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README.md

Contributing to Consortium Core

The Consortium Core project operates an open contributor model where anyone is welcome to contribute towards development in the form of peer review, testing and patches. This document explains the practical process and guidelines for contributing.

Firstly in terms of structure, there is no particular concept of "Core developers" in the sense of privileged people. Open source often naturally revolves around meritocracy where longer term contributors gain more trust from the developer community. However, some hierarchy is necessary for practical purposes. As such there are repository "maintainers" who are responsible for merging pull requests as well as a "lead maintainer" who is responsible for the release cycle, overall merging, moderation and appointment of maintainers.

Contributor Workflow

The codebase is maintained using the "contributor workflow" where everyone without exception contributes patch proposals using "pull requests". This facilitates social contribution, easy testing and peer review.

To contribute a patch, the workflow is as follows:

  1. Fork repository
  2. Create topic branch
  3. Commit patches

The project coding conventions in the developer notes must be adhered to.

In general commits should be atomic and diffs should be easy to read. For this reason do not mix any formatting fixes or code moves with actual code changes.

Commit messages should be verbose by default consisting of a short subject line (50 chars max), a blank line and detailed explanatory text as separate paragraph(s), unless the title alone is self-explanatory (like "Corrected typo in init.cpp") in which case a single title line is sufficient. Commit messages should be helpful to people reading your code in the future, so explain the reasoning for your decisions. Further explanation here.

If a particular commit references another issue, please add the reference. For example: refs #1234 or fixes #4321. Using the fixes or closes keywords will cause the corresponding issue to be closed when the pull request is merged.

Commit messages should never contain any @ mentions.

Please refer to the Git manual for more information about Git.

  • Push changes to your fork
  • Create pull request

The title of the pull request should be prefixed by the component or area that the pull request affects. Valid areas as:

  • Consensus for changes to consensus critical code
  • Docs for changes to the documentation
  • Qt for changes to consortium-qt
  • Minting for changes to the minting code
  • Net or P2P for changes to the peer-to-peer network code
  • RPC/REST for changes to the RPC or REST APIs
  • Scripts and tools for changes to the scripts and tools
  • Tests for changes to the consortium unit tests or QA tests
  • Trivial should only be used for PRs that do not change generated executable code. Notably, refactors (change of function arguments and code reorganization) and changes in behavior should not be marked as trivial. Examples of trivial PRs are changes to:
    • comments
    • whitespace
    • variable names
    • logging and messages
  • Utils and libraries for changes to the utils and libraries
  • Wallet for changes to the wallet code

Examples:

Consensus: Add new opcode for BIP-XXXX OP_CHECKAWESOMESIG
Net: Automatically create hidden service, listen on Tor
Qt: Add feed bump button
Trivial: Fix typo in init.cpp

Note that translations should not be submitted as pull requests, please see Translation Process for more information on helping with translations.

If a pull request is not to be considered for merging (yet), please prefix the title with [WIP] or use Tasks Lists in the body of the pull request to indicate tasks are pending.

The body of the pull request should contain enough description about what the patch does together with any justification/reasoning. You should include references to any discussions (for example other tickets or mailing list discussions).

At this stage one should expect comments and review from other contributors. You can add more commits to your pull request by committing them locally and pushing to your fork until you have satisfied all feedback.

Note: Code review is a burdensome but important part of the development process, and as such, certain types of pull requests are rejected. In general, if the improvements do not warrant the review effort required, the PR has a high chance of being rejected. It is up to the PR author to convince the reviewers that the changes warrant the review effort, and if reviewers are "Concept NAK'ing" the PR, the author may need to present arguments and/or do research backing their suggested changes.

Squashing Commits

If your pull request is accepted for merging, you may be asked by a maintainer to squash and or rebase your commits before it will be merged. The basic squashing workflow is shown below.

git checkout your_branch_name
git rebase -i HEAD~n
# n is normally the number of commits in the pull request.
# Set commits (except the one in the first line) from 'pick' to 'squash', save and quit.
# On the next screen, edit/refine commit messages.
# Save and quit.
git push -f # (force push to GitHub)

Please update the resulting commit message if needed, it should read as a coherent message. In most cases this means that you should not just list the interim commits.

If you have problems with squashing (or other workflows with git), you can alternatively enable "Allow edits from maintainers" in the right GitHub sidebar and ask for help in the pull request.

Please refrain from creating several pull requests for the same change. Use the pull request that is already open (or was created earlier) to amend changes. This preserves the discussion and review that happened earlier for the respective change set.

The length of time required for peer review is unpredictable and will vary from pull request to pull request.

Rebasing Pull Requests

It may become necessary for a pull request to be rebased after other pull requests have been merged. This is typically due to mutually exclusive changes (conflicts) between your pull request and the current master branch.

When a rebase is needed, a comment will be added to the pull request indicating this need. Rather than simply merge the master branch into your pull request (which results in an ugly and confusing merge commit), it is better to use git's rebase feature. The basic workflow is as follows:

# replace 'origin' with the remote name for the main project repo in the example
git checkout your_branch_name
git fetch origin
git pull --rebase origin master

This will "rewind" your branch commits, pull any new commits from master, then attempt to re-apply your commits on top of the new HEAD. If any conflicts are found, the process will pause and allow you to resolve any conflicts. Once conflicts have been resolved:

git rebase --continue

Repeat as necessary until there are no more conflicts and your git tree is in a clean state. The final step is to push your rebased branch back up to github:

git push -f # force pushes the branch to github

Pull Request Philosophy

Patchsets should always be focused. For example, a pull request could add a feature, fix a bug, or refactor code; but not a mixture. Please also avoid super pull requests which attempt to do too much, are overly large, or overly complex as this makes review difficult.

