I'm thinking about contributing to a small R package on github that has only 1 contributor. What's the standard etiquette when there's not Contributing.md page on small projects like this?

Should I email him about whether my feature is wanted? Or just clone and then issue a pull request?

  • 1
    It is always nice to send an email (perhaps to ask if he wants some pull request). A software author always like to get kind emails about his work (as long as he don't get too much of them). Jun 27, 2015 at 17:25
  • What kind of contribution? Is there an open issue?
    – jonrsharpe
    Jun 27, 2015 at 17:49
  • There's no issue. The package is used to download common political science dataset. There's a common dataset that's not yet covered (and I use frequently), so I want to add it.
    – Heisenberg
    Jun 27, 2015 at 17:50
  • 2
    Are there other issues? One option would be to open one requesting the package be added, and comment on it that you have a fix written.
    – jonrsharpe
    Jun 27, 2015 at 19:00
  • Great idea! This will also leave a paper trail on github.
    – Heisenberg
    Jun 27, 2015 at 19:02

3 Answers 3


As an owner of an open source project, I love hearing from potential contributors. Since you're interested in contributing, I'm guessing you also have some issue with the current software, either a bug you'd like to fix or a feature you'd like to add. Open an issue and then in a comment on the issue, express interest and willingness to do the work. If the owner is still interested in the project, I'm sure you'll get a positive response.

However, if the owner isn't interested (you get no response), check the license and see if you're allowed to modify the source and distribute derivative works. You can always fork the project and implement it anyway, for yourself and the community.

  • 1
    This is what worked in my case. The owner responded immediately!
    – Heisenberg
    Jul 9, 2015 at 18:20

Since your issue is a missing contribution statement, and it's on Github which supports issue tracking, you could open an issue to politely ask for support. Something like:

Issue title: Contribution guidelines

Issue description: I was looking for ways to contribute to your project,
but I cannot find any guidelines on how to do so. If you're accepting
contributions on this repo, please consider adding contribution
guidelines to the repo at the standard location (CONTRIBUTING.md).

You can fork the project on github and then make a single commit with your change. Then you can open an issue in the project repository and provide a link to the commit and ask if (s)he would like you to make a PR. Try to follow any code style being used and use travis etc if the project is. It is always good to include a test if appropriate.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.