[Ksummit-discuss] Allowing something Change-Id (or something like it) in kernel commits

Doug Anderson dianders at chromium.org
Thu Aug 22 23:39:46 UTC 2019


As everyone is probably aware, when you use the gerrit code review
system all of your commits get an extra line in them that looks
something like:

Change-Id: I6a007dfe91ee1077a437963cf26d91370fdd9556

The Linux kernel has always viewed these Change-Id tags as obnoxious
and useless spam.  Anyone who accidentally leaves a Change-Id in their
patch when posting to the mailing list is told to please re-post their
patch without the Change-Id.  In this email, I will attempt to argue
that the Linux kernel ought to relax this restriction and allow
(possibly even encourage) Change-Ids.

To begin with, let me make sure we're on the same page about what
Change-Ids are.  As I understand it:

* A change ID is much alike a UUID.  It is locally generated on a
developer's computer and is (in theory) unique across the universe.

* When a developer keeps the same Change-Id across two patches they
are making the assertion that the two patches are either the same or
should be treated as two versions of the same logical change.  For
instance, v1, v2, and v3 of the same patch should have the same
Change-Id.  Even if v2 and v3 of the patch have different subjects and
touch different files, if they have the same Change-Id then the
developer is asserting that v3 should be considered a new version of
the same logical change as v2.  If it helps to think about it,
Change-Id is used by gerrit servers to know that a new patch uploaded
should replace an older version with the same Change-Id.

At the moment, Change-Ids are highly associated in people's minds with
gerrit and many upstream developers dislike gerrit.  To be clear: I am
not suggesting that kernel developers should endorse gerrit or be
forced to use gerrit.  I am suggesting that the idea of Change-Ids is
a good one independent of gerrit.  If we start using Change-Id then it
will allow better tools to be created, making life better for kernel

Specifically, let me list the problems I'd like to solve:

1. If I see a commit in Linux, I would like to be able to easily find
all of the mailing list discussions relevant to that commit.  I know
there are proposals about including the Message-Id of the final post
in the commit log and that is certainly better than nothing, but the
Message-Id will only get you a link to the final version of the patch.
If the relevant discussion happened on a previous version of that
patch then you need to find it yourself.  This gets harder if the
patch changed subject, touched different files, if parts of the series
landed at different times, and if multiple people were involved in
posting different versions of the patch.  If the commit in Linux has a
Change-Id then the old versions are logically linked and easier to
associated with one another.

2. If I do a search through old mailing list archives and I stumble
upon a patch that didn't land, I can more easily find different
versions of that patch if I have a Change-Id.  Some of these different
versions may have relevant discussions that explains why the patch
didn't land.  Finding these other patches without a Change-Id might be
hard, again because they may touch different files, have a different
subject, or have been posted by a different person.

At the moment using a Change-Id in the way I described would require
searching through mailing lists for the Change-Id string to find other
versions of the same patch.  However, I would expect it would only be
a matter of time before tools like patchwork are able to use Change-Id
to associate one version of a patch with the next version.  I would
also expect that allowing Change-Id to exist would allow someone to
(perhaps) create a gerrit instance that watched the kernel mailing
list and mirrored mailing list discussions in the GUI.  In other
words, once such tools exist presumably Change-Id will be much more
useful: you will eventually be able to paste a Change-Id into a tool
and get links to all relevant discussion and related posts.

The basic summary is that I'd like there to be some way to track a
logical patch over its lifetime.  I don't believe there is a reliable
(non-heuristic) way to do this today and I think Change-Id provides a
nice solution.  While we could come up with a new and different
solution (because Change-Id was not invented here), it feels like
adopting Change-Id is convenient and easy and provides a true benefit.
Change-Id works super well with the decentralized/email workflow for
patches and can be phased in over time (or it can stay optional

Thank you for reading


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