Working on Your First GitHub Issue Contributing to open source projects (Part 2)

In this post we’ll look the steps that you can take as a new contributor to open source, in order to find and work on your first contribution to an issue on GitHub. As with the first post (Forking and Cloning from GitHub), we’ll use the Humanitarian Toolbox allReady project as our example.

Choosing An Issue

The first step when contributing to a project is to visit the project site and find an issue you would like to work on and which you think is suitable for your skill set. From the project homepage on GitHub you can click the Issues tab to navigate to a list of the open issues.

GitHub navigating to the issues

As a first time contributor you will ideally want to find something small and relatively straightforward to use as a nice entry into the project, before trying to tackle larger more complex issues. Don’t try to dive in too deep on your first few contributions!

Many projects will label their issues and this is often a good way to filter down the issues list to ones that you might want to work on. On the allReady project we have a “good first issue” label and we also use the “upforgrabs” label convention. “upforgrabs” is a label projects can use to highlight available issues, usually ones which are good for new contributors. There is a master site which scrapes these and provides a way to find issues that you can contribute to across many projects on GitHub.

To view a list of the available labels you can click on the “Labels” button in the UI

GitHub label filter button

From the labels view, you can scroll and find a label to work on.

From this list for allReady, “good first issue” sounds like a reasonable candidate for newcomers so we’ll click on that. This will result in a filtered view of issues, showing only those which have this label applied to them.

GitHub issues filtered by label

In this example, there is one issue now showing. We can click on that issue to view more detail and to determine if it’s something we’d like to work on.

GitHub Issue Details

The issue details page provides the full information about the issue. Usually the top comment will include details of the bug or the feature that is needed. Issues can be raised by anyone and as a result, the level of detail may not always be sufficient to understand the problem or requirement. On allReady, the project owners and core contributors try to view new issues and triage them. This involves verifying the issue being reported is valid and where necessary, providing some further details or guidance. If it’s not clear what is needed from an issue, you can leave a comment to ask questions about it. If you have an idea for a solution, but want to run it past the project team before starting, work, you can leave a comment for that too. Issues are a good place for open discussions like this.

In this example, the requirement is quite clear and the solution should be very simple; we’d like to have a go at working on this issue. It’s good practice and etiquette to leave a comment an any issues you plan to work on so that other people know it’s no longer available. Having two people spending their time on the same issue can be frustrating. It’s also worth pointing out that you should check for any comments indicating that someone else is already working on an issue before you pick it up yourself!

Leaving a comment on GitHub

Working on an Issue

When beginning work on an issue locally, the first thing you’ll need to do is to create a branch for that piece of work. There are many Git UI tools that allow you to create a branch, for this demo we’ll use the command line. To create and checkout a branch you can use a single command.

git checkout -b <branchname>

This command allows us to specify a name for our new branch and immediately check it out so we can work on it. The naming convention you use for your branches is up to you. They will live in your clone and fork of the project. Bare in mind, once pushed to your public fork and when you later submit a pull request, they will be public. I tend to use the issue number for my branch names. Personally I find this works quite well since the branch names are short and I can easily lookup the issue details on GitHub to see the requirements. In this case, the issue we’ve selected is issue #2204 so I’ll use that for my new branch name.

git checkout -b 2204

Checkout a Git Branch

Once we are on our new branch we can make changes to the code which address the issue. I won’t show that here, but for this issue I opened up the markdown file and made the appropriate fix to remove the duplicated text using VS Code. You can use any tools you like at this stage to work on the code and files.

Once we have made the required changes that address a particular issue, we need to commit that code to our branch. We can use the “git status” command to view the changes since our last commit.

Git status modified

In our example above, only one file has changed. We then use the “git add” command to stage the changes for the next commit. As we have one modified file we can use the following command:

git add .

This stages any new or modified files from our working tree.

Next we will commit our staged changes using the “git commit” command. In this case we can use the following example:

git commit -m "Fixed duplicate text"

The -m option allows us to specify a message for our commit. It’s good practice to try and provide a succinct, but descriptive message for your commits. This helps a reviewer understand at a high level what was addressed in each commit.

