The main goal is this post is to document a bugfix I made for RIT’s HFOSS class. I feel that documenting the process of making a bugfix will help other people looking to contribute towards open source projects.
The first step in a bug fix quest is to find a bug. If you happen to find a bug, it is important that you check current issues to make sure that that bug has not already been reported. If you have no clue where to begin, I found it helpful to look for issues tagged as help wanted in a repository.
The other day I was notified about an issue opened on the RITlug (RIT Linux Users Group) website. I got this notification via Github. If you are active on a project, it is useful to be subscribed to their mailing list or issue tracker so you get alerted when an issue that you can work on comes up. I really like Github because it gives you a lot of freedom in what issues/users/projects you are notified about.
Since I had familiarity with web development and was flagged as help wanted, I decided to fix this issue.
After you find a bug it is best to communicate with the project that you wish to fix this bug. In my case, I did this by leaving a comment on the issue and assigning the issue to myself. This is very helpful because on very active projects if you don’t assign yourself the issue, there is a chance that two or more people would try to fix the issue at the same time. Making yourself know for solving the issue is also enables you to initiate a dialog with other people in the project interested in this issue. This is also a great time to solicit feedback about how exactly the issue should get resolved.
Just do it! For the bug that I found I just had to modify some HTML and validate that it worked by running the Jeckyll project. When working on bug fixes or enhancements in general it is best to include documentation for any changes that you make and work on a separate branch.
The last thing you need to do is submit your code for a code review so you can get your changes merged into the project. To do this on Github you simply file a pull request. When creating a pull request it is helpful to link to the original issue and provide a brief description of what changes were made. Pull requests can be a place where a lot of back and forth communication happens. Code reviews are places for you to fix mistakes, resolve, misunderstandings and improve your code in general. If you are reviewing code it is essential to give constructive feedback so people can effectively work on the project.
The pull request with the changes I made for the RITlug website could be found here:
Once you get in the groove of contributing to open source project it is enthralling. Like anything else, practice makes perfect. One thing to note is that not every open source community is the same, some will be easier to get into than others for contributing.