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Contributing to Trio and related projects

So you're interested in contributing to Trio or one of our associated projects? That's awesome! Trio is is an open-source project maintained by an informal group of volunteers. Our goal is to make async I/O in Python more fun, easy, and reliable, and we can't do it without help from people like you. We welcome contributions from anyone willing to work in good faith with other contributors and the community (see also our :ref:`code-of-conduct`).

There are many ways to contribute, no contribution is too small, and all contributions are valued. For example, you could:

  • Hang out in our chatroom and help people with questions.
  • Answer questions on StackOverflow (recent questions).
  • Use Trio in a project, and give us feedback on what worked and what didn't.
  • Write a blog post about your experiences with Trio, good or bad.
  • Release open-source programs and libraries that use Trio.
  • Improve documentation.
  • Comment on issues.
  • Add tests.
  • Fix bugs.
  • Add features.

We want contributing to be enjoyable and mutually beneficial; this document tries to give you some tips to help that happen, and applies to all of the projects under the python-trio organization on Github. If you have thoughts on how it can be improved then please let us know.

Getting started

If you're new to open source in general, you might find it useful to check out opensource.guide's How to Contribute to Open Source tutorial, or if video's more your thing, egghead.io has a short free video course.

Trio and associated projects are developed on GitHub, under the python-trio organization. Code and documentation changes are made through pull requests (see :ref:`preparing-pull-requests` below).

We also have an unusual policy for managing commit rights: anyone whose pull request is merged is automatically invited to join the GitHub organization, and gets commit rights to all of our repositories. See :ref:`joining-the-team` below for more details.

If you're looking for a good place to start, then check out our issues labeled good first issue, or feel free to ask in chat.

Providing support

When helping others use Trio, please remember that you are representing our community, and we want this to be a friendly and welcoming place.

Concurrency is really confusing when you're first learning. When talking to beginners, remember that you were a beginner once too, and the whole goal here is to make a top-tier concurrency library that's accessible to everyone and a joy to use. If people are showing up with beginner questions, that means we're succeeding. How we respond to questions is part of that developer experience, just as much as our API, documentation, or testing tools. And as a bonus, helping beginners is often the best way to discover ideas for improvements. If you start getting burned out and cranky, we've all been there, and it's OK to take a break until you feel better. But it's not OK to take that out on random users.

Please remember that the authors and users of competing projects are smart, thoughtful people doing their best to balance complicated and conflicting requirements, just like us. Of course it's totally fine to make specific technical critiques ("In project X, this is handled by doing Y, Trio does Z instead, which I prefer because...") or talk about your personal experience ("I tried using X but I got super frustrated and confused"), but refrain from generic statements like "X sucks" or "I can't believe anyone uses X".

Please try not to make assumptions about people's gender, and in particular remember that we're not all dudes. If you don't have a specific reason to assume otherwise, then singular they makes a fine pronoun, and there are plenty of gender-neutral collective terms: "Hey folks", "Hi all", ...

We also like the Recurse Center's social rules:

Preparing pull requests

If you want to submit a documentation or code change to one of the Trio projects, then that's done by preparing a Github pull request (or "PR" for short). We'll do our best to review your PR quickly. If it's been a week or two and you're still waiting for a response, feel free to post a comment poking us. (This can just be a comment with the single word "ping"; it's not rude at all.)

Here's a quick checklist for putting together a good PR, with details in separate sections below:

  • :ref:`pull-request-scope`: Does your PR address a single, self-contained issue?
  • :ref:`pull-request-tests`: Are your tests passing? Did you add any necessary tests? Code changes pretty much always require test changes, because if it's worth fixing the code then it's worth adding a test to make sure it stays fixed.
  • :ref:`pull-request-formatting`: If you changed Python code, then did you run yapf -rpi setup.py trio? (Or for other packages, replace trio with the package name.)
  • :ref:`pull-request-release-notes`: If your change affects user-visible functionality, then did you add a release note to the newsfragments/ directory?
  • :ref:`pull-request-docs`: Did you make any necessary documentation updates?
  • License: by submitting a PR to a Trio project, you're offering your changes under that project's license. For most projects, that's dual MIT/Apache 2, except for cookiecutter-trio, which is CC0.

What to put in a PR

Each PR should, as much as possible, address just one issue and be self-contained. If you have ten small, unrelated changes, then go ahead and submit ten PRs – it's much easier to review ten small changes than one big change with them all mixed together, and this way if there's some problem with one of the changes it won't hold up all the others.

If you're uncertain about whether a change is a good idea and want some feedback before putting time into it, feel free to ask in an issue or in the chat room. If you have a partial change that you want to get feedback on, feel free to submit it as a PR. (In this case it's traditional to start the PR title with [WIP], for "work in progress".)

Tests

We use pytest for testing. To run the tests locally, you should run:

  • cd path/to/project/checkout/
  • pip install -r test-requirements.txt (possibly using a virtualenv)
  • pytest <projectname>

This doesn't try to be completely exhaustive – it only checks that things work on your machine, and it may skip some slow tests. But it's a good way to quickly check that things seem to be working, and we'll automatically run the full test suite when your PR is submitted, so you'll have a chance to see and fix any remaining issues then.

