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= Use Gerrit to Be a Rockstar Programmer
== Overview
The term _rockstar_ is often used to describe those talented programmers who
seem to work faster and better than everyone else, much like a composer who
seems to effortlessly churn out fantastic music. However, just as the
spontaneity of masterful music is a fantasy, so is the development of
exceptional code.
The process of composing and then recording music is painstaking — the artist
records portions of a composition over and over, changing each take until one
song is completed by combining those many takes into a cohesive whole. The end
result is the recording of the best performance of the best version of the
Consider Queen’s six-minute long Bohemian Rhapsody, which took three weeks to
record. Some segments were overdubbed 180 times!
Software engineering is much the same. Changes that seem logical and
straightforward in retrospect actually required many revisions and many hours
of work before they were ready to be merged into a code base. A single
conceptual code change (_fix bug 123_) often requires numerous iterations
before it can be finalized. Programmers typically:
* Fix compilation errors
* Factor out a method, to avoid duplicate code
* Use a better algorithm, to make it faster
* Handle error conditions, to make it more robust
* Add tests, to prevent a bug from regressing
* Adapt tests, to reflect changed behavior
* Polish code, to make it easier to read
* Improve the commit message, to explain why a change was made
In fact, first drafts of code changes are best kept out of project history. Not
just because rockstar programmers want to hide sloppy first attempts at making
something work. It's more that keeping intermediate states hampers effective
use of version control. Git works best when one commit corresponds to one
functional change, as is required for:
* git revert
* git cherry-pick
* link:[git bisect,role=external,window=_blank]
== Amending commits
Git provides a mechanism to continually update a commit until it’s perfect: use
`git commit --amend` to remake (re-record) a code change. After you update a
commit in this way, your branch then points to the new commit. However, the
older (imperfect) revision is not lost. It can be found via the `git reflog`.
== Code review
At least two well-known open source projects insist on these practices:
* link:[Git,role=external,window=_blank]
* link:[Linux Kernel,role=external,window=_blank]
However, contributors to these projects don’t refine and polish their changes
in private until they’re perfect. Instead, polishing code is part of a review
process — the contributor offers their change to the project for other
developers to evaluate and critique. This process is called _code review_ and
results in numerous benefits:
* Code reviews mean that every change effectively has shared authorship
* Developers share knowledge in two directions: Reviewers learn from the patch
author how the new code they will have to maintain works, and the patch
author learns from reviewers about best practices used in the project.
* Code review encourages more people to read the code contained in a given
change. As a result, there are more opportunities to find bugs and suggest
* The more people who read the code, the more bugs can be identified. Since
code review occurs before code is submitted, bugs are squashed during the
earliest stage of the software development lifecycle.
* The review process provides a mechanism to enforce team and company policies.
For example, _all tests shall pass on all platforms_ or _at least two people
shall sign off on code in production_.
Many successful software companies, including Google, use code review as a
standard, integral stage in the software development process.
== Web-based code review
To review work, the Git and Linux Kernel projects send patches via email.
Code Review (Gerrit) adds a modern web interface to this workflow. Rather than
send patches and comments via email, Gerrit users push commits to Gerrit where
diffs are displayed on a web page. Reviewers can post comments directly on the
diff. If a change must be reworked, users can push a new, amended revision of
the same change. Reviewers can then check if the new revision addresses the
original concerns. If not, the process is repeated.
== Gerrit’s magic
When you push a change to Gerrit, how does Gerrit detect that the commit amends
a previous change? Gerrit can’t use the SHA-1, since that value changes when
`git commit --amend` is called. Fortunately, upon amending a commit, the commit
message is retained by default.
This is where Gerrit's solution lies: Gerrit identifies a conceptual change
with a footer in the commit message. Each commit message footer contains a
Change-Id message hook, which uniquely identifies a change across all its
drafts. For example:
`Change-Id: I9e29f5469142cc7fce9e90b0b09f5d2186ff0990`
Thus, if the Change-Id remains the same as commits are amended, Gerrit detects
that each new version refers to the same conceptual change. The Gerrit web
interface groups versions so that reviewers can see how your change evolves
during the code review.
To Gerrit, the identifier can be random.
Gerrit provides a client-side link:cmd-hook-commit-msg.html[message hook] to
automatically add to commit messages when necessary.