Respectful Changes

A Guide for Code Authors

For the code reviewer counterpart, see Respectful Code Reviews.

Set up for success

Do the pre-work

Help challenging code reviews go smoothly by reaching out to prospective reviewers before writing any code. Describing the problem and your approach ahead of time reduces surprise and provides an opportunity for early input. Ensure the decisions resulting from these exchanges, as well as the reasoning behind them, are accessible to others (e.g. via bug or design doc).

Mind your reviewer

Make choices that spare your reviewer time or cognitive load, such as preferring a series of short changes to a massive one, or uploading separate patches to isolate rebases during review.

Satisfy preconditions

Ensure your code is ready for review before you send it: it should compile, have adequate testing that passes, and respect the style guide (using git cl format/lint is encouraged). Consider validating this by performing a self-review. This is respectful of reviewer time and can sometimes save you a review round trip. If you‘re looking for an early review that’s fine too, but please say so.

Remember communication can be hard

Differences in understanding or opinions are to be expected in the context of code reviews. Always assume competence and goodwill. Don‘t hesitate to suggest a quick meeting (face-to-face or via VC); sometimes it’s much faster to resolve an issue that way than email ping pong.

Request the review

Choose your reviewers

Give thought to whether you want to serialize or parallelize your reviews. If you‘re new to the codebase, it’s a good idea to do a first round with a single local reviewer to clear the basic issues. Try to limit the number of owners you solicit (only one per section), but ensure you pick sufficiently specialized ones. Finally, be mindful of time zones and their effect on the review cycle time. Picking the right reviewers comes with experience, but you can start by looking at OWNERS files, asking a teammate, or using tools (‘git cl owners’, Chromite Butler).

Provide context

Change descriptions are the first impression your change makes, both on reviewers and on code archeologists from the future. A good description aims to do two things. First, it conveys at a glance the high level view. Second, it provides references to all the relevant information for a deep dive: design docs, bugs, testing instructions. The bug# is a useful reference, but isn't sufficient on its own. Summarize what and why in the description. You can additionally provide guidance on how to do the review in the e-mailed message.

State your expectations

When sending the review, be clear to your reviewer about your expectations. In terms of the review, this means specifying the kind of reviewing (e.g., high level) as well as who should review what using which level of scrutiny. In terms of timing, this means stating your deadline or lack thereof. For tight deadlines, be convinced your urgency is real (hint: should be rare), and communicate its reason, as well as your intent to land required follow up refactorings.

During the review

Expect responsiveness

Getting your code reviewed is about getting unblocked. You should expect reviewer input within 1 business day. This should however be modulated based on the size, complexity, urgency / importance of your change, as well as on time zone differences. Beyond that, double check the reviewer's code review tool nickname (e.g. “jdoe (OOO til 4 Apr)”), their calendar and ping them on IM. If that fails, look for another reviewer.

Address all comments

Be convinced your reviewers feel all comments have been addressed before you commit. Questions are addressed by providing an answer. Suggestions can be addressed in one of three ways: adopt it immediately (“Done.”), defer it to a subsequent change (TODO with a bug #) or push back with additional information. Whenever more information is required, make sure everyone agrees on the problem before you discuss the solution and consider expanding the documentation.

What to do if it's going wrong

Code reviews should not make you feel bad. If you find yourself in that situation, or you feel the review‘s at an impasse, don’t attempt to work around a reviewer but take a step back. A face to face meeting or a VC can sometimes help unblock a review. If this doesn't sound like an option, or simply if you feel you need to talk about it, reach out to someone you trust.

After the review

Code reviews are in large part about having others watch your back. Don‘t hesitate to say “Thank you” once the review is completed. Additionally, if you’re new to code reviews, take a few moments to reflect on what went well or didn't.