LAVA Software Community Project Contribution Guide

About the Contribution Guidelines

We want to make it as easy as possible for LAVA Software users to become LAVA Software Community Project contributors, so we have created this guide to help you get started.

The LAVA Software Community Project has published this Contribution Guide, and all contributors will be expected to adhere to these guidelines when submitting issues or merge requests. They are designed to clarify the requirements for contributions, to make contributing more efficient for all involved.

Following the guidelines is a great way to prevent your contributions from being rejected or delayed. Most maintainers won’t intend to discredit your work or be tough on contributors. However, many are busy and some may be working on LAVA in their free time. Well-formed contributions are much easier to review and work with.

Conflicting priorities

Sometimes a request will be turned down because of conflicting priorities. It is important to talk about the reasons on the mailing list. Whether you’re requesting a new feature, or providing a fix, remember that the maintainer has to weigh up your contribution. They are the people who may have to support the new code in the future, and resources are often scarce. Additionally, it’s important to understand whether a feature will be helpful to the wider user community. Try not to be discouraged if your feature request or merge request is turned down. Be open-minded and, if necessary, propose an alternative idea on the mailing list after hearing their concerns. It might not be clear why your change is helpful, so be ready to discuss it and maybe re-design it to make it fit better.

Pre-requisites to start with development

  • LAVA is written in Python, so you will need to know (or be willing to learn) the language.

  • Likewise, the web interface is a Django application so you will need to use and debug Django if you need to modify the web interface.

  • LAVA uses YAML heavily internally, so you’ll likely need to understand the YAML Parser

  • LAVA also uses Jinja2.

  • All LAVA software is maintained in git, as are many of the support scripts, test definitions and job submissions.

  • Some familiarity with Debian is going to be useful; helper scripts are available when preparing updated .deb packages based on your modifications.

LAVA is complex and designed to solve complex problems. This has implications for how LAVA is developed, tested, deployed and used.

Other elements involved in LAVA development

In addition, test jobs and device support can involve use of:

A very wide variety of other systems and tools are used to access devices and debug test jobs.

Updating online documentation

LAVA documentation is written in reStructuredText, and then converted into other formats using Sphinx. You can use the command below to generate html format files for LAVA V2:

$ make -C doc/v2 clean
$ make -C doc/v2 html
$ firefox doc/v2/_build/html/index.html
(or whatever browser you prefer)

We welcome contributions to improve our documentation. If you are considering adding new features to LAVA or changing current behavior, also please ensure that the changes include matching updates for the documentation. Great new features may go unused (or unmerged!) without documentation to help people use them.

Wherever possible, all new sections of documentation should come with worked examples.

  • Add a testjob submission YAML file to doc/v2/examples/test-jobs

  • If the change relates to or includes particular test definitions to demonstrate the new support, add a test definition YAML file to doc/v2/examples/test-definitions

  • Use the include options supported in RST to quote snippets of the test job or test definition YAML, following the examples of the existing examples.

  • Use comments liberally in the examples and link to existing terms and sections - make it easy for other people to understand how to use your new feature.

  • Read the comments in the doc/v2/index.rst file if you are adding new pages or altering section headings.

The LAVA contribution process

To contribute changes to LAVA, there is a simple process:


It is worth checking if someone already has a merge request which relates to your proposed changes. Check for open merge requests at

Creating a GitLab Account

To be able to work with the LAVA Software Community Project, start by creating an account on . Fill in details in your profile, and make sure you add a public SSH key to your account. You will need that to be able to push code changes.

Request GitLab Fork Permissions

Next, you will need to be given permissions to create forks of our repositories on the LAVA GitLab instance ( This is an unfortunate step that has only become necessary recently - spammers and trolls are everywhere on the Internet and will apparently abuse any resources that are not locked down. :-(

To counter the spam problem, all new accounts are tagged as external by default, which means that they do not have permissions to fork projects or create their own new projects. If you are genuinely looking to work on LAVA, please file an issue to ask for access once you have created your account. The GitLab admins should respond quickly and give you access.


To be able to later push changes and trigger CI, you will also need to request access to the DinD (“Docker in Docker”) based CI runners. Unfortunately, you can only do that once you have created repositories within your account (e.g. by forking).

Fork the code

Fork the lava project in the GitLab web interface. This will set up a copy of the lava project in your own personal namespace. From here, you can create new branches as you like, ready for making changes.

Access to the CI runners

If you want to contribute to LAVA projects, you will also need to ask the GitLab admins to grant access to our DinD (Docker in Docker) CI runners. Due to the way that permissions for CI runners is handled within GitLab, this can only be done on a per-project basis rather than by user account. It’s therefore worth asking for this DinD access straight away once you have made your first fork of each repository. Please file an issue to ask for access once you have forked. The GitLab admins should respond quickly and give you access.

