How socraticDev closed a GitHub issue opened by Harvard most famous Computer Science professor

Sunday October 22nd 2023 by socraticDev

David J. Malan is Harvard most famous current computer science professor. I realized after the fact that I had addressed and closed a bug report he had opened over open source LuxonJS DateTime JavaScript library.

No wonder the issue's description was clear as spring water and confirmed my deep rooted belief that the solution to a problem is most often found in the problem statement...

For a while I was deeply involved with programming about DateTime for different timezones and locale. An area of tech so filled by edge cases and surprises that it can become a real pain real fast.

LuxonJS is a specialized library to work with Dates and Times that solved all my problems for my side project.

Since I loved this small open-source Dates and Times library so much, I decided to contribute to the project. Perusing issues labeled as bug that had been prioritized by the maintainers, I picked one and decided to work on it.

what seems to be the problem?

This issue was music to my ears. It clearly stated in one sentence the version of the library used, the action executed, the arguments passed to the function, the expected result vs. the actual one (an error!) and a stack trace of the error.

What about throwing more honey to potential contributors? The person who raised the issue provided a snippet of the problematic function call:

luxon.Interval.fromISO('2007-03-01T13:00:00Z/P1Y2M10DT2H30M', {setZone: true}).toString()

The issue ends with a "Thank you!" from the person who raised it😁

solving the problem

Armed with a sound description of the issue and the will to fix it, socraticDev tried to reproduce the bug. But couldn't!

The function call provided by professor Malan worked perfectly in my developer console.

At least a year had passed between the bug report and my attempt to fix it. Recent developments have probably fixed this issue incidentaly.

doing nothing is doing something

At first, I got frustrated a bit not to be able to fix the bug... I assumed wrongly that writing code had to be the way a developer contribute to a software project.

By helping close an open issue in a popular JavaScript libary, I had effectively contributed to it.

After all, LuxonJS maintainer thanked me for helping him close this issue while professor Malan stamp of approval (a ❤️ emoji) encouraged me to keep tackling another issue.

contributing to open source projects will make you a better software practioner

Contributing to a software project is all about solving problems. Whether code gets written or not.

Software is about solving someone's problems. For LuxonJS it's about helping developers work with Dates, Times, and localizations. If you enjoy the library, you can help the project and its maintainers. Read the project's file to learn the ways existing project's contributors expect help.

In my experience, as a developer, the best way to help project's maintainers is by tackling open issues; helping maintainers close issues.

As a non-developer, you will learn to help by communicating clearly with developers. You will do exactly like professor Malan: explain clearly what is the problem and how to reproduce the bug. You will refrain from providing unclear descriptions, asking more than one thing at a time, or from posting unhelpful screen captures (unless it's a styling bug).

And, you will write "Thank you!" at the end for extra karma points!