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Contributing Guidelines

The Kubernetes Helm project accepts contributions via GitHub pull requests. This document outlines the process to help get your contribution accepted.

Reporting a Security Issue

Most of the time, when you find a bug in Helm, it should be reported using GitHub issues. However, if you are reporting a security vulnerability, please email a report to This will give us a chance to try to fix the issue before it is exploited in the wild.

Sign Your Work

The sign-off is a simple line at the end of the explanation for a commit. All commits needs to be signed. Your signature certifies that you wrote the patch or otherwise have the right to contribute the material. The rules are pretty simple, if you can certify the below (from

Developer Certificate of Origin
Version 1.1

Copyright (C) 2004, 2006 The Linux Foundation and its contributors.
1 Letterman Drive
Suite D4700
San Francisco, CA, 94129

Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this
license document, but changing it is not allowed.

Developer's Certificate of Origin 1.1

By making a contribution to this project, I certify that:

(a) The contribution was created in whole or in part by me and I
    have the right to submit it under the open source license
    indicated in the file; or

(b) The contribution is based upon previous work that, to the best
    of my knowledge, is covered under an appropriate open source
    license and I have the right under that license to submit that
    work with modifications, whether created in whole or in part
    by me, under the same open source license (unless I am
    permitted to submit under a different license), as indicated
    in the file; or

(c) The contribution was provided directly to me by some other
    person who certified (a), (b) or (c) and I have not modified

(d) I understand and agree that this project and the contribution
    are public and that a record of the contribution (including all
    personal information I submit with it, including my sign-off) is
    maintained indefinitely and may be redistributed consistent with
    this project or the open source license(s) involved.

Then you just add a line to every git commit message:

Signed-off-by: Joe Smith <>

Use your real name (sorry, no pseudonyms or anonymous contributions.)

If you set your and git configs, you can sign your commit automatically with git commit -s.

Note: If your git config information is set properly then viewing the git log information for your commit will look something like this:

Author: Joe Smith <>
Date:   Thu Feb 2 11:41:15 2018 -0800

    Update README

    Signed-off-by: Joe Smith <>

Notice the Author and Signed-off-by lines match. If they don't your PR will be rejected by the automated DCO check.

Support Channels

Whether you are a user or contributor, official support channels include:

Before opening a new issue or submitting a new pull request, it's helpful to search the project - it's likely that another user has already reported the issue you're facing, or it's a known issue that we're already aware of.


We use milestones to track progress of releases. There are also 2 special milestones used for helping us keep work organized: Upcoming - Minor and Upcoming - Major

Upcoming - Minor is used for keeping track of issues that aren't assigned to a specific release but could easily be addressed in a minor release. Upcoming - Major keeps track of issues that will need to be addressed in a major release. For example, if the current version is 2.2.0 an issue/PR could fall in to one of 4 different active milestones: 2.2.1, 2.3.0, Upcoming - Minor, or Upcoming - Major. If an issue pertains to a specific upcoming bug or minor release, it would go into 2.2.1 or 2.3.0. If the issue/PR does not have a specific milestone yet, but it is likely that it will land in a 2.X release, it should go into Upcoming - Minor. If the issue/PR is a large functionality add or change and/or it breaks compatibility, then it should be added to the Upcoming - Major milestone. An issue that we are not sure we will be doing will not be added to any milestone.

A milestone (and hence release) is considered done when all outstanding issues/PRs have been closed or moved to another milestone.

Semantic Versioning

Helm maintains a strong commitment to backward compatibility. All of our changes to protocols and formats are backward compatible from Helm 2.0 until Helm 3.0. No features, flags, or commands are removed or substantially modified (other than bug fixes).

We also try very hard to not change publicly accessible Go library definitions inside of the pkg/ directory of our source code.