At this point we have made and committed out changes local to our development machine. Our final step is to push the changes to our fork of the allReady repository up on GitHub. We can do that using the “git push” command. We need to specify the name of the remote that we want to push to and the name of the branch we want to push up. In our example, the command looks like this:

git push origin 2204

This pushes our local 2204 branch to the origin remote, which is the fork of the allReady project which we created on GitHub.

Result of git push to GitHub


At this stage we have selected an issue to work on and begun that work locally on a new branch of the code. Once we had completed our changes we are able to commit those and push them up to our fork of the code on GitHub. In the next post we’ll look at how we create a pull request in order to submit our change to the project for inclusion.

If you are a visual learner, then I have a video which covers the topics in this post available up on my YouTube Channel

Other posts in this series

Part 1 – Forking and Cloning from GitHub
Part 2 – This post

Forking and Cloning from GitHub Contributing to open source projects (Part 1)

In this post I’m going to share the initial steps that you will need to take in order to be begin contributing to an open source project. I’ve covered this more generally in the past and wanted to provide a more focused post that covered these steps for a new open source contributor. For this post we’ll use the Humanitarian Toolbox allReady project as our example.

Forking a Repository

When beginning to contribute to a project on GitHub, your first step is to fork the repository. This creates a copy of that repository under your own account enabling you to begin working with the code. The rights to public repositories will be such that you can view the code, but not directly commit into the repository or create branches. This allows the project owners to control changes within their codebase. Changes are made via pull requests; which we’ll cover in a future post.

The forking step creates a copy to which you do have permission to commit and branch on and you can consider this your working copy of the project. You can make changes and commits here, safe in the knowledge that you will not affect the main repository.

The process of forking on GitHub is very simple. Make sure you are logged into your account on GitHub and then open the project you are interested in contributing to. In this example I’ll navigate to Once inside the repository you will see a “Fork” button in the upon right hand corner of the UI. Click on this button to begin the automatic forking process.


GitHub Fork Button



GitHub forking progress

Within a few seconds you’ll have your completed fork.

Cloning your Fork

Now that you have your fork, the next step is to clone the code down to your local development machine. Again, GitHub make this quite simple in their UI. To clone a repository you will need its URL. Clicking on the “Clone or download” button will open a UI showing the Git URL. A button to the right hand side of the URL allows you to copy it into your clipboard.

GitHub Clone or Download button

To perform the clone operation I’m going to demonstrate using the command line. There are various graphical tools you can use to work with Git repositories but for simple procedures, the command line is often fastest.

Open a command window and navigate to the path where you would like to clone the repository.

Use the following command to begin a clone:

git clone

Here we’ve pasted in the URL of the fork that we just copied as the argument to the “git clone” command. You will see the output of the clone command as it clones the contents of your repository onto your local device.

Git clone progress

Once the command completes you will have a new folder containing the cloned repository. We can validate this by running the “dir” command.

Directory after cloning

Next we’ll need to navigate into the newly cloned folder. Will do that with the following command:

cd allReady

Registering an Upstream Remote

The final step is to setup a remote which points to the main repository. Remotes simply represent paths or URLs to other versions of your repository. In our case, as we cloned from our fork on GitHub a default remote will have been setup for us called origin. This origin allows us to push and pull code from our forked repository hosted on GitHub. We can list the currently configured remotes on our machine using the “git remote” command.

Default git remote for origin

Pushing and pulling from your own fork is very useful and this will be how you will work with the project most often. However, when working on that code, you’ll want to be starting from the most recent version of the code from the main allReady repository. That code may have been updated and changed since you first made your fork. In order to get access to that latest code, we’ll setup a second remote which points to the main allReady repository. We will not have commit rights there, so we cannot push changes, however, we will be able to fetch the latest commits that have occurred.

To create a new remote we use the “git remote add” command, passing in a name for the new remote and the URL as arguments. First we need the git clone URL for the remote we want to add. We can get this by heading back to GitHub in our browser. From our fork we can use the convenience link to take us back to the main repository from which we forked it.

