Core Developer Guide

Welcome, new core developer! The core team appreciate the quality of your work, and enjoy working with you; we have therefore invited you to join us. Thank you for your numerous contributions to the project so far.

This document offers guidelines for your new role. First and foremost, you should familiarize yourself with the project’s mission, vision, and values. When in doubt, always refer back here.

As a core team member, you gain the responsibility of shepherding other contributors through the review process; here are some guidelines.

All Contributors Are Treated The Same

You now have the ability to push changes directly to the master branch, but should never do so; instead, continue making pull requests as before and in accordance with the general contributor guide.

As a core contributor, you gain the ability to merge or approve other contributors’ pull requests. Much like nuclear launch keys, it is a shared power: you must merge only after another core has approved the pull request, and after you yourself have carefully reviewed it. (See Reviewing and especially Merge Only Changes You Understand below.) To ensure a clean git history, use GitHub’s Squash and Merge feature to merge, unless you have a good reason not to do so.

Reviewing

How to Conduct A Good Review

Always be kind to contributors. Nearly all of scikit-image is volunteer work, for which we are tremendously grateful. Provide constructive criticism on ideas and implementations, and remind yourself of how it felt when your own work was being evaluated as a novice.

scikit-image strongly values mentorship in code review. New users often need more handholding, having little to no git experience. Repeat yourself liberally, and, if you don’t recognize a contributor, point them to our development guide, or other GitHub workflow tutorials around the web. Do not assume that they know how GitHub works (e.g., many don’t realize that adding a commit automatically updates a pull request). Gentle, polite, kind encouragement can make the difference between a new core developer and an abandoned pull request.

When reviewing, focus on the following:

  1. API: The API is what users see when they first use scikit-image. APIs are difficult to change once released, so should be simple, functional (i.e. not carry state), consistent with other parts of the library, and should avoid modifying input variables. Please familiarize yourself with the project’s deprecation policy

  2. Documentation: Any new feature should have a gallery example, that not only illustrates but explains it.

  3. The algorithm: You should understand the code being modified or added before approving it. (See Merge Only Changes You Understand below.) Implementations should do what they claim, and be simple, readable, and efficient.

  4. Tests: All contributions to the library must be tested, and each added line of code should be covered by at least one test. Good tests not only execute the code, but explores corner cases. It is tempting not to review tests, but please do so.

Other changes may be nitpicky: spelling mistakes, formatting, etc. Do not ask contributors to make these changes, and instead make the changes by pushing to their branch or using GitHub’s suggestion feature. (The latter is preferred because it gives the contributor a choice in whether to accept the changes.)

Our default merge policy is to squash all PR commits into a single commit. Users who wish to bring the latest changes from master into their branch should be advised to merge, not to rebase. Even when merge conflicts arise, don’t ask for a rebase unless you know that a contributor is experienced with git. Instead, rebase the branch yourself, force-push to their branch, and advise the contributor on how to force-pull. If the contributor is no longer active, you may take over their branch by submitting a new pull request and closing the original. In doing so, ensure you communicate that you are not throwing the contributor’s work away!

Please add a note to a pull request after you push new changes; GitHub does not send out notifications for these.

Merge Only Changes You Understand

Long-term maintainability is an important concern. Code doesn’t merely have to work, but should be understood by multiple core developers. Changes will have to be made in the future, and the original contributor may have moved on.

Therefore, do not merge a code change unless you understand it. Ask for help freely: we have a long history of consulting community members, or even external developers, for added insight where needed, and see this as a great learning opportunity.

While we collectively “own” any patches (and bugs!) that become part of the code base, you are vouching for changes you merge. Please take that responsibility seriously.

In practice, if you are the second core developer reviewing and approving a given pull request, you typically merge it (again, using GitHub’s Squash and Merge feature) in the wake of your approval. What are the exceptions to this process? If the pull request has been particularly controversial or the subject of much debate (e.g., involving API changes), then you would want to wait a few days before merging. This waiting time gives others a chance to speak up in case they are not fine with the current state of the pull request. Another exceptional situation is one where the first approving review happened a long time ago and many changes have taken place in the meantime.

Closing issues and pull requests

Sometimes, an issue must be closed that was not fully resolved. This can be for a number of reasons:

  • the person behind the original post has not responded to calls for clarification, and none of the core developers have been able to reproduce their issue;

  • fixing the issue is difficult, and it is deemed too niche a use case to devote sustained effort or prioritize over other issues; or

  • the use case or feature request is something that core developers feel does not belong in scikit-image,

among others. Similarly, pull requests sometimes need to be closed without merging, because:

  • the pull request implements a niche feature that we consider not worth the added maintenance burden;

  • the pull request implements a useful feature, but requires significant effort to bring up to scikit-image’s standards, and the original contributor has moved on, and no other developer can be found to make the necessary changes; or

  • the pull request makes changes that do not align with our values, such as increasing the code complexity of a function significantly to implement a marginal speedup,

among others.

All these may be valid reasons for closing, but we must be wary not to alienate contributors by closing an issue or pull request without an explanation. When closing, your message should:

  • explain clearly how the decision was made to close. This is particularly important when the decision was made in a community meeting, which does not have as visible a record as the comments thread on the issue itself;

  • thank the contributor(s) for their work; and

  • provide a clear path for the contributor or anyone else to appeal the decision.

These points help ensure that all contributors feel welcome and empowered to keep contributing, regardless of the outcome of past contributions.

Further resources

As a core member, you should be familiar with community and developer resources such as:

You are not required to monitor all of the social resources.

Inviting New Core Members

Any core member may nominate other contributors to join the core team. Nominations happen on a private email list, mailto:skimage-core@python.org. As of this writing, there is no hard-and-fast rule about who can be nominated; at a minimum, they should have: been part of the project for at least six months, contributed significant changes of their own, contributed to the discussion and review of others’ work, and collaborated in a way befitting our community values.

Contribute To This Guide!

This guide reflects the experience of the current core developers. We may well have missed things that, by now, have become second nature—things that you, as a new team member, will spot more easily. Please ask the other core developers if you have any questions, and submit a pull request with insights gained.

Conclusion

We are excited to have you on board! We look forward to your contributions to the code base and the community. Thank you in advance!