For a quick summary of our backward compatibility guidelines for releases between 2.0 and 3.0:

  • Protobuf and gRPC changes MUST be backward compatible.
  • Command line commands, flags, and arguments MUST be backward compatible
  • File formats (such as Chart.yaml, repositories.yaml, and requirements.yaml) MUST be backward compatible
  • Any chart that worked on a previous version of Helm MUST work on a new version of Helm (barring the cases where (a) Kubernetes itself changed, and (b) the chart worked because it exploited a bug)
  • Chart repository functionality MUST be backward compatible
  • Go libraries inside of pkg/ SHOULD remain backward compatible (though code inside of cmd/ may be changed from release to release without notice).


Issues are used as the primary method for tracking anything to do with the Helm project.

Issue Types

There are 4 types of issues (each with their own corresponding label):

  • Question: These are support or functionality inquiries that we want to have a record of for future reference. Generally these are questions that are too complex or large to store in the Slack channel or have particular interest to the community as a whole. Depending on the discussion, these can turn into "Feature" or "Bug" issues.
  • Proposal: Used for items (like this one) that propose a new ideas or functionality that require a larger community discussion. This allows for feedback from others in the community before a feature is actually developed. This is not needed for small additions. Final word on whether or not a feature needs a proposal is up to the core maintainers. All issues that are proposals should both have a label and an issue title of "Proposal: [the rest of the title]." A proposal can become a "Feature" and does not require a milestone.
  • Features: These track specific feature requests and ideas until they are complete. They can evolve from a "Proposal" or can be submitted individually depending on the size.
  • Bugs: These track bugs with the code or problems with the documentation (i.e. missing or incomplete)

Issue Lifecycle

The issue lifecycle is mainly driven by the core maintainers, but is good information for those contributing to Helm. All issue types follow the same general lifecycle. Differences are noted below.

  1. Issue creation
  2. Triage
    • The maintainer in charge of triaging will apply the proper labels for the issue. This includes labels for priority, type, and metadata (such as "starter"). The only issue priority we will be tracking is whether or not the issue is "critical." If additional levels are needed in the future, we will add them.
    • (If needed) Clean up the title to succinctly and clearly state the issue. Also ensure that proposals are prefaced with "Proposal".
    • Add the issue to the correct milestone. If any questions come up, don't worry about adding the issue to a milestone until the questions are answered.
    • We attempt to do this process at least once per work day.
  3. Discussion
    • "Feature" and "Bug" issues should be connected to the PR that resolves it.
    • Whoever is working on a "Feature" or "Bug" issue (whether a maintainer or someone from the community), should either assign the issue to them self or make a comment in the issue saying that they are taking it.
    • "Proposal" and "Question" issues should stay open until resolved or if they have not been active for more than 30 days. This will help keep the issue queue to a manageable size and reduce noise. Should the issue need to stay open, the keep open label can be added.
  4. Issue closure

How to Contribute a Patch

  1. Fork the repo, develop and test your code changes.
  2. Use sign-off when making each of your commits (see above). If you forgot to sign some commits that are part of the contribution, you can ask git to rewrite your commit history.
  3. Submit a pull request.

Coding conventions and standards are explained in the official developer docs: Developers Guide

