Blockstack: How to -git- Involved
09 March 202010 min read

Now is a great time to get involved with Blockstack, and the main way to do that is through Github. There are three main organizations to pay attention to, as well as some of their repositories listed below.

Please note: This information is current as of 2020/03/09. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the individual organizations/repositories themselves.

Github Organizations / Repositories

Blockstack - the main development repo for Blockstack

  • blockstack-core (The Stacks 2.0 blockchain implementation)
  • blockstack-browser (The Blockstack Browser allows you to explore the Blockstack internet)
  • gaia (A decentralized high-performance storage system)
  • radiks (A client-side framework for building model-driven decentralized applications)
  • (and many, many more tools)

Blockstackers - the community repo for Blockstack

Stacksgov - the community repo for Blockstack-related governance

  • resources (Resources related to governance of the Stacks blockchain)
  • updates (Regular updates on project status for the community)
  • survey (Stacks governance community survey)
  • project management (Project management related to stacks governance)

General git/Github Resources

Image Credit: XKCD #1597: Git

Before I dive into what worked for me, I want to share a few resources that helped along the way. There is a ton of information out there about contributing to open source repositories (and some fun ones, at that).

Also, my preference is to work from the command-line, however there are some resources for working directly from as well. Below are some great resources for learning what works best for you.

This article assumes you already have a Github account, a computer with a working git installation, and the basic configuration between the two already done. For my setup, I chose the following options:

Terms and Definitions

There were a few terms that, looking back now, make a ton more sense if they are defined up front. Below are three words that deeply correlate to the rest of the instructions.

  • local: the local repository (on the computer)
    i.e. /path/to/the/file/on/disk (or c:\path\to\file on Windows)

Note: the definitions above are focused on people who plan to fork a project and submit changes back through a pull request because they do not have rights to the original project. If you are working with your own project/repository or maintaining a repository for an organization then the upstream bit can likely be left out.

The Full Project Flow

When working with a OSS project, this process works best for me so far. Please note that < and > represent placeholders for data, and the actual brackets are not used as part of the command.

  1. On, fork the repository
  2. (optional) Rename the repository from the Settings tab, I prefer a prefix similar to the org name (i.e. bks- or stacksgov-)
  3. Clone the repository from Github to your PC
    git clone <https/ssh address of fork> <local-folder>
  4. Change to the local directory
    Mac/Linux: cd ./<local-folder>
    Windows: cd .\<local-folder>
  5. Add the remote upstream repository to track changes
    git remote add upstream <ssh-address of upstream>
  6. Create and checkout new branch to make changes
    - one opinion on naming branches, several others available through search, I settled on a structure of "verb/intent" i.e. upd/resource-list feat/omni-auth fix/auth-flow
    git checkout -b <branch-name>
  7. Make changes and add simple commit messages
    - one opinion on commit messages, several others available through search, I believe short, sweet and informative is the goal. Less reading = more happy for most people.
    atom <filename> <-- or editor of your choice
    git add <filename> or git add -A
    git commit -m "<commit-msg>"
  8. Push the changes to the origin repository on Github (your fork)
    git push origin <branch-name>
  9. On, submit the pull request (PR) to the upstream repository when changes are complete

Sometimes a pull request will require extra steps before going into review, which may include signing an agreement, testing the code, testing server deployment, or similar. If all checks are passed, then the PR is ready for review by the project maintainer.

During the review, a project maintainer may suggest (or make) edits, and once accepted, the PR will be merged into the main repository. At this point, the upstream repository (usually master) has the changes from your local branch (i.e. fix/bug-squash), but your origin/master and local/master branches are out of date.

To sync up with the upstream repository, follow the instructions below to perform a fast-forward (more explanation here).

