Contributing to Read the Docs

You are here to help on Read the Docs? Awesome, feel welcome and read the following sections in order to know how to ask questions and how to work on something.

All members of our community are expected to follow our Code of Conduct. Please make sure you are welcoming and friendly in all of our spaces.

Get in touch

Contributing to development

If you want to deep dive and help out with development on Read the Docs, then first get the project installed locally according to the Installation Guide. After that is done we suggest you have a look at tickets in our issue tracker that are labelled Good First Issue. These are meant to be a great way to get a smooth start and won’t put you in front of the most complex parts of the system.

If you are up to more challenging tasks with a bigger scope, then there are a set of tickets with a Feature or Improvement tag. These tickets have a general overview and description of the work required to finish. If you want to start somewhere, this would be a good place to start (make sure that the issue also have the Accepted label). That said, these aren’t necessarily the easiest tickets. They are simply things that are explained. If you still didn’t find something to work on, search for the Sprintable label. Those tickets are meant to be standalone and can be worked on ad-hoc.

When contributing code, then please follow the standard Contribution Guidelines set forth at

We have a strict code style that is easy to follow since you just have to install pre-commit and it will automatically run different linting tools (autoflake, autopep8, docformatter, isort, prospector, unify and yapf) to check your changes before you commit them. pre-commit will let you know if there were any problems that is wasn’t able to fix automatically.

To run the pre-commit command and check your changes:

$ pip install -U pre-commit
$ git add <your-modified-files>
$ pre-commit run

or to run against a specific file:

$ pre-commit run --files <>

pre-commit can also be run as a git pre-commit hook. You can set this up with:

$ pre-commit install

After this installation, the next time you run git commit the pre-commit run command will be run immediately and will inform you of the changes and errors.


Our code base is still maturing and the core team doesn’t yet recommend running this as a pre-commit hook due to the number of changes this will cause while constructing a pull request. Independent pull requests with linting changes would be a great help to making this possible.

Triaging tickets

Here is a brief explanation on how we triage incoming tickets to get a better sense of what needs to be done on what end.


You will need Triage permission on the project in order to do this. You can ask one of the members of the Read the Docs Team to give you access.

Initial triage

When sitting down to do some triaging work, we start with the list of untriaged tickets. We consider all tickets that do not have a label as untriaged. The first step is to categorize the ticket into one of the following categories and either close the ticket or assign an appropriate label. The reported issue …

… is not valid

If you think the ticket is invalid comment why you think it is invalid, then close the ticket. Tickets might be invalid if they were already fixed in the past or it was decided that the proposed feature will not be implemented because it does not conform with the overall goal of Read the Docs. Also if you happen to know that the problem was already reported, reference the other ticket that is already addressing the problem and close the duplicate.


  • Builds fail when using matplotlib: If the described issue was already fixed, then explain and instruct to re-trigger the build.
  • Provide way to upload arbitrary HTML files: It was already decided that Read the Docs is not a dull hosting platform for HTML. So explain this and close the ticket.
… does not provide enough information

Add the label Needed: more information if the reported issue does not contain enough information to decide if it is valid or not and ask on the ticket for the required information to go forward. We will re-triage all tickets that have the label Needed: more information assigned. If the original reporter left new information we can try to re-categorize the ticket. If the reporter did not come back to provide more required information after a long enough time, we will close the ticket (this will be roughly about two weeks).


  • My builds stopped working. Please help! Ask for a link to the build log and for which project is affected.
… is a valid feature proposal

If the ticket contains a feature that aligns with the goals of Read the Docs, then add the label Feature. If the proposal seems valid but requires further discussion between core contributors because there might be different possibilities on how to implement the feature, then also add the label Needed: design decision.


  • Provide better integration with service XYZ
  • Achieve world domination (also needs the label Needed: design decision)
… is a small change to the source code

If the ticket is about code cleanup or small changes to existing features would likely have the Improvement label. The distinction for this label is that these issues have a lower priority than a Bug, and aren’t implementing new features.


  • Refactor namedtuples to dataclasess
  • Change font size for the project’s title
… is a valid problem within the code base:

If it’s a valid bug, then add the label Bug. Try to reference related issues if you come across any.


  • Builds fail if contains non-ascii letters
… is a currently valid problem with the infrastructure:

Users might report about web server downtimes or that builds are not triggered. If the ticket needs investigation on the servers, then add the label Operations.


  • Builds are not starting
… is a question and needs answering:

If the ticket contains a question about the Read the Docs platform or the code, then add the label Support.


  • My account was set inactive. Why?
  • How to use C modules with Sphinx autodoc?
  • Why are my builds failing?
… requires a one-time action on the server:

Tasks that require a one time action on the server should be assigned the two labels Support and Operations.


  • Please change my username
  • Please set me as owner of this abandoned project

After we finished the initial triaging of new tickets, no ticket should be left without a label.

Additional labels for categorization

Additionally to the labels already involved in the section above, we have a few more at hand to further categorize issues.

High Priority
If the issue is urgent, assign this label. In the best case also go forward to resolve the ticket yourself as soon as possible.
Good First Issue
This label marks tickets that are easy to get started with. The ticket should be ideal for beginners to dive into the code base. Better is if the fix for the issue only involves touching one part of the code.
Sprintable are all tickets that have the right amount of scope to be handled during a sprint. They are very focused and encapsulated.

For a full list of available labels and their meanings, see Overview of issue labels.

Helping on translations

If you wish to contribute translations, please do so on Transifex.