After watching a talk about code review 1, from the last EuroPython, I got some ideas that I’d like to summarise.
The first one is a point I made on my talk about clean code in Python, about running style checks (PEP-8, for example), automatically as part of the CI. This has several rationales, the first one being that it’s the sort of thing machines should do, and not humans. Having software engineers reviewing the tabs, spacing, and such, is just a wasted effort (not to mention, wasted money). As I mentioned on the conclusions during my talk, we should focus on the readability of the code in terms of the logic, by asking ourselves things like “does this code make sense?“, rather than “is the space before the comma correct?“. Remember, code is for humans, not machines, it’s a means of communication with the development team.
By automating these checks in the CI build 2, we leave these details out of the scope, to focus on more important things, because in the end, the ultimate goal of the code review is actually to find defects on the code, and point them out for early correction.
In addition, separating the style checks, gives them a sense of “objective metric”, because the author has to argue with an script, instead of another developer. This also enforces the style guide for the project, closer to the code.
Then followed lots of more tips aimed at making code review more effective. For example, that it’s important to also highlight positive things found whilst looking at the code, and (arguably the most important one) that authors have to be receptive about feedback when placing a pull request. This is perhaps the most difficult point, because most of the times we hear things like “would you merge this code?“, rather than “would you give me feedback about this?“. Once again, the goal of code review is not to challenge, but to find defects on the code, so when placing a pull request, it’s good for the author to keep in mind that reviewers are actually helping him or her, to improve the quality of the work. And it’s also a learning experience.
0% thankfully. Coders act like they’ve painted a masterpiece and tend to debate every piece of feedback.— Mark Litwintschik (@marklit82) June 1, 2016
Another important point, is that for code reviews to be effective, pull requests have to be small.
10 lines of code = 10 issues.— I Am Devloper (@iamdevloper) November 5, 2013
500 lines of code = “looks fine.”
This increases not only the quality of the review, but also the likelihood of it being merged.
Code review is a very extensive topic, so there are a lot of more things that can be analysed, but these are some of the main ideas that I consider to be of most importance.