I recently forked a small github project to work on an open issue regarding the program's execution speed. I've achieved a substantial speedup, and I'm ready to submit a pull request.

However, the upstream has shown very little activity in the last 2-3 years. There is a backlog of unaddressed issues and PRs, and I have some doubts that the owner would be receptive to my work in any case. So I'm inclined to put my fork aside and set up a brand new, independent repository for this and future work. (This would not be a complete rewrite, so I'd add my name and the present year to the copyright line and otherwise leave the license intact.)

Is it advisable that I reach out to the upstream owner before doing this? Should I choose a totally different name for my project, or would the same exact name or a small variation be appropriate? Finally, in reaching out to people who showed an interest in the original project some time ago, should I communicate in private, or would comments on the upstream's wiki or issues page be acceptable?


Forking and starting your own repo and submitting a PR to the current repo are not mutually exclusive.

You could do both and decide which branch to keep working on based on the action or inaction of those who have been involved in the past.

I think public communication would be preferable. Since there has been no activity in 2-3 years, your public question/comments could attract new or renewed interest from those who are interested but show no public activity.

  • 1
    Thanks, that alternative hadn't crossed my mind. I think I will do both. I'll look at the PR as the first step in a public dialogue; if people show an interest in my work I'll follow up right there. – Clarity_20 Jun 20 '16 at 21:36

When the original owner has abandoned their project, they might be quite glad about someone wanting to take over. You definitely have nothing to lose by trying to contact them.

Taking over the name without their consent would be inappropriate.

  • Thank you for the tip -- I will go ahead with my PR and contact the upstream owner separately. As for my own repo, I'll make sure to change the name. Would a small change on the order of "nice" --> "nicer" be okay, or would a complete change like "nice" --> "great" be the right thing to do? – Clarity_20 Jun 20 '16 at 21:36
  • 1
    I'm not so sure taking over the name without consent is always inappropriate, it really depends on the circumstances. If it's just a text editor (For example), then yes that's probably inappropriate, but working on a game engine with large numbers of 'levels' and an active community, rebranding might easily kill things. – leezer3 Jun 22 '16 at 13:39
  • You might also find the current 'owner' isn't receptive to your work- You may wish to think about what you'd do then. No easy answer to that situation..... – leezer3 Jun 22 '16 at 13:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.