Every change should have 100% coverage for both code and tests. But, you can use # pragma: no cover to mark lines where lack-of-coverage isn't something that we'd want to fix (as opposed to it being merely hard to fix). For example:

else:  # pragma: no cover
    raise AssertionError("this can't happen!")

We use Codecov to track coverage, because it makes it easy to combine coverage from running in different configurations. Running coverage locally can be useful (pytest --cov=PACKAGENAME --cov-report=html), but don't be surprised if you get lower coverage than when looking at Codecov reports, because there are some lines that are only executed on Windows, or macOS, or PyPy, or CPython, or... you get the idea. After you create a PR, Codecov will automatically report back with the coverage, so you can check how you're really doing. (But note that the results can be inaccurate until all the tests are passing. If the tests failed, then fix that before worrying about coverage.)

Some rules for writing good tests:

  • Tests MUST pass deterministically. Flakey tests make for miserable developers. One common source of indeterminism is scheduler ordering; if you're having trouble with this, then :mod:`trio.testing` provides powerful tools to help control ordering, like :func:`trio.testing.wait_all_tasks_blocked`, :class:`trio.testing.Sequencer`, and :class:`trio.testing.MockClock` (usually used as a fixture: async def test_whatever(autojump_clock): ...). And if you need more tools than this then we should add them.

  • (Trio package only) Slow tests – anything that takes more than about 0.25 seconds – should be marked with @slow. This makes it so they only run if you do pytest trio --run-slow. Our CI scripts do run slow tests, so you can be sure that the code will still be thoroughly tested, and this way you don't have to sit around waiting for a few irrelevant multi-second tests to run while you're iterating on a change locally.

    You can check for slow tests by passing --durations=10 to pytest. Most tests should take 0.01 seconds or less.

  • Speaking of waiting around for tests: Tests should never sleep unless absolutely necessary. However, calling :func:`trio.sleep` when using autojump_clock is fine, because that's not really sleeping, and doesn't waste developers time waiting for the test to run.

  • We like tests to exercise real functionality. For example, if you're adding subprocess spawning functionality, then your tests should spawn at least one process! Sometimes this is tricky – for example, Trio's :class:`KeyboardInterrupt` tests have to jump through quite some hoops to generate real SIGINT signals at the right times to exercise different paths. But it's almost always worth it.

  • For cases where real testing isn't relevant or sufficient, then we strongly prefer fakes or stubs over mocks. Useful articles:

    Most major features have both real tests and tests using fakes or stubs. For example, :class:`~trio.ssl.SSLStream` has some tests that use Trio to make a real socket connection to real SSL server implemented using blocking I/O, because it sure would be embarrassing if that didn't work. And then there are also a bunch of tests that use a fake in-memory transport stream where we have complete control over timing and can make sure all the subtle edge cases work correctly.

Writing reliable tests for obscure corner cases is often harder than implementing a feature in the first place, but stick with it: it's worth it! And don't be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can be helpful when trying to come up with devious tricks.

Code formatting

Instead of wasting time arguing about code formatting, we use yapf to automatically format all our code to a standard style. While you're editing code you can be as sloppy as you like about whitespace; and then before you commit, just run:

pip install -U yapf
yapf -rpi setup.py trio

to fix it up. (And don't worry if you forget – when you submit a pull request then we'll automatically check and remind you.) Hopefully this will let you focus on more important style issues like choosing good names, writing useful comments, and making sure your docstrings are nicely formatted. (Yapf doesn't reformat comments or docstrings.)

Very occasionally, yapf will generate really ugly and unreadable formatting (usually for large literal structures like dicts nested inside dicts). In these cases, you can add a # yapf: disable comment to tell it to leave that particular statement alone.

If you want to see what changes yapf will make, you can use:

yapf -rpd setup.py trio

(-d displays a diff, versus -i which fixes files in-place.)

Release notes

We use towncrier to manage our release notes. Basically, every pull request that has a user visible effect should add a short file to the newsfragments/ directory describing the change, with a name like <ISSUE NUMBER>.<TYPE>.rst. See newsfragments/README.rst for details. This way we can keep a good list of changes as we go, which makes the release manager happy, which means we get more frequent releases, which means your change gets into users' hands faster.

Commit messages

We don't enforce any particular format on commit messages. In your commit messages, try to give the context to explain why a change was made.

The target audience for release notes is users, who want to find out about changes that might affect how they use the library, or who are trying to figure out why something changed after they upgraded.

The target audience for commit messages is some hapless developer (think: you in six months... or five years) who is trying to figure out why some code looks the way it does. Including links to issues and any other discussion that led up to the commit is strongly recommended.

Documentation

We take pride in providing friendly and comprehensive documentation. Documentation is stored in docs/source/*.rst and is rendered using Sphinx with the sphinxcontrib-trio extension. Documentation is hosted at Read the Docs, who take care of automatically rebuilding it after every commit.

