Collaboration: Git Development Workflow

fgiasson edited this page Aug 21, 2012 · 5 revisions


Welcome to the structWSF Contributors Guide. This documentation aims to document how contributors and collaborators should work when using Git, GitHub and the development workflow. This workflow supports the parallel development on multiple major versions of structWSF. However, older versions only get bug fixes and no new features. This Git workflow is greatly inspired by the development workflow of the Doctrine Projects (in fact, it is same one, with some modifications related to the structWSF project).


structWSF (STRUCTured Web Services Framework) is a RESTful middleware API layer that provides the bridge between existing content, structure and schemas, legacy content management systems and RDF data stores.

Contributors vs Collaborators

Before continuing you need to understand the difference between a contributor and a collaborator.

  • Contributor: A contributor is someone from the outside not on the core development team of the project that wants to contribute some changes to a project.
  • Collaborator: A collaborator is someone on the core development team of the project and has commit access to the main repository of the project.

Continue reading to learn about the workflow for both contributors and collaborators.

Contributor Workflow


StructuredDynamics's Git Development Workflow

Who is a contributor?

A contributor can be anyone! It could be you. Continue reading this section if you wish to get involved and contribute back to structWSF.

Initial Setup

  • Setup a GitHub account
  • Fork the repository of the project
  • Clone your fork locally
$ git clone
  • Enter the structWSF directory and add the upstream remote
$ cd structWSF-Open-Semantic-Framework
$ git remote add upstream

Keeping your master up-to-date!

Once all this is done, you’ll be able to keep your local master up to date with the simple command:

$ git checkout master
$ git pull --rebase

Branching Model

The following names will be used to differentiate between the different repositories:

  • upstream - The “official” structWSF repository (what is on Structured Dynamics's GitHub account)
  • origin - Your fork of the official repository on GitHub (what is on your GitHub account)
  • local - This will be your local clone of origin (what is on your computer)

As a contributor you will push your completed local topic branch to origin. As a contributor you will pull updates from upstream. As a collaborator (write-access) you will merge branches from contributors into upstream.

Primary Branches

The upstream repository holds the following primary branches:

  • upstream/master Development towards the next release.
  • upstream/x.y.z Maintenance branches of existing releases.

These branches exist in parallel, are permanent and are defined as follows:

upstream/master is the branch where the source code of HEAD always reflects the latest version. Each released major stable version will be a tagged commit in a upstream/x.y.z branch.

NOTE You should never commit to your forked origin/master. Changes to origin/master will never be merged into upstream/master. All work must be done in a topic branch, which are explained below.

Topic Branches

Topic branches are for contributors to develop bug fixes, new features, etc. so that they can be easily merged to master. They must follow a few simple rules as listed below:

  • May branch off from: master or a x.y.z branch.
  • Must merge back into: master and any affected x.y.z branch that should get the same changes, but remember that release branches usually only get bug fixes, with rare exceptions.
  • Branch naming convention: anything except master and x.y.z. If the topic is related to a GitHub issue on the structWSF (upstream) project, then name it topic-# where # is the number of the GitHub issue, i.e. topic-13. You should consider creating an issue on that issue tracker before starting a new topic branch. That way, people will be able to know what you are doing with your topic branch.

Topic branches are used to develop new features and fix reported issues. When starting development of a feature, the target release in which this feature will be incorporated may well be unknown. The essence of a topic branch is that it exists as long as the feature is in development, but will eventually be merged back into master or a x.y.z branch (to add the new feature or bugfix to a next release) or discarded (in case of a disappointing experiment).

Topic branches should exist in your local and origin repositories only, there is no need for them to exist in upstream.

