This guide is intended to give people who want to start contributing to HyperSpy a foothold to kick-start the process.
We anticipate that many potential contributors and developers will be scientists who may have a lot to offer in terms of expert knowledge but may have little experience when it comes to working on a reasonably large open-source project like HyperSpy. This guide is aimed at you – helping to reduce the barrier to make a contribution.
1. Start using HyperSpy and understand it
Probably you would not be interested in contributing to HyperSpy, if you were not already a user, but, just in case: the best way to start understanding how HyperSpy works and to build a broad overview of the code as it stands is to use it – so what are you waiting for? Install HyperSpy!
The HyperSpy User Guide also provides a good overview of all the parts of the code that are currently implemented as well as much information about how everything works – so read it well.
2. Got a problem? – ask!
Open source projects are all about community – we put in much effort to make good tools available to all and most people are happy to help others start out. Everyone had to start at some point and the philosophy of these projects centres around the fact that we can do better by working together.
Much of the conversation happens in ‘public’ via online platforms. The main two forums used by HyperSpy developers are:
Gitter – where we host a live chat-room in which people can ask questions and discuss things in a relatively informal way.
Github – the main repository for the source code also enables issues to be raised in a way that means they’re logged until dealt with. This is also a good place to make a proposal for some new feature or tool that you want to work on.
3. Contribute – yes you can!
You don’t need to be a professional programmer to contribute to HyperSpy. Indeed, there are many ways to contribute:
Just by asking a question in our Gitter chat room instead of sending a private email to the developers you are contributing to HyperSpy. Once you get more familiar with HyperSpy, it will be awesome if you could help others with their questions.
Issues reported in the issues tracker are precious contributions.
Pull request reviews are essential for the sustainability of open development software projects and HyperSpy is no exception. Therefore, reviews are highly appreciated. While you may need a good familiarity with the HyperSpy code base to review complex contributions, you can start by reviewing simpler ones such as documentation contributions or simple bug fixes.
Last but not least, you can contribute code in the form of documentation, bug fixes, enhancements or new features. That is the main topic of the rest of this guide.
4. Contributing code
You may have a very clear idea of what you want to contribute, but if you’re not sure where to start, you can always look through the issues and pull requests on the GitHub Page. You’ll find that there are many known areas for development in the issues and a number of pull-requests are partially finished projects just sitting there waiting for a keen new contributor to come and learn by finishing.
The documentation (let it be the docstrings, guides or the website) is always in need of some care. Besides, contributing to HyperSpy’s documentation is a very good way to get familiar with GitHub.
When you’ve decided what you’re going to work on – let people know using the online forums! It may be that someone else is doing something similar and can help.; it is also good to make sure that those working on related projects are pulling in the same direction.
There are 3 key points to get right when starting out as a contributor:
Work out what you want to contribute and break it down in to manageable chunks. Use Git branches to keep work separated in manageable sections.
Make sure that your code style is good.
Bear in mind that every new function you write will need tests and user documentation!