Switch to fork parent repository on GitHub

Once back in the allReady main project we can use the same steps as we previously used to access the clone URL via the “Clone or download” button and copy it to our clipboard.

Back in our command window; to add our remote for our allReady example we’ll use:

git remote add upstream

We could name the remote anything we like, but the convention is to use upstream, so we’ll follow that.

If we run the “git remote” command again we can verify that we now have two remotes.

After adding upstream remote


That’s as far as we’ll take it in this post. We have forked a copy of a repository, in this case allReady, and then cloned the code down to our local machine. We’ve down the work needed to setup an extra remote and we are now in a position to begin working on our first issue. We’ll cover that in a future post.

If you are a visual learner, then I have a video which covers the topics in this post available up on my YouTube Channel

Other posts in this series

Part 1 – This post
Part 2 – Working on Your First GitHub Issue

2017 – The Year in Review Looking back at an exciting 2017

2017 was an incredibly fun, exciting and busy year for me. I’m a bit late in pulling it together but I wanted to write this year in review post.

2017 Highlights

For me there are a few distinct highlights that come to mind in a year packed full of goodness…

MVP Award

The biggest highlight by far was being nominated for, and later being presented a Microsoft MVP award. To say it was a dream come true would not be true, as I’d never even considered dreaming it before being nominated! I’m still getting used to the idea of joining such an amazing group of community leaders, experts and enthusiasts. My trophy sits pride of place on my desk at home and I often glance at it to reassure myself it actually happened!

Microsoft MVP Award Pack

Public Speaking

I kicked off my speaking “career”; first with some small internal talks at work, then a 20 minute public talk in April, next a talk at London .NET User Group and then two conferences. One in London for Progressive .NET, one in Germany at ADC Core! In January last year, I would have laughed at anyone that said that within the year I’d be volunteering to talk in front of a room full of people! I’m gaining my confidence, experience and most importantly enthusiasm to present more talks in 2018. I’m applying to conferences and planning new talks that I hope will benefit the community. I found a passion for sharing with the community and giving back, since I have personally learned a lot from other writers and speakers over the years.


I again managed to carve out some time to contribute to the Humanitarian Toolbox, allReady project. During 2017 I submitted 45 pull requests to the project, with 121 commits. Some of the biggest work involved migrating from 1.0 to 2.0 of ASP.NET Core. I’ve gotten more involved with helping plan and manage issues, answer questions and review pull requests. It’s a fantastic team and a project I love working on. I also created a little OSS library for basic correlation IDs on ASP.NET Core APIs. It was something we needed at work that I chucked together one weekend and published to NuGet. It’s had nearly 17,000 downloads!! I guess that number is skewed by CI systems and the like, but still way more than I imagined would ever pull it down! I completed a 2.0 upgrade for that project during the Christmas break which added a context concept that might be useful.

Meeting People

I got to meet some great people within the community, as well as forming friendships both online and off. As a naturally introvert and shy person, this hasn’t come easily but I’m building my own self confidence, the more I put myself out there. I got to meet a few people I never expected to meet in person which was a real bonus. Much of that has come from the two items above, contributing to allReady and starting to speak at conferences. In additional I’ve got to know many people via Twitter and enjoy being engaged with the community directly. I learn a lot from the blog posts and content shared via Twitter and rarely does a day pass without my flagging something to read later.

Twitter Growth

My Twitter follower count has grown dramatically this year. On the 10th of January 2017 I marked the milestone of reaching 100 followers with a tweet. By the close of the year I got close to 700 followers which seems incredible to me. I hope this is because my content is resonating with people and being deemed useful. Thanks to everyone who follows me and engaged with me in some way in 2017. Let’s make it at least 1,000 followers this year! That would be very cool!


