Public Lab Wiki documentation


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Above: a diagram of our data model

The Public Lab Developers group is an open mailing list for Public Lab related (or -interested) programmers and developers. Float ideas, solicit feedback, get involved in existing PL programming projects, or start your own!
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How to contribute

We are actively seeking contributors, so please introduce yourself on the developers list and ask about how you can help keep these free and open source software projects working (and improving) for our thousands of community members!

Start by reading our contribution guidelines, then visit our github dashboard:

First-timers only

If this is your first time, and you'd like to quickly jump into an issue, see the following list for any available first-timers-only issues:

If there are no issues available, please see help-wanted issues here:

Activities: software

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Public Lab Software projects

Project Description Source Code This very website! github:publiclab/plots2
MapKnitter Assemble aerial images into maps. github:publiclab/mapknitter
Spectral Workbench Material analysis using DIY spectrometry. github:spectral-workbench
PublicLab.Editor A general purpose, JS/Bootstrap UI framework for rich text posting, with an author-friendly, minimal, mobile/desktop interface. github:publiclab/PublicLab.Editor
Leaflet.DistortableImage Leaflet plugin built for MapKnitter. Enables images to be distorted. github:publiclab/Leaflet.DistortableImage
Leaflet.Illustrate Leaflet plugin built for MapKnitter. Enables text annotations on Leaflet maps. github:manleyjster/Leaflet.Illustrate
WebJack a JavaScript library that uses an audio software modem to communicate with an Arduino via a headphone jack github:publiclab/webjack
Infragram Analyze plant health with infrared imagery. github:p-v-o-s/infragram-js
MapMill Upload and collaboratively rank large batches of aerial imagery. github:publiclab/mapmill

Public Lab is on Github at:

First time contributors

New to open source/free software? Here are some resources to get you started:

Contributing for non-coders

Not interested (or not yet interested) in coding, but still want to help out? Have a project you really need to get your work done, and trying to encourage coders to tackle it?

You can still help out; in fact, helping to clearly describe and document problems and new feature proposals is at least as important as writing the code itself.

When creating or editing an issue, try to:

  1. Clearly describe the problem, linking to pages where it can be observed, or where a new feature might live. Include screenshots to be very specific!
  2. (for bugs) If you don't know the problem, do what you can to help others narrow it down: provide contextual information like your browser, OS, and what you were doing when it happened. Did it used to work? Does it still, but only sometimes? Help them reproduce it!
  3. Propose a solution. Whether or not you code, describing what should or could happen, or even what you expected to happen is always helpful to someone looking to fix it. This can be as simple as "It should show a notification." or "There should be a way to hide it."

Once an issue is well documented, we can tag it with help-wanted to get the word out that we're looking for someone to try to fix it. If you're not sure if it's ready, ask on the plots-dev list

Finally, if your issue is well documented, try to get involved in some outreach to new contributors to match someone with the project! Tell them what it'll help you achieve and why you'd appreciate help. And coordinate with the plots-dev discussion list to get the word out.

Preparing issues for newcomers

Related to the above, even if you are a coder, we need help "rolling out the red carpet" (as the Hoodie project calls it) for new contribtors, to grow our contributor base. The steps in Contributing for non-coders are a good starting point, but as a coder, you can also deep-link to the relevant lines of code, with Github links and pointers like:

Then the :medium in JavaScript on this line must be changed to :large too:

This is especially great for attracting coders who are not only new to our code, but new to coding in general!

Learn more about how to make a good first-timers-only issue here:

Google Summer of Code

Lots of development on Public Lab software happens as part of the GSoC program, supported generously by Google. Looking at the GSoC Ideas list is a great place to find projects which our community really needs to get done, whether or not you're in the program.

Read more at, and review recent GSoC proposals/projects at, specifically

2017 projects:

Installation videos