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From Sam Corbett <>
Subject Re: Faster PR reviews
Date Wed, 03 May 2017 16:38:57 GMT
I used GitHub to check the number of pull requests we've merged to a few 
of our projects over the last year in two month-chunks [1]. Each list 
begins today and works backwards:

brooklyn-server: 86, 79, 85, 68, 95, 78.
brooklyn-client: 7, 4, 3, 8, 2, 4.
brooklyn-library: 11, 12, 9, 7, 17, 8.
total: 104, 95, 97, 83, 114, 90.

It's my opinion that these numbers show a consistency in the rate at 
which we merge pull requests. Since a few committers have recently 
joined I expect the rate to increase over the next few months. I would 
like to know other figures like the average length of time between 
opening a pull request and a committer merging it and the average length 
of time before the first review comment. I'm sure there are many other 
interesting metrics that could inform this discussion.

Maybe there's just one or two cases that we have managed badly. 
Identifying those pull requests and understanding the cause of the delay 
to each one would be valuable.

Regarding the complexity of Brooklyn and speaking as someone that has 
used it in anger (sometimes literally) I would posit that many of us 
have been caught out several times by the corner cases and unexpected 
interactions between components that complexity so often implies. This 
leads to cautious reviews and slow turnaround times. Quick-scan reviews 
solve the speed at which we get code into the product. We need to think 
harder about how we reduce its overall complexity.


