Skip to main content

My First Pull Request Was Approved! Huzzah!

A few hours ago, I submitted my first ever pull request. I mean to something other than the Hello World project Github walks you through to show you the basics.

It has now been approved by the maintainer and merged. And, wow, I need to get this off my chest: You programmers are completely unnecessarily scaring off non-programmers from your Open Source projects.

This is how this went down:

I saw a piece on Hacker News that interested me and I opened it up to find that it was a Github repository. I began reading the documentation and noticed a typo.

One of the titles said "Funtion" instead of "Function" in it. So I was like "I would like to tell them."

Now the last time I wanted to tell someone in Open Source they had a typo, I left a comment on Hacker News to do it. They did fix it and apparently took some of my other advice as well.

But this time the article didn't have a lot of comments. It only has two, in fact. So I felt like leaving a comment on HN wouldn't accomplish anything.

But I had no idea how to do this. Do I open an issue? Do I just submit a pull request?

So I started a long comment on HN to ask how I should do this. It's just one freaking letter added to a word. It seems like opening an issue and telling someone else to fix it is makework.

But is someone going to bite my head off if I just submit a pull request? How does that work? What are the cultural norms? Who is allowed to submit a pull request?

So I wrote and rewrote this long comment wringing my hands and never posted it. Instead, I updated my password to my Github account and started to do the Hello World tutorial again because it's been a zillion years since I logged in and I have no idea how to use Github.

That was getting on my nerves and I think I went to the store or something. I finally just went in to Github and looked around a bit, read some of the documentation and concluded that, yes, a pull request is the way to go here.

So I opened up a pull request and started to type. Then I got a pop up message saying "Pro tip" and something about "This field should be less than 50 characters. If you want to say more, put it in the description."

So I just wrote "Typo" in that field and moved my description to the next section. I submitted it and got a message that it had cleared all checks and was good to go to do whatever the next step was -- and I don't remember the details because I don't know the right words for this, but it wasn't hard.

A few hours later I had two emails, one approving the change and the other announcing that it had been merged with the master.

I have spent a long time trying to figure out how to contribute to Open Source as a non-coder and I have talked to other non-coders on Hacker News who were similarly interested and finding no path forward. It's incredibly opaque to a non-programmer.

But if you want to suggest a fix for a typo or something else small like that in the documentation, you don't need to talk to anyone. You don't need anyone's permission. You don't need to understand the culture.

You just need to submit a pull request and you can probably figure out how to do that even if you haven't done the Hello World exercise because I did that a zillion years ago and don't remember it and have no idea how Github works.

(You do need a Github account. If you don't already have one, you will need to set one up and that is also not hard: Email address, handle and password, basically.)

To non-programmers: You can get involved by submitting a pull request when you see a typo (or similar small issue).

To programmers: Good, god, you folks need to put up some kind of "Hey, stoopid!" simplified instructions somewhere that tell people like me that it's actually easy to get involved.
Found a typo? Submit a pull request!
Rant over.

Popular posts from this blog

Sticky This: See a typo? Submit a pull request.

For the first time ever, I submitted a pull request yesterday to an open source project notifying them of a typo. It was accepted within hours. Submitting the pull request was easy and took almost no time. The process of submitting it gave me valuable prompts, such as "This field is typically no more than 50 characters." I've been on Hacker News for over eleven years. I began wondering how on earth I can contribute to open source as a non-coder a few years back. I've talked to other non-coders who were just as mystified as I was -- or more mystified -- as to how on earth you get into open source as a non coder. So, no, it isn't just me. I spent probably a few hours yesterday trying to sort out how on earth to notify them of their typo. It took me far, far longer to figure out what I needed to do than it took to do it. This is a huge barrier to entry and will stop most people before they begin. Most people simply can't give you three hours of their t

A Lean, (Ever)Green Machine: Website Tips for Small Shops

I've been making little websites to serve up information on various topics for close to two decades. I'm basically a one-woman shop, so my websites have to be lean, evergreen, low cost and low maintenance to make any sense at all. I currently live in a small town and I sometimes attend public meetings where people are enamored of shiny tech but don't know how to use it. They get all envious of projects and talk in glowing terms about "Wouldn't it be GREAT if we did something like that?!" and I bite my tongue and don't say "You have no idea what on earth you are talking about. You have neither the resources nor the expertise to do a project like that." Those experiences inspired me to write this post. I would love to help people in the small town where I live to establish an effective web presence, but I really am going to need to do a lot of educating if that is ever going to happen. Most locals have no idea how to make a website that'