Dave Jones

My Place On The Net

My Git Workflow

Scenario:

Let’s assume that, for the purpose of this blog post, we’re adding some new validations to an existing model in our software. Let’s also assume that we’ll be the only developer working on this particular update, meaning we can be a little more creative with the git commands we run (specifically, we can run git push --force-with-lease without ruining someone’s day).

Step 1: Create your feature branch

It’s generally considered bad practice to develop new behaviour in your master branch. Instead, let’s switch to master and immediately make a new branch called add-model-validations. Rather confusingly, both of these tasks are achieved through git’s checkout command:

git checkout master
git checkout -b add-model-validations

Step 2: Develop your new feature.

It’s time to code. Let’s get to work adding our new model validations, remembering to create regular atomic commits. Whenever possible, each of our commits should achieve a single purpose, grouping all relates changes together into a meaningful unit.

Historically I’ve spent a lot of time crafting beautiful commit messages based on an excellent blog post by Chris Beams. I’ve since come to understand that commits on our feature branches needn’t be perfect, we’ll have a chance to improve them before they’re up for code review or deployment. We needn’t feel too guilty about the occasional “fix failing tests” commit message 😉.

git add my_model.rb my_view.html.erb
git commit -m "Add model validations and ensure any errors are rendered by the view"

git add my_model_test.rb
git commit -m "Fix failing tests"

Step 3: Tell a clear story

OK, we’ve worked tirelessly to add our new validations and we think our branch is ready for code review. At this point we’ve likely amassed lots of commits that were super-helpful as we coded, but probably offer less value now we’ve reached our destination. To help the developer who’ll be reviewing our code, let’s take a few minutes to merge related commits together and potentially reword some of our sloppier commit messages, thus telling a clearer story.

First, we need to enter git’s rebase tool, a powerful feature that allows us to rewrite history in our branch. We invoke the rebase command with the interactive (-i) flag and a git SHA (gibberish that represents a single commit) denoting the point from which we want to rebase. We can view our commits and their associated SHA values using the git log command. We want to kick off the rebase from the first commit of our add-model-validations, minus one commit, which is denoted by the little hat (^) symbol at the end of the command below.

git rebase -i d9c372e6ad9^

Running the above command will open your editor to show all the commits in our add-model-validations feature branch:

pick d9c372e6ad9 Add model validations and ensure any errors are rendered by the view
pick ac21sdff89e Fix indentation error
pick bh7812dacce Fix typo in variable name
pick b2e8ffac57e Fix failing tests
pick ad29l1r4vc0 Add new tests

First, let’s focus on the two “fix” commits that we see on lines 2 and 3. As a reviewer, I probably don’t care that you messed up your indentation or fat-fingered a variable name. Let’s merge these “fix” commits to become part of the very first commit so that our history becomes easier to read. We tell git to merge commits 2 and 3 into commit 1 by replacing the verb pick with the verb fixup on lines 2 and 3:

pick d9c372e6ad9 Add model validations and ensure any errors are rendered by the view
fixup ac21sdff89e Fix indentation error
fixup bh7812dacce Fix typo in variable name
pick b2e8ffac57e Fix failing tests
pick ad29l1r4vc0 Add new tests

Next, let’s turn our attention to our final two commits, both of which focus on updating our tests. You’ll note that our commit messages aren’t particularly meaningful; we’ve documented that some old tests were fixed and some new tests were added, but we haven’t explained the what or why behind our testing approach. The good news is that we can rewrite the final two commits by replacing the verb pick with the verb reword, after which our editor will be opened allowing us to supply more meaningful commit messages.

pick d9c372e6ad9 Add model validations and ensure any errors are rendered by the view
fixup ac21sdff89e Fix indentation error
fixup bh7812dacce Fix typo in variable name
reword b2e8ffac57e Fix failing tests
reword ad29l1r4vc0 Add new tests

Step 4: Force your reality

Congratulations, we’ve now got a beautiful feature branch that tells a very clear story and stands a good chance of passing code review. We can verify that our git rebase completed successfully by reviewing our (rewritten) history via git log, after which we can force push our new reality upon Github using git push --force-with-lease.

git log --pretty=oneline
d9c372e6ad9 Add model validations and ensure any errors are rendered by the view
b2e8ffac57e Update existing specs to handle potential HTTP redirects if model validation fails
ad29l1r4vc0 Add new specs to ensure our model validations function as expected

git push --force-with-lease

I hope this helps someone out there!

Photo by Yancy Min on Unsplash

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