My blog has been a big focus for me in 2017. I published 45 posts during the year, which looking back is coming on for 1 per week on average. I really love writing for my blog and sharing what I’m learning. Much of the content is ASP.NET Core related, although Docker is featuring heavily too. I’ve started to try and write more soft-skills type posts as I develop myself personally and professionally. For example I wrote two long posts focused on my progress from hating public speaking, to actually really enjoying it. I enjoyed writing something a bit different and while they are long and probably not to everyone’s taste, I had some nice feedback. I’ll hopefully break down some shorter posts early in 2018. I’ve been honoured that a lot of my posts have been featured on the ASP.NET Community Standup by Jon Galloway. That’s certainly helped with reach. In terms of numbers, I’ve seen some impressive growth…

Headline Numbers:

  • 117k unique visitors (up  242% on 2016)
  • 185k sessions (up 268% on 2016)
  • 233k page views (up 290% on 2016)

I’m not sure how that compares to other blogs, but I’m happy with that reach and the growth factor. I’d love to keep growing it in 2018 and will aim to keep up the flow of quality posts. I have many drafts from 2017 left partially worked on which I will pick up against soon!

I also took a quick look at my top 10 posts:

Blog Post

Unique Pageviews

R.I.P project.json – Out with the new, in with the old


How to Send Emails in ASP.NET Core 1.0


Docker for .NET Developers (Part 1)


Migrating from .NET Framework to .NET Core


Implementing IHostedService in ASP.NET Core 2.0


Docker for .NET Developers (Part 2)


CQRS with Mediatr and ASP.NET Core


Upgrading to ASP.NET Core 2.0


Getting started with ASP.NET Core 2.0 Preview 1


ASP.NET Core Identity Token Providers – Under the Hood


The project.json one got a lot of traffic not long after the announcement of it’s demise! Good to see Docker up there. Interesting that the how to send emails in 1.0 is so popular. Maybe I need to produce and update for 2.0 that covers the options we have now!

.NET Meetup

For a while I’d craved a local user group focused on hosting speakers for .NET related topics. I started attending Brighton ALT.NET early in 2017 which is a long running group hosted by Mike Hadlow. It’s a fun event and I enjoy attending, however it’s format is discussion based and I still wanted an option to see speakers present longer topics. This kept coming back to me during the year and by mid 2017 I started to seriously consider starting a meetup. However I was worried about how to go about it. Where would I even start? In the end I decided to simply bite the bullet and put one together. I created a .NET South East meetup account, agreed with Madgex, my employer, that I could kindly use their office space and got planning. It all came together quite quickly and we had our first event in August. The membership has exceeded my initial imagination and we get a good turnout of regulars. Our busiest night was when we arranged for an evening with Jon Galloway that packed the space we had with nearly 60 people. I’m so glad the community are getting behind the group and the feedback is always positive. Thanks to all of the speakers and attendees who’ve made it a reality. Thanks especially to some of the Madgex staff who have continually supported the logistics of the events. Big shout out to Chris Sargood in particular who’s helped me with every event.


My career has progressed at Madgex and I enjoy every day working for them. I’ve got to work on some exciting greenfield technology, building our new reporting system using the latest tools. I learn a lot from working within such a great team of people. I was very happy to be promoted to senior developer during the year and towards the end of 2017 took on some extra responsibilities as a developer community lead. I’m excited about the goals of that role and look forward to working with everyone more closely in 2018.


I’m continuously learning and my personal view is that you have to proactively work at learning new things, consuming new ideas and experimenting all the time. I’ve learned a lot simply by working with new technology in my day job as well as a significant amount from contributing to Humanitarian Toolbox. I love developing and keeping up with the ASP.NET Core space in particular. I watch a lot of recorded conferences and online video content as primers on topics. I then seek blog posts to dive in a bit deeper. I spend a fair bit of time watching the notifications on the ASP.NET Core repositories and reading some of the code there which I find very useful. One of my best learning tools though has been to teach. I found that I learned so much from each and every blog post I put together. Speaking has taken me even deeper as well. I can’t recommend sharing content enough as a way to develop your skills and truly understand something. It’s a win-win!


