like the idea of adding pictures of past Debconfs like Christian Perrier did in his FOSS.in talk).