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Procrastination Trick - Create Large Pull Requests

I know this is an unpopular opinion: Large PRs are a good way to mask procrastination.

Change my mind. No seriously. I've yet to see a solid example of why bundling many changes in the same PR is a good thing; versus having those changes introduced in smaller PRs.

Is your team suffering from the "Large PRs" syndrome? In my opinion, large PRs are hurtful in many ways:

  • Lower Code Quality: Due to the complexity and volume of changes in large PRs, there's a higher likelihood of compromising on code quality just to get the PR merged.
  • Integration Issues: Large PRs often touch multiple parts of the system, which can lead to unexpected integration issues, especially if the changes aren’t properly isolated or modularized.
  • Increased Merge Conflicts: The longer a PR remains open, the higher the chance of merge conflicts with other changes being merged into the same codebase. Resolving these conflicts can be time-consuming and error-prone.
  • Knowledge Silos: When a single developer or a small group works on a large set of changes without regular integration, it can lead to knowledge silos, where only a few people understand certain parts of the codebase.
  • Demotivation and Overwhelm: Reviewers might feel overwhelmed or demotivated by the sheer size of the PR, leading to less effective reviews or reluctance to review at all.
  • Blocking Other Work: Large PRs can block other work from being merged, especially if they involve core parts of the system that other developers need to work on.
  • Rollback Complexity: If a problem is discovered after merging a large PR, rolling back the changes can be complex and risky, especially if multiple features or fixes are entangled.
  • Delaying user value: Large PRs delay delivering small increments of value to the end users, which is at the core of agile software development practices.
  • Hiding procrastination: Lazy engineers can use large PRs to hide the actual time it took to work on individual parts of the code. Because it's so big, it's difficult to spot periods of procrastination somewhere in the middle. That's why - from an organization perspective - it's important to discourage large PRs.

What size are the Pull Requests in your organization? Can you relate to any of these?

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