Create a development branch

Clone your fork of the lava software repository:

$ git clone

We recommend always making a new local branch for your changes:

$ cd lava
$ git switch -c my_branch

Make, test and commit your changes

Make and test the changes you need. The details here are down to you!

When preparing changes, you will need to think about the LAVA design and LAVA review criteria which will be applied during the code review.

See also

LAVA development

Use the normal git process to stage and commit the changes. Make sure that your commit messages are suitable. They need to be clear and they should describe what you’ve changed, and why:

When you commit, use the --signoff or -s option to git commit to acknowledge that you have the rights to submit this change under the terms of the licenses applicable to the LAVA Software. This is commonly known as the “Developer’s Certificate of Origin” (DCO), and is used in a wide variety of other Open Source projects like the Linux kernel.

$ git commit -s
$ git commit --amend -s

GitLab supports including multiple commits in a single merge request, so at this stage feel free to collect your changes in as many logical changesets as you like. Don’t include unrelated changes - use a separate branch (and therefore a separate merge request) instead.

Push your changes to your development branch

Use git push to publish the changes on your branch back to your own fork. This will share the code with other developers. In this example, replace my_username with the username of the fork and my_branch with the name of the local branch which will be pushed to that fork:

$ git push --set-upstream my_username my_branch
Enumerating objects: 9, done.
Counting objects: 100% (9/9), done.
Delta compression using up to 4 threads
Compressing objects: 100% (4/4), done.
Writing objects: 100% (5/5), 430 bytes | 430.00 KiB/s, done.
Total 5 (delta 3), reused 0 (delta 0)
remote: To create a merge request for my_branch, visit:
* [new branch]          my_branch -> my_branch
Branch 'my_branch' set up to track remote branch 'my_branch' from 'my_username'.

You can push here as many times as you like, as you make more changes.

Pushing to your fork will trigger the CI process - your changes will now be automatically tested and the results will be displayed for the MR. You will also receive email to tell you how things went.

Submit a Merge Request (MR)

When your code is clean and ready to be reviewed, create a merge request against the master branch of the original lava project. GitLab will track all the changes that you have pushed to your development branch, and present them together for review in one patchset. To create the MR, use the link that gitlab gave you when you pushed your branch or visit the “Merge Requests” area in the web UI.

It is useful to select both these options in GitLab when creating or editing a merge request:

  • Remove source branch when merge request is accepted.

  • Allow commits from members who can merge to the target branch.

By allowing commits, reviewers can make small changes themselves, to correct typos etc., without needing to start a new discussion.

Changes will only be merged after a merge request is created and the CI process for that MR has passed.

There are six headlines that we expect in each merge request, so that we have all the information we need to understand the purpose of the proposed change.


Not all of these headlines need to appear in a git commit message. Screenshots and points for checking need to go into the comments on the merge request itself.

In the git commit message:

  1. What does this change do?

  2. Why was this change needed?

  3. What are the relevant issue numbers?

In the merge request, as comments:

  1. Are there points in the code the reviewer needs to double check?

  2. Screenshots or test job log files as links or attachments (if relevant)

  3. If helpful, links to external resources like gold standard images to demonstrate how to use and/or test a new feature.

Once you are familiar with creating merge requests, you can also set labels to help reviewers identify the type of change to be reviewed.

MRs are reviewed (and rebased and reworked as needed)

If your MR failed its tests, you will receive a detailed email explaining where the failures occurred. It is up to you to make any fixes required.

If you are not sure how to fix things here, please ask for help!

Fixes for test failures should be pushed to the same GitLab branch. Each time you push, GitLab will automatically update your related merge request and re-run the CI loop. As and when the code is functional, maintainers will comment on your changes and if all is well they will approve the merge. They may also ask you to make more changes - this is an iterative process.

How changes get merged

As the final step in merging a change, we will want the list of commits in the merge request to be squashed. The objective here is to ensure that each commit on the master branch is clean and intact, while also keeping logical changes in separate commits. You can use git rebase -i HEAD~5 or equivalent support for squashing git commits.

  • Ensure that commits to fix unit test failures, CI failures or other breakage are squashed into the parent commit.

  • Ensure that separate logical changes remain as separate commits. It is often easier to use separate branches for this reason.

  • Ensure that your commits are all rebased onto the current master branch

Pushing the squashed branch will need you to use git push --force to replace the existing commits in your merge request. The merge request will get one final code review and if a Maintainer approves of the final state, the change will be merged when the CI completes successfully.


This is the only time that git push --force is ever recommended. Forcing a push makes it hard for other contributors to work on the changes by triggering lots of merge conflicts.