Consultancy - Research Lab - Incubator

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- 656 words - 4 min read
#coders tip

Many programmers commit infrequently and their pushes are even rarer. There are multiple reasons for that - some programmers have a strong background in version control systems like SVN or even CVS (yes, both are still a thing in 2017) where branching and committing is expensive. Other programmers mention reasons in the range of "I'm not finished, yet" and won't commit or push for days or weeks.

If you are using a modern VCS like git or mercurial, then committing and branching is actually very cheap. With those, it is actually best practice to commit early and often. If you don't want to commit "until you are done", then your branch will only ever have one commit, because branches already are the barrier between different new features (see A successful Git branching model). Instead, commit as early as you have finished part of a new feature like a test or an architecture stub.

This will open up a treasure trove of potential good things for future you and other programmers:

  • You can go back in time and undo/re-do parts of what you have worked on.
    • This is incredibly useful - the depth of it will be understood when practiced regularly.
  • When you open a Pull Request on your branch for others to review, they can follow along your thought process and will gain a deeper understanding for your decisions.
  • You will have created a backup of your state of mind that you can consult at any time without the complexities of holding new and old decisions in your head at the same time.
  • Your future self will never have to start from an undocumented state of something from your hard drive, but have a semantic last point of reference.

Also, do push regularly whenever you have made a commit. This will also yield great potential:

  • It happens quite often that other developer will either depend or could improve upon your code. But they can't as long as the code is not pushed.
    • Don't worry about pushing features that aren't done yet. As long as you haven't opened a Pull Request, it's obvious that you are still working on it! However, other programmers can take a look at it if need be. This reason is pretty much about them. Don't make assumptions on when the other team members could make use of your code. That's their job. Yours is already hard enough without making future predictions about others(;
  • In many projects you also will benefit of Continuous Integration (CI) running tests for you on a per commit basis if you regularly push. Depending on your project, it is not feasible to run the full test suite all the time on your machine. CI will help you with that - if you let it.
  • By pushing, you move all your changes to another machine. With that, you have effectively made a backup! This means you will never lose work if you make this a habit. This is actually very important, because it is only a question of when and not if your machine breaks down in the future.

In conclusion, the coders tip: Make it a habit to commit and push whatever you have at the end of the day. Even if you forgot to do it during the day, by making it a habit to commit and push at the end of the day, you will get a lot of the benefits.