Contributing to Zulip
Welcome to the Zulip community!
The Zulip community server is the primary communication forum for the Zulip community. It is a good place to start whether you have a question, are a new contributor, are a new user, or anything else. Make sure to read the community norms before posting. The Zulip community is also governed by a code of conduct.
You can subscribe to firstname.lastname@example.org or our Twitter account for a very low traffic (<1 email/month) way to hear about things like mentorship opportunities with Google Summer of Code, in-person sprints at conferences, and other opportunities to contribute.
Ways to contribute
To make a code or documentation contribution, read our step-by-step guide to getting started with the Zulip codebase. A small sample of the type of work that needs doing:
Building out our Python API and bots framework.
Reviewing code and manually testing pull requests.
Non-code contributions: Some of the most valuable ways to contribute don’t require touching the codebase at all. We list a few of them below:
Your first (codebase) contribution
This section has a step by step guide to starting as a Zulip codebase contributor. It’s long, but don’t worry about doing all the steps perfectly; no one gets it right the first time, and there are a lot of people available to help.
First, make an account on the Zulip community server, paying special attention to the community norms. If you’d like, introduce yourself in #new members, using your name as the topic. Bonus: tell us about your first impressions of Zulip, and anything that felt confusing/broken as you started using the product.
Read the Zulip guide to Git and do the Git tutorial (coming soon) if you are unfamiliar with Git, getting help in #git help if you run into any troubles. Be sure to check out the extremely useful Zulip-specific tools page.
Picking an issue
Now, you’re ready to pick your first issue! There are hundreds of open issues in the main codebase alone. This section will help you find an issue to work on.
For the main server and web repository, we recommend browsing recently opened issues to look for issues you are confident you can fix correctly in a way that clearly communicates why your changes are the correct fix. Our GitHub workflow bot, zulipbot, limits users who have 0 commits merged to claiming a single issue labeled with “good first issue” or “help wanted”.
We also partition all of our issues in the main repo into areas like admin, compose, emoji, hotkeys, i18n, onboarding, search, etc. Look through our list of labels, and click on some of the
area:labels to see all the issues related to your areas of interest.
We also welcome suggestions of features that you feel would be valuable or changes that you feel would make Zulip a better open source project. If you have a new feature you’d like to add, we recommend you start by posting in #new members with the feature idea and the problem that you’re hoping to solve.
For a first pull request, it’s better to aim for a smaller contribution than a bigger one. Many first contributions have fewer than 10 lines of changes (not counting changes to tests).
The full list of issues explicitly looking for a contributor can be found with the good first issue and help wanted labels. Avoid issues with the “difficult” label unless you understand why it is difficult and are confident you can resolve the issue correctly and completely. Issues without one of these labels are fair game if Tim has written a clear technical design proposal in the issue, or it is a bug that you can reproduce and you are confident you can fix the issue correctly.
For most new contributors, there’s a lot to learn while making your first pull request. It’s OK if it takes you a while; that’s normal! You’ll be able to work a lot faster as you build experience.
Working on an issue
To work on an issue, claim it by adding a comment with
@zulipbot claim to
the issue thread. Zulipbot is a GitHub
workflow bot; it will assign you to the issue and label the issue as “in
progress”. Some additional notes:
You’re encouraged to ask questions on how to best implement or debug your changes – the Zulip maintainers are excited to answer questions to help you stay unblocked and working efficiently. You can ask questions on chat.zulip.org, or on the GitHub issue or pull request.
We encourage early pull requests for work in progress. Prefix the title of work in progress pull requests with
[WIP], and remove the prefix when you think it might be mergeable and want it to be reviewed.
After updating a PR, add a comment to the GitHub thread mentioning that it is ready for another review. GitHub only notifies maintainers of the changes when you post a comment, so if you don’t, your PR will likely be neglected by accident!
A great place to look for a second issue is to look for issues with the same
area: label as the last issue you resolved. You’ll be able to reuse the
work you did learning how that part of the codebase works. Also, the path to
becoming a core developer often involves taking ownership of one of these area
What makes a great Zulip contributor?
Zulip has a lot of experience working with new contributors. In our experience, these are the best predictors of success:
Posting good questions. This generally means explaining your current understanding, saying what you’ve done or tried so far, and including tracebacks or other error messages if appropriate.
Learning and practicing Git commit discipline.
Submitting carefully tested code. This generally means checking your work through a combination of automated tests and manually clicking around the UI trying to find bugs in your work. See things to look for for additional ideas.
Posting screenshots or GIFs for frontend changes.
Being responsive to feedback on pull requests. This means incorporating or responding to all suggested changes, and leaving a note if you won’t be able to address things within a few days.