1. I used GitHub's interface to search for "is:pr 
merged:2017-03-04..2017-05-03", etc.

On 03/05/2017 09:41, Aled Sage wrote:
> Hi Alex,
> I agree with you that we have a problem with the reviewing of some of 
> our PRs - it's a bad situation for all concerned when these PRs stay 
> open for as long as they do.
> I agree with your "eye-ball test" for a certain class of PR. I think 
> where we probably disagree is where the line is for "low-risk" PRs. 
> There are some examples where they "eye-ball test" would certainly 
> have helped.
> I deliberately expanded the scope of this discussion, because there's 
> not one single solution - I'm not "turning this discussion in to 
> guidelines about PR". I'm adding to the discussion.
> *Contributing Factors*
> Breaking this down into the contributing factors, I believe those are:
> 1. Some PRs don't get enough attention from reviewers.
> 2. Not as much time as we'd like is spent by the community reviewing PRs.
> 3. The bar for being merged is too high (for at least some PRs).
> 4. Some PRs are very hard to review.
> There are clearly examples of (1) where it's a no-brainer we should 
> have given it more attention, commented and merged. Your proposal for 
> the "eye-ball test" will help for some.
> However, there are also examples of (1) that are caused by (4) - 
> commonly due to the complexity of the code being changed (e.g. 
> config-inheritance), sometimes made worse by it changing many things 
> (so it's more daunting to review).
> Given (2) and (3), it suggests we should spread that time across more 
> PRs (i.e. some PRs that are getting a very thorough review could get 
> less, and folk try to use that "saved" time on some other PRs). I'm 
> not convinced that would actually happen in practice though!
> *Solutions*
> 1. Add the "eye-ball test" to our reviewer guidelines (as described by 
> Alex) - and adjust our perception of "low-risk" over time, as we see 
> how it works.
> 2. Guidelines for PRs - what will make the reviewers' job considerably 
> easier, so we can get things merged faster? For example, small and 
> focused PRs, with good test coverage, linking to a jira issue where 
> appropriate.
> 3. Invest more time simplifying Brooklyn (see below).
> *Complexity of Brooklyn*
> I've heard from quite a few people that certain areas of Brooklyn are 
> far too hard to understand. Some people avoid reviewing PRs that touch 
> it, because it's so hard to understand the implications - they focus 
> their time on PRs that they feel more confident to review.
> This is a symptom of an overly complex project. It would be great to 
> find more time to simplify things - e.g. to delete things from 
> Brooklyn, to make things more consistent, to refactor or even rewrite 
> some sections, and to add more javadoc.
> *Accepted Limitations to Timely Review*
> PRs that make far reaching changes to low-level details of Brooklyn 
> will always require a thorough review. Clearly we should try to find 
> the time for that promptly, but should always view them as high-risk.
> *YOML*
> If you insist on generalising YOML here, rather than a separate email 
> thread specifically about it, then: we should have commented very 
> quickly and discussed it promptly on the mailing list - at the level 
> of whether we want it (ignoring much of its technical details). If it 
> was pretty much anyone but Alex, then we should have commented saying:
>    "Very interesting, but this is a huge amount of code to add and
>    maintain in Brooklyn. Can you instead create a new github project
>    for this library, so that it can be worked on and maintained
>    separately? We'd then be interested to see how it can be used within
>    Brooklyn. Can you close this PR and let us know when/where you
>    create that library."
> Like I said, that's for pretty much anyone but Alex. The difference is 
> that Alex wrote the first version of our yaml/camp parsing and knows 
> it better than anyone else. That original code definitely deserves a 
> re-write: it's become increasingly complicated as the supported yaml 
> has evolved. Alex has investigated different approaches and has come 
> up with a way that could greatly improve that code, and be used in 
> other places as well. Doing that in Brooklyn is simpler for him, 
> because it can evolve in tandem to satisfy requirements of Brooklyn.
> I therefore suggest we discuss YOML separately, rather than generalising.
> Aled
> On 03/05/2017 02:13, Alex Heneveld wrote:
>> Aled,
>> > *Light-weight Review*
>> > I agree with you - where PRs look sensible, low-risk and unit 
>> tested we should take more risk and
>> > merge them sooner (even if there's not been time for a thorough 
>> review by the community).
>> I'm saying something a little different:  we should _try_ for a 
>> thorough review of *all* PRs.  Which I think is uncontroversial.
>> > What should we do with a PR when we aren't able to review things in 
>> as much depth as we'd like?
>> This is the question I'm asking, to ensure we handle PR's in a good 
>> time frame.  To summarise, I'm suggesting we make more of an effort, 
>> and we fall back to an "eyeball test" a certain period of time (7 
>> days max, less if it's simple?), triage the review to look at:
>> * clearly helpful & not obviously wrong
>> * low-risk / doesn't break compatibility
>> * good test coverage (and passing)
>> * likely to be maintained
>> If these can't be confirmed, the reviewer should say what they have 
>> doubts about, maybe suggest what the contributor could do to help, or 
>> appeal to other committers more familiar with an area. In any case 
>> get a discussion going.
>> If these do seem confirmed, I still suggest we don't merge 
>> immediately in the absence of a thorough review, but ping specific 
>> committers likely to be interested.  If no thorough review after a 
>> few more days, _then_ merge.
>> I'm not suggesting any heavyweight process, but just enough to put 
>> healthy forces on us as reviewers.
>> This is not a theoretical question, nor is it restricted to the YOML 
>> PR.  We're pretty good with most of our PRs and reviews but there are 
>> plenty of examples where we've dropped the ball.  Look at [1] which 
>> is tiny and tests-only and took nine days to get a review.  Or [2] 
>> which yes combines a few related-but-different things but is by no 
>> means a hard thing to review.  It would take far more time to split 
>> that up into 3 branches, test those locally, then babysit each of 
