Engineering Steering Committee Meeting, March 25, 2020


David Pursehouse, Ben Rohlfs, Alice Kober-Sotzek, Patrick Hiesel


Online, March 25, 12:30 - 13:30 CEST

Next meeting

The next meeting will be held on April 8, 12:30 CEST.


Gerrit News Page

Alice’s summary of the new “preview/apply fix” feature is still pending for the next issue which is due to be published at the end of this month.

We brainstormed and came up with a few more items:

  • Recent bug fix releases
  • Cancellation of Spring hackathon (more on this later)
  • Announcement of “revert submission” feature
  • Frontend has moved from bower to npm, and from HTML to JS for imports which is a major technical milestone

We also considered whether the “cherry pick topic” feature should be mentioned, but concluded that it’s not quite ready to be announced yet.

As usual, we invite the community to propose any items that they think would be interesting.

Review of open design documents

Marking REST API endpoints as ‘beta’ or ‘UI only’ during development

Patrick asked us to consider whether we should have a policy about marking REST endpoints as ‘beta’ or ‘UI only’ during development so that they can be changed without needing to respect the deprecation policy.

David pointed out that any APIs that are on the master branch, but not in any released version, are already implicitly subject to change. If any APIs are still under development and likely to change, it should be OK to leave them either with minimal documentation or undocumented. The question is then how do we mark those APIs such that they do get properly documented before a release is made.

David proposed adding TODO comments in the code/documentation, and Alice suggested using some kind of standardized marker (either a Java annotation or a special string in comments). Everyone agreed that this is probably overkill. Rather, it should be enough to:

  • Formally document that APIs are subject to change until included in a release
  • Any APIs that are only intended to be used by the UI are explicitly documented as such
  • The release process should include checks that newly added APIs are properly documented

Patrick will propose documentation updates to formalize this.

Proposal to change the date format in REST APIs

Sven Selberg (Axis) wrote to the mailing list with a proposal to change the date format used in REST APIs to use ISO-8601 timestamps.

We dicussed the proposal and the ways in which it could be implemented:

  • Just replace the currently used format with ISO-8601

    This is a no-go because it will likely break many clients that rely on the current format.

  • Add an additional field, alongside the existing one, and deprecate the existing

    This will allow existing clients to work as before. However, clients that want to use ISO-8601 will need to be changed to use the new field(s). Then, when the old field is removed (and the new field potentially renamed to the old name) clients will break and/or need to be adjusted.

  • Introduce a configuration option to use ISO-8601

    Clients will still need to be able to handle both formats, to work with servers that do/don’t enable the option.

We concluded that while it would be technically possible, it doesn’t bring any significant benefit that would justify the effort and overhead, so we will reject the proposal. Ben will follow up with Sven to get more information, i.e. if there are any concrete benefits that we have overlooked.

Versioning of the REST API

Versioning of the REST API has been mentioned before, on the mailing list and at hackathons. Alice raised it again in the context of the previous discussion about timestamp formats; if we have a versioned API it might be easier to make such changes.

Patrick raised the point that if we maintain a versioned API, we need to keep all the code that implements previous versions, rather than just replacing them. David pointed out that most API frameworks (assuming we would use one) make it easy to do that.

Ben questioned whether there is any high impact reason to do it, and we should not buy into the additional complexity it would bring otherwise.

We concluded that we will not pursue this now. We may revisit it later.


Teng Long (Alibaba) posted to the mailing list to ask about support for localization (“L10N”) in Gerrit, which would be very useful for users in countries like China where English ability is not as common as in other countries.

Until now the consensus has been that Gerrit is English-only, and all the UI texts, error messages, etc, are hard coded in English.

Ben said that it would be a huge effort to support this; the Google team is not likely to have resources to work on it now, and it’s not likely possible for someone outside the existing community to be able to do it.

David mentioned that Teng Long is keen to work on it, and in fact has already pushed a couple of changes related to it. Also, from prior experience at Sony in Japan, localization to Japanese would probably also be welcomed. David also reminded that git already supports localization, as does Jenkins.

Both Patrick and Alice pointed out that it’s not only the UI and error messages that need to be localized. Gerrit also stores hard-coded English strings in NoteDb and it would be difficult to get around that.

Patrick mentioned that since we are constantly adding/changing error messages and the UI, we would also need constant updates to translations. Alice said that for missing translations it should fall back to the default, and David mentioned that other large OSS projects have a specfic “L10N coordinator” that deals with this.

Ben’s main concern is complexity, and worries that the team is too small to get it done. For the next quarter the team is focussing on accessibility (A11Y); since both L10N and A11Y exist in the same space they should be done sequentially rather than in parallel.

In conclusion, we agree that having L10N is a good idea, but for now we don’t think it’s something we can realistically work on. We will reevaluate this once the A11Y work is completed.

Pending Library Upgrades

David asked the Googlers to follow up on some of the library upgrade changes that are still under review pending the Library-Compliance label.

Updates to gson, junit, guice and caffeine are not critical. They are only to keep up with the latest versions. Alice approved and submitted the guice upgrade, and will follow up on gson later. The junit and jetty upgrades are difficult as they require work internally at Google.

The upgrade of Lucene requires index version changes. Patrick will look into the feasibility of doing this in Google.

Hackathon/Summit Planning

Due to the current situation with Coronavirus (COVID-19) it will not be possible to go ahead with a Spring Hackathon or User Summit. Instead, we will look into the possibilty of doing a remote/virtual hackathon as proposed by Luca.

Ben and David both expressed doubts about whether it would be effective. Most of the Gerrit contributors work remotely from each other anyway; the main benefit of attending a hackathon is being able to allocate a block of time exclusively for working on Gerrit, and being colocated with others.

Ben suggested we could use a permanent virtual meeting room (hangout or similar), but this would need to be coordinated with attendees: Who would actually want to attend virtually? What do they want to get out of it? We should reach out to the non-Google attendees that typically come to a Hackathon and ask them what they would like to have instead.

David will follow up with Luca to dicuss how to proceed.

Upcoming releases

Since we usually make a new major release during the hackathon, and we had planned to release 3.2 during the now-cancelled Spring Hackathon, we need to consider when we will release 3.2. No conclusion was reached; we will discuss offline.

David is planning to make new 3.0.x releases and 3.1.x releases by the end of this week.

Review of issues on the ESC component

There were no issues that require attention.