Being helpful and friendly on chat.zulip.org.
These are also the main criteria we use to select candidates for all of our outreach programs.
If you find an easily reproducible bug and/or are experienced in reporting bugs, feel free to just open an issue on the relevant project on GitHub.
If you have a feature request or are not yet sure what the underlying bug is, the best place to post issues is #issues (or #mobile or #desktop) on the Zulip community server. This allows us to interactively figure out what is going on, let you know if a similar issue has already been opened, and collect any other information we need. Choose a 2-4 word topic that describes the issue, explain the issue and how to reproduce it if known, your browser/OS if relevant, and a screenshot or screenGIF if appropriate.
Reporting security issues. Please do not report security issues publicly, including on public streams on chat.zulip.org. You can email email@example.com. We create a CVE for every security issue in our released software.
Nearly every feature we develop starts with a user request. If you are part of a group that is either using or considering using Zulip, we would love to hear about your experience with the product. If you’re not sure what to write, here are some questions we’re always very curious to know the answer to:
Evaluation: What is the process by which your organization chose or will choose a group chat product?
Pros and cons: What are the pros and cons of Zulip for your organization, and the pros and cons of other products you are evaluating?
Features: What are the features that are most important for your organization? In the best-case scenario, what would your chat solution do for you?
Onboarding: If you remember it, what was your impression during your first few minutes of using Zulip? What did you notice, and how did you feel? Was there anything that stood out to you as confusing, or broken, or great?
Organization: What does your organization do? How big is the organization? A link to your organization’s website?
While each third-party program has its own rules and requirements, the Zulip community’s approaches all of these programs with these ideas in mind:
We try to make the application process as valuable for the applicant as possible. Expect high-quality code reviews, a supportive community, and publicly viewable patches you can link to from your resume, regardless of whether you are selected.
To apply, you’ll have to submit at least one pull request to a Zulip repository. Most students accepted to one of our programs have several merged pull requests (including at least one larger PR) by the time of the application deadline.
The main criteria we use is quality of your best contributions, and the bullets listed at What makes a great Zulip contributor. Because we focus on evaluating your best work, it doesn’t hurt your application to makes mistakes in your first few PRs as long as your work improves.
Most of our outreach program participants end up sticking around the project long-term, and many have become core team members, maintaining important parts of the project. We hope you apply!
Google Summer of Code
The largest outreach program Zulip participates in is GSoC (14 students in 2017; 11 in 2018; 17 in 2019; 18 in 2020). While we don’t control how many slots Google allocates to Zulip, we hope to mentor a similar number of students in future summers.
If you’re reading this well before the application deadline and want to make your application strong, we recommend getting involved in the community and fixing issues in Zulip now. Having good contributions and building a reputation for doing good work is the best way to have a strong application. About half of Zulip’s GSoC students for Summer 2017 had made significant contributions to the project by February 2017, and about half had not. Our GSoC project ideas page has lots more details on how Zulip does GSoC, as well as project ideas (though the project idea list is maintained only during the GSoC application period, so if you’re looking at some other time of year, the project list is likely out-of-date).
We also have in some past years run a Zulip Summer of Code (ZSoC) program for students who we didn’t have enough slots to accept for GSoC but were able to find funding for. Student expectations are the same as with GSoC, and it has no separate application process; your GSoC application is your ZSoC application. If we’d like to select you for ZSoC, we’ll contact you when the GSoC results are announced.
Upvoting Zulip. Upvotes and reviews make a big difference in the public perception of projects like Zulip. We’ve collected a few sites below where we know Zulip has been discussed. Doing everything in the following list typically takes about 15 minutes.
Follow us on Twitter.
For both of the following, you’ll need to make an account on the site if you don’t already have one.
Like Zulip on AlternativeTo. We recommend upvoting a couple of other products you like as well, both to give back to their community, and since single-upvote accounts are generally given less weight. You can also upvote Zulip on their page for Slack.
Add Zulip to your stack on StackShare, star it, and upvote the reasons why people like Zulip that you find most compelling. Again, we recommend adding a few other products that you like as well.
We have a doc with more detailed instructions and a few other sites, if you have been using Zulip for a while and want to contribute more.
Blog posts. Writing a blog post about your experiences with Zulip, or about a technical aspect of Zulip can be a great way to spread the word about Zulip.
We also occasionally publish long-form articles related to Zulip. Our posts typically get tens of thousands of views, and we always have good ideas for blog posts that we can outline but don’t have time to write. If you are an experienced writer or copyeditor, send us a portfolio; we’d love to talk!