Late in 2017 I started thinking about recording some YouTube videos. I’d been approached by a couple of online course providers about creating content, but honestly felt I needed some more experience first. In November I started experimenting and in December I recorded my first video about ASP.NET Core Startup, focusing specially on Program.cs. I was quite happy with the content for a first try, but the quality was not quite at the level I wanted, so I invested in some new equipment, including lighting and a proper microphone to hopefully take me to the next level. I’ve since managed one more video, this time about Dockerfile Basics and it’s an improvement over the first video. They’ve gained quite a lot of views (around 700 between them) in a short space of time which has encouraged me to put more time into this during 2018. It’s a lot of work though! I’d like to consider producing a formal course as well if I can find the time and some content that’s not already been covered!

Looking to 2018

I’ve been setting personal goals and noting down ideas for 2018 for the last month or so. Much of it is really to build on 2017. Keeping up blogging, doing more video content and hopefully speaking at more conferences. Overall it’s about being part of the community, earning my MVP wings and sharing what I can with others. Hopefully some of my crazier ideas will become a reality too. I’ll save those until they happen! A key thing I learned in 2017 is that anything is possible if you put the work in. I achieved far more than I would have written in a list at the beginning of the year!

Here’s some larger things on the list for 2018

  • MVP Summit – This is the big one for me and will be my highlight of 2018 for sure. I’m all set to travel to the US for the first time to visit Microsoft HQ in Redmond. It’s an extremely exciting opportunity to meet fellow MVPs as well as interact with the Microsoft teams directly. I’m told it’s a very tiring and packed experience but so, so valuable.
  • NDC London – In a week and half I’ll be attending NDC London. I’ve always wanted to go to an NDC conference in person. Last year I took part in a two day codeathon for Humanitarian Toolbox before the main conference but this year I get to pack in three days or learning and networking. I’m really looking forward to catching up with some people from the Twitter world as well as hopefully meeting a few “tech celebrities”!
  • Humanitarian Toolbox codeathon – The day after NDC I’m very excited to have been able to organise a codeathon in Brighton. I’ll be joined by Richard Campbell to spend a day coding with developers from Madgex and the Brighton community. It’s going to be an exciting and hectic day. I love introducing new people to the allReady project though.
  • Videos – I plan to spend more time recording in 2018 now that I have learned the basics. Why not subscribe to my channel to be notified of new content?
  • Live Coding – I’d like to try some live coding in 2018. It’s an intimidating idea but I think it’s well worth trying. I’ve been watching Jeff Fritz do regular sessions and it’s very inspiring. I also think it’s extremely valuable to see someone code “for real” and not in an edited video. Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots to learn from video training courses and it’s a big part of my learning pattern. The polished videos are great when you want to learn a topic. However, edited videos do tend to disguise the reality and the challenges of coding, obscuring the picture for junior developers which can lead to people feeling under skilled. I know I’ve left videos feeling like I’m not skilled enough, but those videos are likely shot multiple times and edited together to give that clean, slick impression. Live coding lets people see that we’re all human. We miss things, get stuck at what later seem like obvious blockers, make errors and forget stuff. I’m sure we all write sloppy or poorly crafted code at times! My plan would be to live code as I work on issues for Humanitarian Toolbox. The main problems is scheduling as I’m not sure I can easily commit to specific, regular days/times which does make it harder for people to join in live.
  • Blogging – Lots more blogging in 2018 I hope. I want to continue some of the series I started in 2017 as well as finding new areas to explore and topics to cover.
  • Speaking – I definitely want to do more talks in 2018 now that I’ve got my feet wet. I’m actively submitting to talks and developing ideas for a range of new topics. As well as conferences I hope to get to some of the UK meetup groups as well.
  • Learning – As I said earlier, this is a continuous effort for me. You get out what you put in. I’ll be reading a lot of blogs and books, watching videos and hopefully attending some conferences. My particular focus is on the deeper internals of .NET and focusing on performance and bench marking. As ever I’ll dive off into any tangents the Twitter community provides!


So it”ll be a great 2018 I’m sure. Thanks to everyone I met, talked to or interacted with in 2017.