Code Reviews: Commenting on Pull Requests With Style (and Lots of Emoji)

Collaborating on Quality

We take pride in the work we do at Foraker Labs. We want each application, each new feature, each change request, and even each bug fix we deploy to be the best it can be.

One of the primary mechanisms for achieving this is the use of pull requests on our github repositories. When a developer has completed work on a story, they open a new PR based on their feature branch. The expectation is then that at least two other developers will review the changes in the PR. The feature or update generally doesn’t go to quality assurance testing until it has received the blessing of two people. We call these votes of approval “thumbs” (more on that in just a bit).

I don’t think this process will strike any of you as a novel approach. There are plenty other companies and open source projects that operate in much the same way. While it may not be a “difference” universally, the key component I want to highlight about our pull request reviews is the congeniality and collaborative attitude we always mix into our feedback.

You might think getting PR comments suggesting you make a change would be a bad thing, but thanks to our company culture, it’s not at all.

As it turns out, it is almost never the case that a PR sails through and just gets it’s two thumbs and moves on. There are almost always suggestions for improving the structure or style of the code. Whether it’s the person making the comment, receiving it, or just reading it in our GitHub notifications, this feedback loop keeps us all in the mind frame of constantly improving ourselves and each other.

The worst case scenario is your PR gets questions like, “Are you sure this isn’t going to break this other thing?” or “Is this really the way this is supposed to work? I thought Thing A had to happen before Thing B could be true…” The truth is, these are awesome comments! Ultimately, these are the reason we do code reviews. We need to ensure our code works correctly.

Lookin’ for Thumbs

As with any tight-knit group, the team at Foraker Labs has developed a rather involved shorthand for communication in PR reviews. Sometimes we use common internet patois to tease each other about “dat method name tho…” or we might post a sweet reaction GIF to both make a joke and add some laughs.

The key tool for PR comments is emoji, though. So much so that we actually have a small dictionary:

Foraker Labs PR Comment Emoji Key Hopefully you can see how these could help keep the mood light while still helping us make serious points effectively and efficiently.

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