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Respectful Review Comments

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Respectful Review Comments

Reviewing issues and pull requests is a great way to get started with contributing to the Symfony community. Anyone can do it! But before you give a comment, take a step back and think, is what you are about to say actually what you intend?

Communicating over the Internet with nothing but text can pose a big challenge, especially if you remember that the Symfony community is world-wide and is composed of a wide variety of people with differing ideas and opinions.

Not everyone speaks English or is able to use a keyboard. Some might have dyslexia or similar conditions that affect their writing.

Not to mention that some might have a bad experience from previous contributions (to other projects).

You're not alone in this. This guide will try to help you write constructive, respectful and helpful reviews and replies.

Tip

This guide is not about lecturing you to "conform" or give-up your ideas and opinions but helping you to better communicate, prevent possible confusion, and keeping the Symfony community a welcoming place for everyone. You are free to disagree with someone's opinions, but don't be disrespectful.

First of, accept that many programming decisions are opinions. Discuss trade offs, which you prefer, and reach a resolution quickly. It's not about being right or wrong, but using what works.

Tone of Voice

We don't expect you to be completely formal, or to even write error-free English. Just remember this: don't swear, and be respectful to others.

Don't reply in anger or with an aggressive tone. You're angry, we understand that, but swearing/cursing and name calling doesn't really encourage anyone to help you. Take a deep breath, count to 10 and try to clearly explain what problems you encounter.

Inclusive Language

In an effort to be inclusive to a wide group of people, it's recommended to use personal pronouns that don't suggest a particular gender. Unless someone has stated their pronouns, use "they", "them" instead of "he", "she", "his", "hers", "his/hers", "he/she", etc.

Try to avoid using wording that may be considered excluding, needlessly gendered (e.g. words that have a male or female base), racially motivated or singles out a particular group in society. For example, it's recommended to use words like "folks", "team", "everyone" instead of "guys", "ladies", "yanks", etc.

Giving Positive Feedback

While reviewing issues and pull requests you may run into some suggestions (including patches) that don't reflect your ideas, are not good, or downright wrong.

Now, when you prepare your comment, consider the amount of work and time the author has spent on their idea and how your response would make them feel.

Did you correctly understand their intention? Or are you making assumptions? Whatever your response, be explicit. Remember people don't always understand your intentions online.

Avoid using terms that could be seen as referring to personal traits ("dumb", "stupid"). Assume everyone is intelligent and well-meaning.

Tip

Good questions avoid judgement and avoid assumptions about the author's perspective.

Maybe you can ask for clarification? Suggest an alternative? Or provide a simple explanation why you disagree with their proposal.

  • This looks wrong. Are you sure it's correct? (eg. typo/syntax error)
  • What do you think of "RequestFactory" instead of RequestCreator?

Even if something is really wrong or "a bad idea", stay respectful and don't get into endless you-are-wrong discussions or "flame wars".

Don't use hyperbole ("always", "never", "endlessly", "nothing", "worst", "horrible", "terrible").

Don't: "I don't like how you wrote this code" - there is no clear explanation why you don't like how it's written.

Better: "I find it hard to read this code as there many nested if statements, can you make it more readable? By encapsulating some of it's details or maybe adding some comments to explain the overall logic." - You explain why you find the code hard to read and give some suggestions for improvement.

If a piece of code is in fact wrong, explain why:

  • This code doesn't comply with Symfony's CS rules. Please see [...] for details.
  • Symfony 3 still uses PHP 5 and doesn't allow the usage scalar type-hints..
  • I think the code is less readable now - careful here, be sure explain why you think the code is less readable, and maybe give some suggestions?

Examples of valid reasons to reject:

  • We tried that in the past (link to the relevant PR) but we needed to revert it for XXX reason.
  • That change would introduce too many merge conflicts when merging up Symfony branches. In the past we've always rejected changes like this.
  • I profiled this change and it hurts performance significantly (if you don't profile, it's an opinion, so we can ignore)
  • Code doesn't match Symfony's CS rules (e.g. use array() instead of [])
  • We only provide integration with very popular projects (e.g. we integrate Bootstrap but not your own CSS framework)
  • This would require adding lots of code and making lots of changes for a feature that doesn't look so important. That could hurt maintaining in the future.

Asking for Changes

Rarely something is perfect from the start, while the code itself is good. It may not be optimal or conform the Symfony coding style.

Again, understand the author already spent time on the issue and asking for (small) changes may be misinterpreted or seen as a personal attack.

Be thankful for their work (so far), stay positive and really help them to make the contribution a great one. Especially if they are a first time contributor.

Use words like "Please", "Thank you" and "Could you" instead of making demands;

  • "Thank you for your work so far. I left some suggestions for improvement to make the code more readable."
  • "Your code contains some coding-style problems, can you fix these before we merge? Thank you"
  • "Please use 4 spaces instead of tabs", "This needs be on the previous line";

During a pull request review you can usually leave more then one comment, you don't have to use "Please" all the time. But it wouldn't hurt.

It may not seem like much, but saying "Thank you" does make others feel more welcome.

Using Humor

In short: Extreme misbehavior will not be tolerated and may even get you banned; Keep it real and friendly.

Don't use sarcasm for a serious topic, that's not something that belongs to the Symfony community. And don't marginalize someone's problems; Well I guess that's not supposed to happen? 😆.

Even if someone's explanation is "inviting to joke about it", it's a real problem to them. Making jokes about this doesn't help with solving their problem and only makes them feel stupid. Instead try to discover what the problem is really about.

Final Words

Don't feel bad if you "failed" to follow these tips. As long as your intentions were good and you didn't really offend or insult anyone; you can explain you misunderstood, you didn't mean to marginalize or simply failed.

But don't say it "just because", if your apology is not really meant you will lose credibility and respect from other developers.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

This work, including the code samples, is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.