Matt Layher
Dec 8, 2016 6 min read

Contributing to the Go project

Contributing to the Go project can seem overwhelming, especially at first. The official Contribution Guidelines document is rather lengthy, but after working through the initial Google CLA and Gerrit authentication process, it becomes much easier to contribute to the project.

This post will attempt to demystify the process behind contributing to the Go project, in an effort to encourage all Gophers to try to tackle an issue or solve a bug upstream for the benefit of others.

Please note: this post attempts to simplify the steps laid out in the official Go Contribution Guidelines document, but it is entirely possible that it may contain incorrect information or become outdated over time. When in doubt, refer to the Contribution Guidelines or consult one of the many help forums available for Go.

Gerrit Registration and Google CLA

The Go project uses a system called Gerrit for code review. Gerrit is where CLs (change lists; akin to a GitHub pull request) are reviewed and submitted for inclusion in the upstream Go repositories.

To authenticate to Gerrit, a Google account must be used. Visit, click “Generate Password” on the top right menu, and follow the instructions. Take note of the Google account selected, as it must be used for all remaining steps.

Next, register with Gerrit using the same Google account previously selected.

Finally, you (or your organization) must agree to a Google Contributor License Agreement (CLA). If you are the copyright holder for your contributions, you must agree to the individual CLA.

If your organization is the copyright holder for your contributions, your organization must agree to the corporate CLA.

git-codereview setup

It is recommended to install the git-codereview tool to simplify the contribution process. This tool is not strictly necessary, but this guide will assume that you are using it to submit your contributions.

$ go get -u

Once git-codereview is installed, it is recommended to set up aliases for its commands in your Git configuration file (typically ~/.gitconfig). This guide will also assume that these aliases are in place.

	change = codereview change
	gofmt = codereview gofmt
	mail = codereview mail
	pending = codereview pending
	submit = codereview submit
	sync = codereview sync

Finding an issue to work on

With the previous steps completed, you are now ready to begin contributing to the Go project. To find an issue to work on, browse through the Go issue tracker. Specifically, searching for “open” issues with the “HelpWanted” label can be a great starting point.

Once you’ve found an issue you’d like to work on, leave a comment stating that you’d like to look into solving an issue. This helps prevent duplication of work due to lack of communication.

There are many different repositories that belong under the Go project umbrella, in addition to the main “go” repository. Visit to browse a list of all available repositories.

For purposes of demonstration, we will clone the “go” repository, containing the go tool, standard library, and runtime.

$ git clone

Making a contribution

Before making any changes, it is a good idea to sync your local repository with the upstream repository.

$ git sync

Begin working on your change. Remember to always use tools like go fmt and go vet on your code, and try to follow the conventions already in place in code you are working on.

Once your change is complete (and tests have been written!), run tests for the entire tree to ensure your changes don’t break other packages or programs.

$ cd go/src
$ ./all.bash

When all.bash completes, it should print the output ALL TESTS PASSED. At this point, you are ready to submit your change for review.

Submitting your contribution

Use typical git commands like git add and git rm to stage your changes. When ready to submit your changes, think of a meaningful branch name and run:

$ git change <branch>

This will open a commit message file in your editor (using $EDITOR).

There are some conventions that should be followed for commit messages, including:

  • commit message should be prefixed with package name
  • a one-line summary of the change
  • if needed, a detailed description of the change (written in complete sentences with proper punctuation)
  • the phrase “Fixes ###”, where ### is the Go issue you are resolving

An example of a commit message in this style, from the Contribution Guidelines:

math: improve Sin, Cos and Tan precision for very large arguments

The existing implementation has poor numerical properties for
large arguments, so use the McGillicutty algorithm to improve
accuracy above 1e10.

The algorithm is described at

Fixes #159

If you wish to make further changes, use normal git commands and just run git change again to amend your commit. It is very common that a given code review will often go through several rounds of feedback and requested changes. Don’t be intimidated when asked to make changes to your contribution!

Finally, submit your change to Gerrit by running:

$ git mail

The output of git mail will print a link to where your change can be found, such as:

remote: New Changes:
remote: math: improved Sin, Cos and Tan precision for very large arguments

Gerrit code review

Now that your change has been submitted, it can be reviewed by a member of the Go team and others in the community. Code review comments may be addressed by amending your changes using the process above.

In addition, this is the stage where the “TryBots” are run, by assigning the label Run-TryBot +1. This starts an automated testing process which builds your change against the entire Go tree using a multitude of different operating systems and CPU architectures.

At this point, any number of actions can take place with your change. Typically, a member of the Go team will comment with a Code-Review label, which can be interpreted as follows:

  • -2: I am strongly against this change and will almost certainly not be persuaded otherwise
  • -1: I disagree with this change, but could be persuaded otherwise
  • +1: this change looks good to me, but someone else must approve
  • +2: this change looks good to me, and is ready for submission once the TryBots indicate a change is OK

Depending on the Code-Review label applied and the ensuing discussion, your change may or may not be accepted into the project.

In particular, if you submit a change with no issue filed and no discussion beforehand, you can be almost certain it will be rejected.


In summary, contributing to the Go project can be intimidating, but is an excellent way to give back to the Go community and to gain experience working on a large open source project, used by thousands of people all over the world.

If your first change is rejected, be polite and ask for clarification on why, if needed. If you disagree with a comment, state your case concisely and make sure that no misunderstandings take place.

If you have any questions or would like to hear about my own experiences contributing to the Go project, feel free to contact me: “mdlayher” on Gophers Slack!