For docstrings, we use the Google docstring format. If you add a new function or class, there's no mechanism for automatically adding that to the docs: you'll have to at least add a line like .. autofunction:: <your function> in the appropriate place. In many cases it's also nice to add some longer-form narrative documentation around that.

We enable Sphinx's "nitpick mode", which turns dangling references into an error – this helps catch typos. (This will be automatically checked when your PR is submitted.) If you intentionally want to allow a dangling reference, you can add it to the nitpick_ignore whitelist in docs/source/conf.py.

Joining the team

After your first PR is merged, you should receive a Github invitation to join the python-trio organization. If you don't, that's not your fault, it's because we made a mistake on our end. Give us a nudge on chat or send @njsmith an email and we'll fix it.

It's totally up to you whether you accept or not, and if you do accept, you're welcome to participate as much or as little as you want. We're offering the invitation because we'd love for you to join us in making Python concurrency more friendly and robust, but there's no pressure: life is too short to spend volunteer time on things that you don't find fulfilling.

At this point people tend to have questions.

How can you trust me with this kind of power? What if I mess everything up?!?

Relax, you got this! And we've got your back. Remember, it's just software, and everything's in version control: worst case we'll just roll things back and brainstorm ways to avoid the issue happening again. We think it's more important to welcome people and help them grow than to worry about the occasional minor mishap.

I don't think I really deserve this.

It's up to you, but we wouldn't be offering if we didn't think you did.

What exactly happens if I accept? Does it mean I'll break everything if I click the wrong button?

Concretely, if you accept the invitation, this does three things:

  • It lets you manage incoming issues on all of the python-trio projects by labelling them, closing them, etc.
  • It lets you merge pull requests on all of the python-trio projects by clicking Github's big green "Merge" button, but only if all their tests have passed.
  • It automatically subscribes you to notifications on the python-trio repositories (but you can unsubscribe again if you want through the Github interface)

Note that it does not allow you to push changes directly to Github without submitting a PR, and it doesn't let you merge broken PRs – this is enforced through Github's "branch protection" feature, and it applies to everyone from the newest contributor up to the project founder.

Okay, that's what I CAN do, but what SHOULD I do?

Short answer: whatever you feel comfortable with.

We do have one rule, which is the same one most F/OSS projects use: don't merge your own PRs. We find that having another person look at each PR leads to better quality.

Beyond that, it all comes down to what you feel up to. If you don't feel like you know enough to review a complex code change, then you don't have to – you can just look it over and make some comments, even if you don't feel up to making the final merge/no-merge decison. Or you can just stick to merging trivial doc fixes and adding tags to issues, that's helpful too. If after hanging around for a while you start to feel like you have better handle on how things work and want to start doing more, that's excellent; if it doesn't happen, that's fine too.

If at any point you're unsure about whether doing something would be appropriate, feel free to ask (for example, in our chat room or by posting Github comment). For example, it's totally OK if the first time you review a PR, you want someone else to check over your work before you hit the merge button.

For general tips on doing code reviews, the node.js guide has some good suggestions, and so does this blog post.

Managing issues

As issues come in, they need to be responded to, tracked, and – hopefully! – eventually closed.

As a general rule, each open issue should represent some kind of task that we need to do. Sometimes that task might be "figure out what to do here", or even "figure out whether we want to address this issue"; sometimes it will be "answer this person's question". But if there's no followup to be done, then the issue should be closed.

Issue labels

The Trio repository in particular uses a number of labels to try and keep track of issues. The current list is somewhat ad hoc, and may or may not remain useful over time – if you think of a new label that would be useful, a better name for an existing label, or think a label has outlived its usefulness, then speak up.

  • good first issue: Used to mark issues that are relatively straightforward, and could be good places for a new contributor to start.
  • todo soon: This marks issues where there aren't questions left about whether or how to do it, it's just waiting for someone to dig in and do the work.
  • missing piece: This generally marks significant self-contained chunks of missing functionality. If you're looking for a more ambitious project to work on, this might be useful.
  • potential API breaker: What it says. This is useful because these are issues that we'll want to make sure to review aggressively as Trio starts to stabilize, and certainly before we reach 1.0.
  • design discussion: This marks issues where there's significant design questions to be discussed; if you like meaty theoretical debates and discussions of API design, then browsing this might be interesting.
  • polish: Marks issues that it'd be nice to resolve eventually, because it's the Right Thing To Do, but it's addressing a kind of edge case thing that isn't necessary for a minimum viable product. Sometimes overlaps with "user happiness".
  • user happiness: From the name alone, this could apply to any bug (users certainly are happier when you fix bugs!), but that's not what we mean. This label is used for issues involving places where users stub their toes, or for the kinds of quality-of-life features that leave users surprised and excited – e.g. fancy testing tools that Just Work.

Governance

Nathaniel J. Smith is the Trio BDFL. If the project grows to the point where we'd benefit from more structure, then we'll figure something out.