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Contributing to the ROAR development guide

Help make the development experience even better

The ROAR development guide helps people develop their own web assessments using the ROAR framework. This page is about contributing directly to the development guide and the create-roar-app tempate.

The ROAR project welcomes, and depends, on contributions from BDE Lab members and the broader web assessment community. Contributions can be made in a number of ways, a few examples are:

  • Code patches via pull requests
  • Documentation improvements
  • Bug reports and patch reviews
  • Development of new ROAR assessments

Imposter's syndrome disclaimer1

We want your help. No, really.

There may be a little voice inside your head that is telling you that you're not ready to be an open-source contributor; that your skills aren't nearly good enough to contribute. What could you possibly offer a project like this one?

We assure you - the little voice in your head is wrong. If you can write code at all, you can contribute code to open-source. Contributing to open-source projects is a fantastic way to advance one's coding skills. Writing perfect code isn't the measure of a good developer (that would disqualify all of us!); it's trying to create something, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes. That's how we all improve, and we are happy to help others learn.

Being an open-source contributor doesn't just mean writing code, either. You can help out by writing documentation, tests, or even giving feedback about the project (and yes - that includes giving feedback about the contribution process). Some of these contributions may be the most valuable to the project as a whole, because you're coming to the project with fresh eyes, so you can see the errors and assumptions that seasoned contributors have glossed over.

Practical guide to submitting your contribution

These guidelines are designed to make it as easy as possible to get involved. If you have any questions that aren't discussed below, please let us know by opening an issue!

Before you start, you'll need to set up a free GitHub account and sign in. Here are some instructions.

Already know what you're looking for in this guide? Jump to the following sections:

Joining the conversation

ROAR is primarily maintained by a collaborative research group. But we maintain this software as an open project. This means that we welcome contributions from people outside our group and we make sure to give contributors from outside our group credit in presentations of the work. In other words, we're excited to have you join! Most of our discussions will take place on open issues. We actively monitor this space and look forward to hearing from you!

Contributing through GitHub

git is a really useful tool for version control. GitHub sits on top of git and supports collaborative and distributed working.

If you're not yet familiar with git, there are lots of great resources to help you git started! Some of our favorites include the git Handbook and the Software Carpentry introduction to git.

Writing Markdown

On GitHub, you'll use Markdown to chat in issues and pull requests. You'll also use Markdown to contribute to the documentation in this developer's guide. You can think of Markdown as a few little symbols around your text that will render the text with a little bit of formatting. For example, you could write words as bold (**bold**), or in italics (*italics*), or as a link ([link]( to another webpage.

GitHub has a really helpful page for getting started with writing and formatting Markdown on GitHub.

Understanding GitHub issues

Every project on GitHub uses issues slightly differently. The following outlines how the ROAR developers think about these tools.

Issues are individual pieces of work that need to be completed to move the project forward. A general guideline: if you find yourself tempted to write a great big issue that is difficult to be described as one unit of work, please consider splitting it into two or more issues.

Issues are assigned labels which explain how they relate to the overall project's goals and immediate next steps.

Issue Labels

The current list of issue labels are here and include:

  • Good first issue These issues contain a task that is amenable to new contributors.

    If you feel that you can contribute to one of these issues, we especially encourage you to do so!

  • Bug These issues point to problems in the project.

    If you find new a bug, please give as much detail as possible in your issue, including steps to recreate the error. If you experience the same bug as one already listed, please add any additional information that you have as a comment.

  • Enhancement These issues are asking for new features and improvements to be considered by the project.

    Please try to make sure that your requested feature is distinct from any others that have already been requested or implemented. If you find one that's similar but there are subtle differences, please reference the other request in your issue.

  • Documentation These issues are for improvements or additions to documentation.

    Writing documentation is one of the most important types of contributions that you can make. Good documentation helps users and developers, new and seasoned, in using and enhancing the ROAR ecosystem.

Making a change

We appreciate all contributions to ROAR, but those accepted fastest will follow a workflow similar to the following:

  1. Comment on an existing issue or open a new issue referencing your addition.

    This allows other members of the ROAR development team to confirm that you aren't overlapping with work that's currently underway and that everyone is on the same page with the goal of the work you're going to carry out. This blog is a nice explanation of why putting this work in up front is so useful to everyone involved.

  2. Fork the ROAR repository to your profile.

    This is now your own unique copy of ROAR. Changes here won't effect anyone else's work, so it's a safe space to explore edits to the code! On your own fork of the repository, select Settings -> Actions-> "Disable Actions for this repository" to avoid flooding your inbox with warnings from our continuous integration suite.

  3. Clone your forked ROAR repository to your machine/computer.

    While you can edit files directly on github, sometimes the changes you want to make will be complex and you will want to use a text editor that you have installed on your local machine/computer. (One great text editor is vscode). In order to work on the code locally, you must clone your forked repository. To keep up with changes in the create-roar-app repository, add the "upstream" create-roar-app repository as a remote to your locally cloned repository.

    git remote add upstream

    Make sure to keep your fork up to date with the upstream repository. For example, to update your master branch on your local cloned repository:

    git fetch upstream
    git checkout master
    git merge upstream/master
  4. Create a new branch to develop and maintain the proposed code changes.

    For example:

    git fetch upstream  # Always start with an updated upstream
    git checkout -b fix/bug-1222 upstream/master

    Please consider using appropriate branch names as those listed below, and mind that some of them are special (e.g., doc/ and docs/):

    • fix/<some-identifier>: for bugfixes
    • enh/<feature-name>: for new features
    • doc/<some-identifier>: for documentation improvements. You should name all your documentation branches with the prefix doc/ or docs/ as that will preempt triggering the full battery of continuous integration tests.
  5. Make the changes you've discussed, following the ROAR coding style guide.

    Try to keep the changes focused: it is generally easy to review changes that address one feature or bug at a time. Once you are satisfied with your local changes, add/commit/push them to the branch on your forked repository.

  6. Submit a pull request.

    A member of the development team will review your changes to confirm that they can be merged into the main code base. Pull request titles should begin with a descriptive prefix (for example, ENH: Adding another template):

    • ENH: enhancements or new features
    • FIX: bug fixes
    • TST: new or updated tests
    • DOC: new or updated documentation
    • STY: style changes
    • REF: refactoring existing code
    • CI: updates to continous integration infrastructure
    • MAINT: general maintenance
    • For works-in-progress, add the WIP tag in addition to the descriptive prefix. Pull-requests tagged with WIP: will not be merged until the tag is removed.
  7. Have your PR reviewed by the development team, and update your changes accordingly in your branch.

    The reviewers will take special care in assisting you to address their comments, as well as dealing with conflicts and other tricky situations that could emerge from distributed development.

ROAR coding style guide


TODO: Fill this in with tslint and markdown lint information.

Writing documentation

Improving our documentation is often the most effective way to contribute to ROAR. This documentation guide is created using Material for MkDocs, which creates a website from a collection of Markdown files. There is an edit button displayed at the top of each document on this website. You may click that button to propose edits to any page. You can also fork and clone the entire repository as outlined above.

  1. The imposter syndrome disclaimer was originally written by Adrienne Lowe for a PyCon talk, and was adapted based on its use in the README file for the MetPy project