One less Pull Request

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This time of the year again, it's soon going to be the period where many websites and organisation will push you to make contribution to Open-Source, for example via hacktoberfest I got a nice T-shirt last year, and 24pullrequests seem to get tractions as well each years. Theses are really nice incentive that push users of open-source to start contributing and already seasons developers to try touch new project.

Here is a request I got for you whether you participate or not to these events: Please close a Pull Request.

Less is More

While I really appreciate having new contributions, there is a point were too many opened pull-requests can – I think – be harmful. I'm going to expose the various case, why I think these are harmful and what can be done.

Here are two specific examples : the Sympy Project (as Aaron feel targeted), the authors are absolutely extraordinary and reactive. The current count of opened PR is 378. Matplotlib is also apparently at 207. You can see in the discussion linked here that maintainers feel differently about high number of PRs.

I open to many pull requests

I currently have 12 opened pull requests, see how many you have. This mean that I (at least) have to follow-up with around 12 projects every days. This is an extremely hight cognitive cost of switching. I try to not keep a PR older than 6 month. If it's older then it's most likely not going to be merged or taken care of by the maintainers. Every time I get to this screen I at least spend 30 sec wondering what to do about old PRs.

My advice is to stay focus: If you are not going to work on a Pull Request, let the maintainers know about this fact: close it. It can still be reopened. You might want to leave a message explaining why you are not working on it, and that you would be happy (or not), for someone else to take over.

I'm now back to 8. It fits on one screen, I can be more focused.

Also if you are a maintainer and know a pull-request will likely not get merged, I would prefer you don't give me false hope, and close it. Explain why. Even if it's just that's you are busy on something else and would appreciate if this was resubmitted later. I'm more likely to get over it and try a few other time than if my first contribution got no responses.

I strongly encourage you to try minrk.github.io/all-my-pulls it allows you to view all the pull-requests you have the ability to merge. And filter by repositories you do not wish to see. After filtering, I have 61 pull requests in 19 repos. It is too much to stay focused as well.

Many of these pull-requests have stalled, and I would gladly appreciate for the authors to close them if they have no intention on working on things. To be honest many of the oldest pull-requests have entered this "Awkward state" of wanting to close it but not actually doing so because it can be rough for the author to see his work dismiss.

As a maintainer I should do a better job as saying when a Pull request have stalled and is just polluting the PR list. Close it with a nice explanation. It's always possible to reopen if needed. GitHub allows canned responses, I use it as a template to list the policy of PR closing. I've found that having a clear policy often make decision easier. And sometime closing even allow work to be resubmitted, to appear on the top of the pile, and start anew.

There is also the possibility of taking over the author work and finishing up in a separate PR, or push directly on authors forks if he is allowing it. I personally rarely do that, as I feel like it is a slippery slope for the maintainer to do everything.

I find myself much more efficient when there is only 5 to 6 opened pull-requests. I can keep track of each of them, judge whether or not the work will conflict and give proper care to each of these. I fail to do so when there are many pages.

I don't contribute to repository that have too many PRs.

When I come across a repository with more than 20-ish pull-requests, I tend to think that the authors are not responding so why bother to contribute. I know that often these are only impressions and I can get over it because I have the chance to often know the maintainers. This feeling is though hard to get over on repositories I'm new to.

With a high number of opened PRs, I tend to also be discouraged at searching whether someone is fixing the bug I saw, or implementing the feature I wish. Moreover the higher the number of opened PRs the more chance there is for the maintainers to review my PR in a long time, and the higher chance there will be that I will need to rebase my work, which regardless of whether you are a git master or not can be painful process to go through (and to ask someone to go through).

I'm pretty certain I'm not the only one to be discouraged from seeing a large number of open non active Pull requests. I've asked on twitter and it looks like roughly every other respondent are discouraged to contribute if too many PR are opened.

What do you think ?

The above paragraphs are my though on too many opened pull-requests ? How are you feeling about that ? As you might have read in the twitter conversation linked to above, different people have different opinions.

If you want to comment, please open an issue on GitHub, and if you have the courage to help improve my English feel free to send me a PR (sic) to make this more readable.

Close a PR !

Thanks you for reading up until here ! If you want to restore part of the sanity of some maintainers, or want to appeal a bit more to some users, please go close a PRs ! Or help finish a Pr that have stalled ! I can't give you a free T-shirt like for HactoberFest but feel free to tweet with hashtag #IClosedAPR !