Working on topic branches

First create an appropriately named branch. When starting work on a new topic, branch off from upstream/master or a upstream/x.y.z branch:

$ git checkout -b topic-13 upstream/master
Switched to a new branch "topic-13"

Now do some work, make some changes then commit them:

$ git status
$ git commit <filespec>

Next, merge or rebase your commit against upstream/master. With your work done in a local topic branch, you’ll want to assist upstream merge by rebasing your commits. You can either do this manually with fetch then rebase, or use the pull --rebase shortcut. You may encounter merge conflicts, which you should fix and then mark as fixed with add, and then continue rebasing with rebase --continue. At any stage, you can abort the rebase with rebase --abort unlike nasty merges which will leave files strewn everywhere.

CAUTION Please note that once you have pushed your branch remotely you MUST NOT rebase!

$ git fetch upstream
$ git rebase upstream/master topic-13

or (uses tracking branch shortcuts):

$ git pull --rebase

CAUTION You must not rebase if you have pushed your branch to origin.

If you need to pull master into your branch after it has already been pushed remotely, simply use:

$ git pull

Push your branch to origin:

Finished topic branches should be pushed to origin for a collaborator to review and pull into upstream as appropriate:

$ git push origin topic-13
    * [new branch]      topic-13 -> topic-13

Now you are ready to send a pull request from this branch, and update the GitHub issue tracker, to let a collaborator know your branch can be merged.

Topic Branch Cleanup

Once your work has been merged by the branch maintainer, it will no longer be necessary to keep the local branch or remote branch, so you can remove them!

Sync your local master:

$ git checkout master
$ git pull --rebase

Remove your local branch using -d to ensure that it has been merged by upstream. Branch -d will not delete a branch that is not an ancestor of your current head.

From the git-branch man page:

-d  Delete a branch. The branch must be fully merged in HEAD.
-D  Delete a branch irrespective of its merged status.

Remove your local branch:

$ git branch -d topic-13

Remove your remote branch at origin:

$ git push origin :topic-13

Collaborator Workflow

Who is a collaborator?

Collaborators are those who have been granted write access to the main repository of a project. This repository will be referred to as upstream in this document.

You might want want to know how a collaborator is different from a contributor. The Collaborator Workflow is used primarily for the following:

  • Merging contributor branches into upstream/master and/or upstream/x.y.z branches.
  • Creating x.y.z branches.
  • Tagging released versions within master and x.y.z branches.

Branching Model

Merging topic branches

  • Topic branches must merge into master and/or any affected x.y.z branches.
  • Merging a topic branch puts it into the next release, that is the next release created from master and/or the next patch release created from a specific x.y.z branch.


Add remote repo for contributor/collaborator, if necessary (only needs to be done once per collaborator):

$ git remote add bobuser

Fetch remote:

$ git fetch bobuser

Merge topic branch into master:

$ git checkout master
Switched to branch 'master'
$ git merge --no-ff bobuser/topic-13
Updating ea1b82a..05e9557
(Summary of changes)
$ git push upstream master

The –no-ff flag causes the merge to always create a new commit object, even if the merge could be performed with a fast-forward. This avoids losing information about the historical existence of a topic branch and groups together all commits that together added the topic.

Release branches

  • May branch off from: master
  • Must merge back into: -
  • Branch naming convention: x.y.z

Release branches are created when master has reached the state of the next major or minor release. They allow for continuous bug fixes and patch releases of that particular release until the release is no longer supported.

The key moment to branch off a new release branch from master is when master reflects the desired state of the new release.

Creating a release branch

Release branches are created from the master branch. When the state of master is ready for the upcoming target version we branch off and give the release branch a name reflecting the target version number. In addition the ”.0” release is tagged on the new release branch:

$ git checkout -b 1.1 upstream/master
Switched to a new branch "1.1"
$ git push upstream 1.1
$ git tag -a 1.1.0
$ git push upstream 1.1

This new branch may exist for a while, at least until the release is no longer supported. During that time, bug fixes are applied in this branch (in addition to the master branch), if it is affected by the same bug. Adding large new features here is prohibited. They must be merged into master, and therefore, wait for the next major or minor release.

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