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SubjectRe: How to improve the quality of the kernel?
On Sun, 17 Jun 2007 20:53:41 +0200 Bartlomiej Zolnierkiewicz <> wrote:

> IMO we should concentrate more on preventing regressions than on fixing them.
> In the long-term preventing bugs is cheaper than fixing them afterwards.
> First let me tell you all a little story...
> Over two years ago I've reviewed some _cleanup_ patch and noticed three bugs
> in it (in other words I potentially prevented three regressions). I also
> asked for more thorough verification of the patch as I suspected that it may
> have more problems. The author fixed the issues and replied that he hasn't
> done the full verification yet but he doesn't suspect any problems...
> Fast forward...
> Year later I discover that the final version of the patch hit the mainline.
> I don't remember ever seeing the final version in my mailbox (there are no
> cc: lines in the patch description) and I saw that I'm not credited in the
> patch description. However the worse part is that it seems that the full
> verification has never been done. The result? Regression in the release
> kernel (exactly the issue that I was worried about) which required three
> patches and over a month to be fixed completely. It seems that a year
> was not enough to get this ~70k _cleanup_ patch fully verified and tested
> (it hit -mm soon before being merged)...

crap. Commit ID, please ;)

> >From reviewer's POV: I have invested my time into review, discovered real
> issues and as a reward I got no credit et all and extra frustration from the
> fact that part of my review was forgotten/ignored (the part which resulted in
> real regression in the release kernel)... Oh and in the past the said
> developer has already been asked (politely in private message) to pay more
> attention to his changes (after I silently fixed some other regression caused
> by his other patch).
> But wait there is more, I happend to be the maintainer of the subsystem which
> got directly hit by the issue and I was getting bugreports from the users about
> the problem... :-)
> It wasn't my first/last bad experience as a reviewer... finally I just gave up
> on reviewing other people patches unless they are stricly for IDE subsystem.
> The moral of the story is that currently it just doesn't pay off to do
> code reviews.

I dunno. I suspect (hope) that this was an exceptional case, hence one
should not draw general conclusions from it. It certainly sounds very bad.

> From personal POV it pays much more to wait until buggy patch
> hits the mainline and then fix the issues yourself (at least you will get
> some credit). To change this we should put more ephasize on the importance
> of code reviews by "rewarding" people investing their time into reviews
> and "rewarding" developers/maintainers taking reviews seriously.
> We should credit reviewers more, sometimes it takes more time/knowledge to
> review the patch than to make it so getting near to zero credit for review
> doesn't sound too attractive. Hmm, wait it can be worse - your review
> may be ignored... ;-)
> >From my side I think I'll start adding less formal "Reviewed-by" to IDE
> patches even if the review resulted in no issues being found (in additon to
> explicit "Acked-by" tags and crediting people for finding real issues - which
> I currently always do as a way for showing my appreciation for their work).

yup, Reviewed-by: is good and I do think we should start adopting it,
although I haven't thought through exactly how.

On my darker days I consider treating a Reviewed-by: as a prerequisite for
merging. I suspect that would really get the feathers flying.

> I also encourage other maintainers/developers to pay more attention to
> adding "Acked-by"/"Reviewed-by" tags and crediting reviewers. I hope
> that maintainers will promote changes that have been reviewed by others
> by giving them priority over other ones (if the changes are on more-or-less
> the same importance level of course, you get the idea).
> Now what to do with people who ignore reviews and/or have rather high
> regressions/patches ratio?

Ignoring a review would be a wildly wrong thing to do. It's so unusual
that I'd be suspecting a lost email or an i-sent-the-wrong-patch.

As for high regressions/patches ratio: that'll be hard to calculate and
tends to be dependent upon the code which is being altered rather than who
is doing the altering: some stuff is just fragile, for various reasons.

One ratio which we might want to have a think about is the patches-sent
versus reviews-done ratio ;)

> I think that we should have info about regressions integrated into SCM,
> i.e. in git we should have optional "fixes-commit" tag and we should be
> able to do some reverse data colletion. This feature combined with
> "Author:" info after some time should give us some very interesting
> statistics (Top Ten "Regressors"). It wouldn't be ideal (ie. we need some
> patches threshold to filter out people with 1 patch and >= 1 regression(s),
> we need to remember that some code areas are more difficult than the others
> and that patches are not equal per se etc.) however I believe than making it
> into Top Ten "Regressors" should give the winners some motivation to improve
> their work ethic. Well, in the worst case we would just get some extra
> trivial/documentation patches. ;-)

We of course do want to minimise the amount of overhead for each developer.
I'm a strong believer in specialisation: rather than requiring that *every*
developer/maintainer integrate new steps in their processes it would be
better to allow them to proceed in a close-to-usual fashion and to provide
for a specialist person (or team) to do the sorts of things which you're
thinking about.

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