Yihui Xie

Jump-start A Pull Request

Yihui Xie / 2017-08-22


Pull requests (PRs) is my favorite thing about Github.1 I have created and merged numerous PRs over the years. If you are new to PRs and contributing to other people’s packages, I strongly recommend you to read the following materials:

Jim’s post is certainly not limited to contributing to Tidyverse, but contains rules that can be generally applied to most other open-source projects. I don’t have much to add to what he has said, but only one little thing: how to jump-start a pull request, especially for a project that has a relatively large codebase or contributors who are not familiar with your codebase.

Usually I encourage users to submit PRs and try my best to review and improve them if possible. To get them started when I’m busy, I often point out the critical lines of code where they can start hacking. Although it is not my most representative example, yihui/knitr#1425 is the most recent one, in which I asked @yutannihilation to try to fix the issue by himself, and later he came back with hadley/evaluate#81, which I haven’t had a chance to review yet.

A more recent and better example is gohugoio/hugo#3825, which is my PR to Hugo. To be honest, I know nothing about the Go language, but when I reported the issue gohugoio/hugo#3824, the current maintainer of Hugo @bep told me the source file I should modify in the Hugo codebase. Fortunately, I know some JavaScript, so I came up with a PR about 20 minutes later, which was merged 3 hours later. This was my third PR to Hugo.

So you do not really always have to understand a language or codebase to make a contribution. Some problems are small enough to be fixed with only a couple of lines of code, and you can probably do it by yourself before the busy core developers have the bandwidth to process your issues.

Again, please read Charlotte’s presentation and Jim’s post before making your first PR.


  1. Well, I really do not appreciate the name “pull request”. It is highly confusing from the perspective of contributors. GitLab has done it correctly: merge request!