Features

When adding a new feature, thought must be given to the long term technical debt and maintenance that feature may require after inclusion. Before proposing a new feature that will require maintenance, please consider if you are willing to maintain it (including bug fixing). If features get orphaned with no maintainer in the future, they may be removed by the Repository Maintainer.

Refactoring

Refactoring is a necessary part of any software project's evolution. The following guidelines cover refactoring pull requests for the project.

There are three categories of refactoring, code only moves, code style fixes, code refactoring. In general refactoring pull requests should not mix these three kinds of activity in order to make refactoring pull requests easy to review and uncontroversial. In all cases, refactoring PRs must not change the behaviour of code within the pull request (bugs must be preserved as is).

Project maintainers aim for a quick turnaround on refactoring pull requests, so where possible keep them short, uncomplex and easy to verify.

Pull requests that refactor the code should not be made by new contributors. It requires a certain level of experience to know where the code belongs and to understand the full ramification (including rebase effort of open pull requests).

Trivial pull requests or pull requests that refactor the code with no clear benefits may be immediately closed by the maintainers to reduce unnecessary workload on reviewing.

"Decision Making" Process

The following applies to code changes to the Consortium Core project, and is not to be confused with overall Consortium Network Protocol consensus changes.

Whether a pull request is merged into Consortium Core rests with the project merge maintainers and ultimately the project lead.

Maintainers will take into consideration if a patch is in line with the general principles of the project; meets the minimum standards for inclusion; and will judge the general consensus of contributors.

In general, all pull requests must:

  • Have a clear use case, fix a demonstrable bug or serve the greater good of the project (for example refactoring for modularisation);
  • Be well peer reviewed;
  • follow code style guidelines;

Patches that change Consortium consensus rules are considerably more involved than normal because they affect the entire ecosystem and so must be preceded by extensive discussions and clear detailing. While each case will be different, one should be prepared to expend more time and effort than for other kinds of patches because of increased peer review and consensus building requirements.

Peer Review

Anyone may participate in peer review which is expressed by comments in the pull request. Typically reviewers will review the code for obvious errors, as well as test out the patchset and opine on the technical merits of the patch. Project maintainers take into account the peer review when determining if there is consensus to merge a pull request (remember that discussions may have been spread out over GitHub, forums, email, and Discord discussions). The following language is used within pull-request comments:

  • (t)ACK means "I have tested the code and I agree it should be merged", involving change-specific manual testing in addition to running the unit and functional tests, and in case it is not obvious how the manual testing was done, it should be described;
  • NACK means "I disagree this should be merged", and must be accompanied by sound technical justification (or in certain cases of copyright/patent/licensing issues, legal justification). NACKs without accompanying reasoning may be disregarded;
  • utACK means "I have not tested the code, but I have reviewed it and it looks OK, I agree it can be merged";
  • Concept ACK means "I agree in the general principle of this pull request";
  • Nit refers to trivial, often non-blocking issues.

Reviewers should include the commit hash which they reviewed in their comments.

Project maintainers reserve the right to weigh the opinions of peer reviewers using common sense judgement and also may weight based on meritocracy: Those that have demonstrated a deeper commitment and understanding towards the project (over time) or have clear domain expertise may naturally have more weight, as one would expect in all walks of life.

Where a patchset affects consensus critical code, the bar will be set much higher in terms of discussion and peer review requirements, keeping in mind that mistakes could be very costly to the wider community. This includes refactoring of consensus critical code.

Where a patchset proposes to change the Consortium consensus, it must have been discussed extensively on the forums and Discord, be accompanied by a widely discussed Proposal and have a generally widely perceived technical consensus of being a worthwhile change based on the judgement of the maintainers.

Finding Reviewers

As most reviewers are themselves developers with their own projects, the review process can be quite lengthy, and some amount of patience is required. If you find that you've been waiting for a pull request to be given attention for several months, there may be a number of reasons for this, some of which you can do something about:

  • It may be because of a feature freeze due to an upcoming release. During this time, only bug fixes are taken into consideration. If your pull request is a new feature, it will not be prioritized until the release is over. Wait for release.
  • It may be because the changes you are suggesting do not appeal to people. Rather than nits and critique, which require effort and means they care enough to spend time on your contribution, thundering silence is a good sign of widespread (mild) dislike of a given change (because people don't assume others won't actually like the proposal). Don't take that personally, though! Instead, take another critical look at what you are suggesting and see if it: changes too much, is too broad, doesn't adhere to the developer notes, is dangerous or insecure, is messily written, etc. Identify and address any of the issues you find. Then ask e.g. on Discord if someone could give their opinion on the concept itself.
  • It may be because your code is too complex for all but a few people. And those people may not have realized your pull request even exists. A great way to find people who are qualified and care about the code you are touching is the Git Blame feature. Simply find the person touching the code you are touching before you and see if you can find them and give them a nudge. Don't be incessant about the nudging though.
  • Finally, if all else fails, ask on Discord or elsewhere for someone to give your pull request a look. If you think you've been waiting an unreasonably long amount of time (month+) for no particular reason (few lines changed, etc), this is totally fine. Try to return the favor when someone else is asking for feedback on their code, and universe balances out.

Release Policy

The project leader is the release manager for each Consortium Core release.

Copyright

By contributing to this repository, you agree to license your work under the MIT license unless specified otherwise in contrib/debian/copyright or at the top of the file itself. Any work contributed where you are not the original author must contain its license header with the original author(s) and source.

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