Style Guidelines


Version Control

Code is managed in git. Changes should contain clear, descriptive English text describing the thought that went into why you’re making the change, rather than describing what you changed.

In two weeks, It’s a lot more helpful to know why you changed foo to foo_with_bar, than read a commit message that says change foo to be foo_with_bar.

The first line of a Git commit should be 50 chars or less, followed by a blank line, followed by a longer description of the changeset (if required). The long description should contains lines that are all under 72 chars.

Line Length

Please try to keep line length under 80 chars wide, 100 characters should be considered the hard limit.

Open Civic Data Workflow

Submitting Changes

All changes should be submitted in the form of a Pull Request. Small changes, even ones that appear to be quite simple, can often prove to cause issues down the line.

Suggested Git Branching Model

It’s strongly encouraged to use a sane Git branching model, one such model is:

Maintain two remotes:

upstream: Open Civic Data repo
origin:   Fork of the repo

Always keep upstream/master, origin/master and refs/heads/master 100% ABSOLUTELY in sync. Before making a new branch, or sending in a PR, give master a pull, and make sure things are all sync’d nicely.

Here’s an example of creating a new branch:

git checkout master
git checkout -b paultag/bugfix/fix-typo-in-readme
git push -u origin paultag/bugfix/fix-typo-in-readme

It should go without saying that both paultag and bugfix should be changed to match your username, and the flavor of branch is usually something like feature, or bugfix.

Python Code Guidelines

Python Version

Please use an up to date Python. All new development is Python 3.4+ only. All efforts to support older versions of Python 3, or even Python 2 are on a purely best-effort basis, and large refactors of code to make it Python 2 compatable will likely be rejected.

Code Standards

All code must follow PEP 8. You may check compliance with PEP8 by using the flake8 tool.

pip install flake8
flake8 .

Please address outstanding flake8 issues. Any test suites should also test code style.


Please add comments and descriptive docstrings to your code. Clearly, if the code doesn’t require them, that’s OK, but comments can be quite helpful later on.

Sprinkle them around like sriracha.

Trailing Spaces

Please ensure that we don’t have any trailing spaces on any code lines or commit lines.