>> those PR's than it would take for a reviewer to just get on with a 
>> review.  It's been sitting there for 2 months and doesn't even have a 
>> comment.
>> This is not a good state of affairs.  Turning this discussion in to 
>> guidelines about PR's misses the point.  If there's any change to our 
>> docs/process made as a result of this discussion I'd like to see the 
>> eyeball test added to a review process discussion.
>> Finally re YOML, there is an ML thread started when the issue was 
>> raised.  There was chatter beforehand but it wasn't an easy thing to 
>> discuss until there was prototype code.  The point is for 7 months 
>> there have been no comments in any of these places, even after I've 
>> run a public session explaining it and private sessions and the PR 
>> itself says how it can be tested and how it is insulated from the 
>> rest of the code (Thomas I think you missed that point).  As there is 
>> an ML thread and an open issue, either of which would be a fine place 
>> to comment, but no one is -- the suggestion of a new separate ML 
>> thread to solve the problem is bizarre.  I say this is _exactly_ the 
>> situation when we need guidelines for how we handle PR's that are not 
>> being reviewed in a timely way.
>> Best
>> Alex
>> [1]
>> [2]
>> On 02/05/2017 19:21, Aled Sage wrote:
>>> Hi Alex,
>>> Interesting question. A few initial thoughts:
>>> *YOML*
>>> YOML (PR #363) is an exceptional case - we should not use that as an 
>>> example when discussing this meta-question. The PR is 12,000 lines 
>>> (including comments/notes), and was not discussed on the mailing 
>>> list before it was submitted. I suggest we have a separate email 
>>> thread specifically about merging that PR, as there are certainly 
>>> very useful things we'd get from YOML.
>>> *Small PRs*
>>> We should strongly encourage small focused PRs on a single thing, 
>>> wherever possible. That will make review faster, easier and lower 
>>> risk. For such PRs, we should strive for review+merge within days (7 
>>> days being an upper bound in normal circumstances, hopefully).
>>> We can add some brief guidelines to this effect at 
>>> *Changing low-level Brooklyn*
>>> PRs that change low-level things in Brooklyn (e.g. changes to 
>>> config-inheritance etc) deserve thorough review. They are high-risk 
>>> as the unforeseen consequences of the changes can be very subtle, 
>>> and break downstream blueprints that rely on old ways of doing things.
>>> *Light-weight Review*
>>> I agree with you - where PRs look sensible, low-risk and unit tested 
>>> we should take more risk and merge them sooner (even if there's not 
>>> been time for a thorough review by the community).
>>> Aled
>>> On 02/05/2017 15:50, Duncan Johnston Watt wrote:
>>>> Hi Alex
>>>> This is probably covered already but I guess there needs to be an 
>>>> impact
>>>> assessment (by submitter?) before something is waved through by 
>>>> default.
>>>> Best
>>>> Duncan
>>>> On 2 May 2017 at 06:52, Alex Heneveld 
>>>> <>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> Hi Brooklyners-
>>>>> As many of you know, my YOML PR #363 [1] has been open for a 
>>>>> while. This
>>>>> sets up a foundation for giving better documentation and feedback and
>>>>> hugely simplifying how we do our parsing.  However it's a very big 
>>>>> PR.  I'm
>>>>> eager to have people spend some time using it and ideally 
>>>>> extending it --
>>>>> but here I wanted to raise a meta-question:
>>>>> *W**hat should we do with a PR when we aren't able to review 
>>>>> things in as
>>>>> much depth as we'd like?*
>>>>> One option -- call it (A) -- is to say if we can't review things
>>>>> thoroughly in a reasonable timeframe, we do a lighter review and 
>>>>> if the PR
>>>>> looks promising and safe we merge it.
>>>>> The other option -- call it (B) -- is to leave PRs open for as 
>>>>> long as it
>>>>> takes for us to do the complete review.
>>>>> I think most people have been approaching this with a mindset of 
>>>>> (B), and
>>>>> while that's great for code quality and shared code understanding, 
>>>>> if we
>>>>> can't deliver on that quickly, it's frankly anti-social. The 
>>>>> contributor
>>>>> has to deal with merge conflicts (and the rudeness of his or her
>>>>> contribution being ignored), and Brooklyn loses velocity. My PR is an
>>>>> extreme example but many have been affected by slow reviews, and I 
>>>>> think
>>>>> the expectation that reviews have to be so thorough is part of the
>>>>> problem:  it even discourages reviewers, as if you're not an 
>>>>> expert in an
>>>>> area you probably don't feel qualified to review.
>>>>> We have good test coverage so product risk of (A) is small, and we 
>>>>> have
>>>>> great coders so I've no worry about us being able to solve 
>>>>> problems that
>>>>> (A) might introduce.  We should be encouraging reviewers to look 
>>>>> at any
>>>>> area, and we need to solve the problem of slow reviews.
>>>>> *I propose that the**standard we apply is that we quickly either 
>>>>> merge PRs
>>>>> or identify what the contributor needs to resolve.
>>>>> *I'm all for thorough reviews and shared understanding, but if we 
>>>>> can't do
>>>>> this quickly I suggest we are better to sacrifice those things 
>>>>> rather than
>>>>> block contributions, stifle innovation, and discourage reviews by 
>>>>> insisting
>>>>> on a standards that we struggle to sustain.
>>>>> As a general rule of thumb, maybe something like:
>>>>> (1) After 7 days of no activity on a PR we go with an "eyeball test";
>>>>> unless the following statement is untrue we say:
>>>>> /I haven't done as much review as I'd like, but the code is clearly
>>>>> helpful, not risky or obviously wrong  or breaking compatibility, 
>>>>> it has
>>>>> good test coverage, and we can reasonably expect the contributor or
>>>>> committers to maintain it.  Leaving open a bit longer in case 
>>>>> someone else
>>>>> wants to review more but if nothing further in the next few days, 
>>>>> let's
>>>>> merge.
>>>>> /(If there are committers who are likely to be specifically 
>>>>> interested,
>>>>> call them out as CC.)
>>>>> (2) After 3 more days, if no activity, merge it.
>>>>> And we encourage _anyone_ to review anything.  If the above 
>>>>> response is
>>>>> the baseline, everyone in our community is qualified to do it or 
>>>>> better and
>>>>> we'll be grateful!
>>>>> Best
>>>>> Alex
>>>>> [1]

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