Pull request review process

Pull requests submitted to Zulip go through a rigorous review process, which is designed to ensure that we are building a high-quality product with a maintainable codebase. This page describes the stages of review your pull request may go through, and offers guidance on how you can help keep your pull request moving along.

Prepare your pull request

Beyond writing the code, you will need to prepare your work to make it as easy as possible for others to review. When you believe your code is ready, follow the guide on how to review code to review your own work. You can often find things you missed by taking a step back to look over your work before asking others to do so. Catching mistakes yourself will help your PRs be merged faster, and folks will appreciate the quality and professionalism of your work.

Be sure to take a careful look at your commit structure and commit messages, and do your best to follow Zulip’s commit guidelines. This makes it much easier for code reviewers to spot bugs, so if your PR does not follow the guidelines, reviewers will ask you to restructure it prior to going through the code.

Submit your pull request for review

If you are new to Git, see our guide on making a pull request for detailed technical instructions on how to submit a pull request. When submitting your PR, you will need to:

  • Clearly describe the work you are submitting. Make sure the pull request template is filled out correctly, and that all the relevant points on the self-review checklist (if the repository has one) have been addressed. See the reviewable pull requests guide for advice.

  • If you have a question that you expect to be resolved during the review process, put it in a PR comment attached to a relevant part of the changes. The review process will go a lot more smoothly if points of uncertainty are explicitly laid out.

  • Make sure that the pull request passes all CI tests. You can sometimes request initial feedback if there are open questions that will impact how you update the tests. But in general, maintainers will wait for your PR to pass tests before reviewing your work.

If any part of your contribution is from someone else (code snippets, images, sounds, or any other copyrightable work, modified or unmodified), be sure to review the instructions on how to properly attribute the work.

If your PR was not ready for review when you first posted it (e.g., because it was failing tests, or you weren’t done working through the self-review checklist), notify maintainers when you’d like them to take a look by posting a quick “Ready for review!” comment on the main GitHub thread for your PR.

Draft pull requests

If it helps your workflow, you can submit your pull request marked as a draft while you’re still working on it. When ready for review:

  1. Make sure your PR is no longer marked as a draft, and doesn’t have “WIP” in the title.

  2. Post a quick “Ready for review!” comment on the main GitHub thread for your PR.

Labels for managing the stages of pull request review

In the Zulip server/web app repository (zulip/zulip), we use GitHub labels to help everyone understand where a pull request is in the review process. These labels are noted below, alongside their corresponding pull-request stage. Each label is removed by the reviewer for that stage when they have no more feedback on the PR and consider it ready for the next stage of review.

Sometimes, a label may also be removed because significant changes by the contributor are required before the PR ready to be reviewed again. In that case, the contributor should post a comment mentioning the reviewer when the changes have been completed, unless the reviewer requested some other action.

Stages of a pull request review

This section describes the stages of the pull request review process. Each stage may require several rounds of iteration. Don’t feel daunted! Not every PR will require all the stages described, and the process often goes quite quickly for smaller changes that are clearly explained.

  1. Product review. Oftentimes, seeing an initial implementation will make it clear that the product design for a feature needs to be revised, or that additional changes are needed. The reviewer may therefore ask you to amend or change the implementation. Some changes may be blockers for getting the PR merged, while others may be improvements that can happen afterwards. Feel free to ask if it’s unclear which type of feedback you’re getting. (Follow-ups can be a great next issue to work on!)

    Your PR might be assigned the product review label at this stage, or later in the review process as questions come up. You can also add this label yourself if appropriate. If doing so, be sure to clearly outline the product questions that need to be addressed.

  2. QA. If your PR makes user-facing changes, it may get a round of testing without reference to the code. You will get feedback on any user-facing bugs in the implementation. To minimize the number of review round-trips, make sure to thoroughly test your own PR prior to asking for review.

    Your PR might be assigned the QA needed label at this stage, or later on if re-testing is required.

  3. Initial code review. All PRs will go through one or more rounds of code review. Your code may initially be reviewed by other contributors. This helps us make good use of project maintainers’ time, and helps you make progress on the PR by getting quick feedback. A project maintainer may leave a comment asking someone with expertise in the area you’re working on to review your work.

  4. Maintainer code review. In this phase, a Zulip maintainer will do a thorough review of your proposed code changes. Your PR may be assigned the maintainer review label at this stage.

  5. Documentation review. If your PR includes documentation changes, those changes will require review. This generally happens fairly late in the review process, once the UI and the code are unlikely to undergo major changes. Maintainers may indicate that a PR is ready for documentation review by adding a help center review and/or api docs review label, and mentioning a documentation maintainer in the comments.

  6. Integration review. This is the final round of the review process, generally done by @timabbott for server and web app PRs. A maintainer will usually assign the integration review label when the PR is ready for this phase.

How to help move the review process forward

If there are no comments on your PR for a week after you submit it, you can check again to make sure that it’s ready for review, and then post a quick comment to remind Zulip’s maintainers to take a look at your work. Consider also asking for a review in the Zulip development community.

After that, the key to keeping your review moving through the review process is to:

  • Address all the feedback to the best of your ability.

  • Make it clear when the requested changes have been made and you believe it’s time for another look.

  • Make it as easy as possible to review the changes you made.

In order to do this, when you believe you have addressed the previous round of feedback on your PR as best you can, post a comment asking reviewers to take another look. Your comment should make it easy to understand what has been done and what remains by:

  • Summarizing the changes made since the last review you received.

  • Highlighting remaining questions or decisions, with links to any relevant threads in the Zulip development community.

  • Providing updated screenshots and information on manual testing if appropriate.

The easier it is to review your work, the more likely you are to receive quick feedback.