Contributing to Harbor 101

We’re elated at the increased community involvement since the donation of Harbor to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. There’s lots of interest around the project, including a steady buzz of activity in our Slack channels and on GitHub.

This blog post is for those interested in contributing to a CNCF project that may not have much experience with the various steps involved. We’re a friendly bunch of developer and the best part of our work on Harbor is interacting with the community!

Contributing to an open source project can initially seem daunting. If you’re feeling like there are “more qualified” individuals to hop in and help, we’ve all been there. We all start somewhere and the great thing about open source – including and especially Harbor – is that this is a no-judgement community. We welcome contributors with all sorts of experiences and backgrounds, from well-spoken writers eager to make our documentation clearer, to bug hunters that are talented at finding the most obscure corner cases, to life-long developers that have been hacking at code for decades – we appreciate ALL contributions.

The topic of contributing to an open source project is vast, particularly with a project like Harbor that has lots of moving parts. This will be the first of (hopefully) several posts where we discuss how to dive into the project and help. I’ll make an effort to be both succinct and practical – please feel free to fork the repo and follow along with the blog post.

The only thing that might help in following along is a bit of experience with Git. Fortunately there are some tremendous resources available for learning Git to varying degrees of interest. GitHub also has some good documentation that describes the various steps involved in the contribution process, and I’ll link to those as appropriate. Because Harbor is hosted on GitHub, understanding GitHub flow will make things much simpler as we tackle our first contribution. Read through this quick tutorial and make sure you grasp the basic concepts before moving forward. If you have questions, ping us on Slack. :)

Forking the repo

Let’s start with the first step in any contribution to Harbor: forking the repo. GitHub has a great page that describes how and why we fork and, as described in said page, this is the first step, whether contributing docs, tests or code.

Forking the
repo.

Congrats – you’re half way there!

Hunting for Things to Improve

Now comes the fun part: finding something to improve. A good starting place is documentation.

Docs are the easiest place to start making contributions, if only because there’s minimal cognitive overhead involved when updating documentation. There’s always room to improve documentation: cleaning up dead links, fixing typos, clarifying content and instructions, and creating new documentation to make things clearer for users of the Harbor platform.

Creating a Branch

As is discussed in the GitHub flow tutorial and the Open Source guide, creating a branch is the first step in the process. Branches are used as “sandboxes” where your proposed changes are located. In general, creating a branch is as easy as this:

$ git checkout -b doc-improvements

Preparing to Make Changes (to your fork)

The previously-referenced GitHub documentation describes the various steps involved, but for completeness we’ll discuss here:

Critically, make sure you’re still in the right branch:

$ git status

The first line of the status output should show that you’re in your feature branch, in our case doc-improvements. Still with me?

Improving the Docs

Fire up your favorite text editor – VSCode, Atom, vim, emacs, even nano(!) – and open the doc file you’d like to improve. Update the documentation as appropriate, save it and then get ready to push it to your Harbor fork.

From a terminal, a git status will show you what file you’ve just edited. Make sure this looks right.

I’ll also operate under the assumption that you’ve set up git properly – specifically user.name and user.email. If in doubt, take a look at this doc first. This is important because it ensures that the changes you make are properly attributed to you!

Committing and Pushing Changes

The next (almost there!) step is to commit the changes in your branch and push upstream:

$ git commit --verbose --signoff --message="Updating documentation to improve
<something>"
$ git push --set-upstream origin <my_branch_name>

The push command will take your changes and push it to your fork of the Harbor repo. Now we’re ready to create a Pull Request.

Creating a Pull Request

This is perhaps the easiest part of the process. Head over to your fork on GitHub: [https://www.github.com//harbor]()https://www.github.com//harbor).

A banner at the top of the repo will present you with the option of creating a pull request.

Creating a Pull
Request

Make sure the “base” branch is master in the goharbor organization. This tells GitHub to compare your changes (in your branch) to the upstream Harbor repository.

Sit Back and Relax

Won’t be long before we take a look at your Pull Request. Often there are minor suggestions along the way to make sure things are accurate, but this is the fun part of open source: collaboration!

The Pull Request is very much a “live conversation.” Minor issues will likely be accepted in short order, while larger (perhaps more impacting changes) might result in a discussion. We don’t bite, though, so please don’t be timid: share your opinions, thoughts and feel free to (nicely) push back as appropriate. We make mistakes, too.

In Closing

I’ll follow-up with future blog posts with further discussion on how to contribute to Harbor. Contributing code can be more involved, particularly if the feature is large, but we encourage you to join the fun. You can find us on GitHub, Slack or on the harbor-users and harbor-dev Google Groups mailing list.

Thanks for reading!

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