The next section contains more information on the workflow followed for PRs

Pull Requests

Like any good open source project, we use Pull Requests to track code changes

PR Lifecycle

  1. PR creation
    • We more than welcome PRs that are currently in progress. They are a great way to keep track of important work that is in-flight, but useful for others to see. If a PR is a work in progress, it must be prefaced with "WIP: [title]". Once the PR is ready for review, remove "WIP" from the title.
    • It is preferred, but not required, to have a PR tied to a specific issue.
  2. Triage
    • The maintainer in charge of triaging will apply the proper labels for the issue. This should include at least a size label, bug or feature, and awaiting review once all labels are applied. See the Labels section for full details on the definitions of labels
    • Add the PR to the correct milestone. This should be the same as the issue the PR closes.
  3. Assigning reviews
    • Once a review has the awaiting review label, maintainers will review them as schedule permits. The maintainer who takes the issue should self-request a review.
    • Reviews from others in the community, especially those who have encountered a bug or have requested a feature, are highly encouraged, but not required. Maintainer reviews are required before any merge
    • Any PR with the size/large label requires 2 review approvals from maintainers before it can be merged. Those with size/medium are per the judgement of the maintainers
  4. Reviewing/Discussion
    • Once a maintainer begins reviewing a PR, they will remove the awaiting review label and add the in progress label so the person submitting knows that it is being worked on. This is especially helpful when the review may take awhile.
    • All reviews will be completed using Github review tool.
    • A "Comment" review should be used when there are questions about the code that should be answered, but that don't involve code changes. This type of review does not count as approval.
    • A "Changes Requested" review indicates that changes to the code need to be made before they will be merged.
    • Reviewers should update labels as needed (such as needs rebase)
  5. Address comments by answering questions or changing code
  6. Merge or close
    • PRs should stay open until merged or if they have not been active for more than 30 days. This will help keep the PR queue to a manageable size and reduce noise. Should the PR need to stay open (like in the case of a WIP), the keep open label can be added.
    • If the owner of the PR is listed in OWNERS, that user must merge their own PRs or explicitly request another OWNER do that for them.
    • If the owner of a PR is not listed in OWNERS, any core committer may merge the PR once it is approved.

Documentation PRs

Documentation PRs will follow the same lifecycle as other PRs. They will also be labeled with the docs label. For documentation, special attention will be paid to spelling, grammar, and clarity (whereas those things don't matter as much for comments in code).

The Triager

Each week, one of the core maintainers will serve as the designated "triager" starting after the public standup meetings on Thursday. This person will be in charge triaging new PRs and issues throughout the work week.


The following tables define all label types used for Helm. It is split up by category.


Label Description
bug Marks an issue as a bug or a PR as a bugfix
critical Marks an issue or PR as critical. This means that addressing the PR or issue is top priority and will be handled first by maintainers
docs Indicates the issue or PR is a documentation change
duplicate Indicates that the issue or PR is a duplicate of another
feature Marks the issue as a feature request or a PR as a feature implementation
keep open Denotes that the issue or PR should be kept open past 30 days of inactivity
refactor Indicates that the issue is a code refactor and is not fixing a bug or adding additional functionality

Issue Specific

Label Description
help wanted This issue is one the core maintainers cannot get to right now and would appreciate help with
proposal This issue is a proposal
question/support This issue is a support request or question
starter This issue is a good for someone new to contributing to Helm
wont fix The issue has been discussed and will not be implemented (or accepted in the case of a proposal)

PR Specific

Label Description
awaiting review The PR has been triaged and is ready for someone to review
breaking The PR has breaking changes (such as API changes)
in progress Indicates that a maintainer is looking at the PR, even if no review has been posted yet
needs pick Indicates that the PR needs to be picked into a feature branch (generally bugfix branches). Once it has been, the picked label should be applied and this one removed
needs rebase A helper label used to indicate that the PR needs to be rebased before it can be merged. Used for easy filtering
picked This PR has been picked into a feature branch

Size labels

Size labels are used to indicate how "dangerous" a PR is. The guidelines below are used to assign the labels, but ultimately this can be changed by the maintainers. For example, even if a PR only makes 30 lines of changes in 1 file, but it changes key functionality, it will likely be labeled as size/large because it requires sign off from multiple people. Conversely, a PR that adds a small feature, but requires another 150 lines of tests to cover all cases, could be labeled as size/small even though the number lines is greater than defined below.

Label Description
size/small Anything less than or equal to 4 files and 150 lines. Only small amounts of manual testing may be required
size/medium Anything greater than size/small and less than or equal to 8 files and 300 lines. Manual validation should be required.
size/large Anything greater than size/medium. This should be thoroughly tested before merging and always requires 2 approvals. This also should be applied to anything that is a significant logic change.