Contributing to Open Source

Posted on October 14, 2017 in Develop
Updated: October 27, 2017

What is needed to contribute to Open Source hosted in Git?
It is quite a bit - read all about it here.

This blog post assumes you contribute by doing changes to a git repo.
So In short you need to

  • Choose a project you will do changes into
  • Follow below Git Workflow


Before start you need to get a little list of vocabulary

Abbr Full Meaning
PR Pull Request Your code submitted for review before merge into Upstream
Repo Repository A project folder under source control having a \.git\ subfolder
WIP Work In Progress Comment in PR for unfinished code - indication feedback wanted before going too far on a wrong tangent
# “Closes #37.” Comment with reference to an issue
Git Contributer Person, who sends a Pull Request
Git Maintainer Person, who merges a Pull Request
Fork and Pull model One out of two development models
Shared Repository model One out of two development models
Upstream A repo where you want to merge PR's into

Next thing you need to know is that the master branch is always production - meaning - you do your work in a feature branch and you ask the owner of the repo if he wants your changes. Often a discussion will follow and possible more changes you will have to do - including deploy to test - before it perhaps is accepted by being merged into the master. In more details here is a visual flow.

Since you are just starting you are probably not member of a team, that has access to a shared repo.
Thus you need to contribute with the Fork and Pull model

Fork and Pull model

I use two phases

  • A. Prepare
  • B. Do the work, PR and cleanup

In that way you can do A. Prepare only once and repeat phase B.

A. Prepare

# 1. Create a Fork of the repo you will contribute to
# 2. Download your Fork (origin)
git clone
# 3. Add Upstream as a remote
git remote add upstream
git remote -v

B. Do the work, PR and cleanup

# 4. Download latest changes from upstream
git pull upstream master # or rebase
# handle possible conflicts:
git status
git commit -a -m "upstream changes added"
# 5. Create a feature branch
git checkout -b mynewfeaturebranch
# 6. Do some work and save
git commit -a -m "made a nice feature"
# 7. Push branch to fork
git push -u origin mynewfeaturebranch

8a. Pull Request to upstream - from Fork

You are then rewarded with this image for the first PR, if it was GitHub you contributed to
The first Pull Request

  • 8b. Listen for feedback
    You can see your PR's here. Maintainers will make comments in there.
  • 8c. Maintainer merges feature branch to upstream

Remember - Always be polite. Maintainers are in their good right to not care about your contribution.
If you don't like that you can just keep working on your perfect fork.

But if you only have your fork for PR's, then it is time to do clean-up, so you can do another cycle.

# 9. Delete mynewfeaturebranch
git checkout mynewfeaturebranch
git branch -d

Find a project

Knowing how to create a PR, you can now go out and look for a project to contribute to

Next steps

@osteele's GIT commands

@osteele's GIT commands


Get started links

The End