On proper git commit messages and frequent git pushes

Mar 28, 2015

Edit: This post was written many years ago. Back then I was a lot more strict on how other people did things and I now understand this was a mistake. I'm leaving this post here as a reminder of past mistakes.

Note: this is a rant on how people use git.

When I was introduced to git, I was told I should read this great post on git commit messages by Tim Pope. Ever since, I've been trying to follow that system in all of my commits across all projects.

Yesterday, I decided to switch from awesome to dwm. I tried to apply one of the available dwm patches, only to notice it doesn't work with the latest version of dwm. So, I decided to have a look at the source and try to troubleshoot it myself. Running git log I was faced with this commit history:

    cdec978 - applied Lukas' focus suggestion at startup, thanks
    d83454f - applied Peters two patches, please test hg tip,
              if nothing breaks this is 5.9
    27b0142 - applied Garys patch in a slightly modified way
    867ba36 - applied Nicolas Capit's patch as interim solution until the
              multiscreen support is reworked in 6.0

This is just an excerpt, but these commits messages provide no information on what was changed, how it affects the code base or any valuable input of any kind.

In the end, I'll probably use git bisect to troubleshoot this issue, but it would be nice and helpful if I could get some extra information from the commit history.

Update: for the record, the bug was in my config.h after all.

Another common pitfall I see often, is that people don't realise that git is decentralized. Being decentralized means, you can code on your computer, use git add - git commit, test everything and once you're satisfied with the output and are SURE that everything works as expected, then AND ONLY then, push to the upstream repo. Otherwise, you end up with multiple commits for something that could be squashed in a single commit.

On big projects like the Linux kernel or QEMU, you'll often see patches that are sent multiple times before being merged, just to address the above issues. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be a big deal for a lot of newer and smaller projects.

Tags: rant software