I watch a lot of talks in my downtime. I even post the ones I like to a
Tumblr… sometimes . I felt like sharing Derek Prior's "Implementing a
Strong Code Review Culture" from RailsConf 2015 in particular because it's
relevant to the conversations that the Reading Web team are having around
process and quality. You can watch the talk on YouTube  and, if you're
keen, you can read the paper that's referenced over at Microsoft Research
I particularly like the challenge of providing two paragraphs of context in
a commit message – to introduce the problem and your solution – and trying
to overcome negativity bias in written communication* by offering
compliments whenever possible and asking, not telling, while providing
I hope you enjoy the talk as much as I did.
* The speaker said "research has shown" but I didn't see a citation
*Notes (width added emphasis)*
- Code review isn't for catching bugs
- "Expectations, Outcomes, and Challenges of Modern Code Review"
- Chief benefits of code review:
- Knowledge transfer
- Increased team awareness
- Finding alternative solutions
- Code review is "the discipline of explaining your code to your peers"
- Process is more important than the result
- Goes on to define code review as "the discipline of discussing your
code with your peers"
- If we get better at code review, then we'll get better at
communicating technically as a team
Rules of Engagement
- As an author, provide context
- "If content is king, then context is God"
- *In a pull request (patch set) the code is the content and the
commit message is the context*
- Provide sufficient context - bring the reviewer up to speed with
what you've been doing in the past X hours
- *Challenge: provide at least two paragraphs of context in your
- This additional context lives on in the commit history whereas
links to issue trackers might not
- As a reviewer, ask questions rather than making demands
- Research has shown that there's a negativity bias in written
communication. *Offer compliments whenever you can*
- *When you need to provide critical feedback, ask, don't tell*, e.g.
"extract a service to reduce some of this duplication" could be
as "what do you think about extracting a service to reduce some of this
- "Did you consider?", "can you clarify?"
- "Why didn't you just..." is framed negatively and includes the
- Use the Socratic method: asking and answering questions to
stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas
Insist on high quality reviews, but agree to disagree
- Conflict is good. *Conflict drives a higher standard of coding
provided there's healthy debate*
- Everyone has a minimum bar to entry for quality. Once that bar is met,
then everything else is a trade-off
- Reasonable people disagree all the time
- Review what's important to you
- SRP (Single Responsibility Principle) (the S from SOLID)
- Test Coverage
- ... (whatever else you're comfortable in giving feedback on)
- What about style?
- Style is important
- "People who received style comments on their code perceived that
- Adopt a styleguide
Benefits of a Strong Code Review Culture
- Better code
- Better developers through constant knowledge transfer
- Team ownership of code, which leads to fewer silos
- Healthy debate