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Contributing to PEAR: Taking over packages

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 19 February 2011.
Planet PHP

One of the more frequent questions I see on the mailing lists and IRC is, "How do I take over a package?".

Very often people start to use a PEAR package and then at some point encounter either a bug or they miss a certain feature. The package's state however is inactive or flat unmaintained.

Offer help

The first step is to offer your help. And the easiest way to help is to report bugs or open feature requests.

A great bug report or feature request includes:

  1. Accurate problem description.
  2. A proposed solution.
  3. A patch (unified diff, aka diff -up or svn diff)
  4. A PHPUnit test case so this bug stays fixed.

I realize that these are a lot of requirements, but I also said a great bug report and no one said it was easy.

Getting fixes in

Often people persued these first steps and went the whole nine yards. But the bugs are still not fixed, the feature isn't implemented either and no release was pushed out.

How do you move forward now?

  1. Email the maintainer and cc pear-qa@lists.php.net.
  2. Ping PEAR QA again after reasonable period of time passed (e.g. 1 or 2 weeks tops)

If the package is generally unmaintained or the maintainer did not respond, PEAR QA will be happy to apply patches for you and do a new release. If the maintainer replied, work with them to get the issues fixed and a new release shipped.

Do you want to maintain?

To become the maintainer of any package we need to see your contributions first.

Contributions include:

  • patches for bugs and features
  • tests
  • bug reports
  • (maybe) helping people on the IRC channel

The fastest way to take over an orphaned package is to provide patches to any open issues so the QA team can push out a new release.

Contributing code is not just the preferred way but a hard requirement. It's the only viable way for others to assess your skills.

Another way to maintainership is of course when the current maintainer asked you if you want to contribute more since you showed them an interest through your work.

Fin

I hope I summarized the process a little to make it more transparent. In the end it's pretty simple and straight forward to contribute to PEAR - and lots of people will be tankful for your contributions too.