  1. Once the PR is accepted, or the upstream code changes, update the master branch from upstream
    git status
    <-- always check what branch you are on!
    git checkout master
    git fetch upstream master
    git merge upstream/master
    <-- updates local repo based on upstream
    git push origin master
    <-- updates the origin repo based on local
  2. From here, you have two options:
    a. Delete the branch used for submitting the PR
    git push origin -d <branch> <-- deletes branch on origin
    git branch -d <branch> <-- deletes branch on local
    b. Update the branch based on master for future use
    git checkout <branch>
    git rebase master
    <-- updates the local branch based on local master
    git push origin <branch>
    <-- updates the origin branch based on local branch

Other Useful Tips and Commands

In addition to the workflow above, below is a list of tips, tricks, and commands that are very useful at various times throughout the contribution process.

Tips / Tricks

  • Take your time, especially when working from the command-line
  • Always create new branches from master, otherwise you will make a big mess
  • Don't be afraid to test and learn, remember FAIL = First Attempt In Learning
  • It is common to chat with the community or create issues before submitting PRs
  • A branch for a PR can be submitted early as a Work in Progress (WIP), letting others know an issue is being worked on


  • git status show current working tree status
  • git log show commit logs
    or: git log --pretty=format:"%h %s" --graph
  • git branch -a show all branches
  • git remote -v list remote repositories
  • git mv <old-file> <new-file> move a file (change file name)
  • git rm <file> delete a file
  • git commit --amend modify last commit message

A Complete Walk-through

While putting together this post I ran into the perfect opportunity to update an issue on the Blockstack website as an example. I originally filed Issue #1035 regarding a broken image and link in, but I only updated the link from my PR as I could not find a source for the image.

Now, after reviewing and seeing that all other Blockstack repositories do not have an image, I am going to propose a fix for the second half of the issue using that will remove the broken image (and close out #1035).

First off, I already have a fork of the upstream repository, but it is out of date.

I also have not set this up on my laptop before, so there is no local version of the repository yet. Let's get started by cloning my fork (origin --> local), then updating both origin and local with the contents from upstream.

Setting up the Local Environment

Remember to start from a working directory where you want to create project folders! I use a folder on my USB drive after the encrypted contents are mounted. /media/$USER/mobivault/Dev

git clone [email protected]:whoabuddy/bks-website.git bks-website
cd ./bks-website
git remote add upstream [email protected]:blockstack/
git fetch upstream master
git merge upstream/master
git push origin master

Now the status on shows: This branch is even with blockstack:master.

Making the Changes

Remember to always check what branch you are working from, and to always create new branches from master!

git checkout -b upd/readme
(removed code for image at top of file, saved and closed)
git add
git commit -m "removed image to match other repos"
git push origin upd/readme

Submitting the Pull Request

After pushing the changes, should recognize the new branch and recommend creating a pull request. An image like the one will show above the origin repository.

Clicking the button allows you to choose how you want the information to flow, as well as gives you a place to add additional comments to the repository maintainers. In this case, I make a quick note to the issue number (which automatically links to the issue in that repository), as well as links to the other repositories that I made my judgement call from.

The best practice is to try and keep these updates as short and meaningful as possible, while minimizing the amount of work a maintainer/reviewer has to do in order to publish.

Finally, my last step is to click Create pull request and wait for a response!

Update 2020/03/11 - Pull Request Accepted!

Lo, and behold, the email notification arrived and my change was merged into the master branch!

Now, we could use the big Delete branch button now that changes are complete, but wait a minute, we were doing this from the command-line! Also, you will notice that the forked (origin) repository is now out of date with the upstream repository.

Let's get that updated by taking the steps below.

cd /path/to/project/directory
git status
<-- always check what branch you're on!
git checkout master

Note: at this point you will see some information that confused me the first time through.

Based on the terms defined in the beginning, this actually makes sense, both local and origin are up to date with each other.

  • upstream (main repo on Github)
  • origin (forked repo on Github)
  • local (local repo on device)

Our goal here is to update local with upstream, then push those updates to origin.

git fetch upstream master
git merge upstream/master
<-- performs a fast-forward if no conflicts
git push origin master

Now the forked branch (origin) is up to date with the original repo (upstream), and all is well with the world.

For our final step, I no longer need the upd/readme branch, so I am going to delete it from origin and local.

git push origin -d upd/readme
git branch -d upd/readme

And, that's it! Now we are ready to move on to the next project, contribution, or cup of coffee to keep the day rolling.