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Re: Should we restore manually maintained ChangeLogs

From: Paul Eggert
Subject: Re: Should we restore manually maintained ChangeLogs
Date: Tue, 8 Mar 2016 08:34:04 -0800
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:38.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/38.6.0

Eli Zaretskii wrote:
You (and some others) say the format and the content in the log
messages are important, and I agree.  But if we do care about them,
how can we NOT clean them up?

We can care about them, but agree to fix them up only until they become part of history. Once they're history we don't worry about trying to change history; they're just old mistakes that are part of the log but are not otherwise part of the current Emacs. If managed well, this can help motivate contributors to write good commit messages the first time. This approach is not perfect, but it works reasonably well in other projects and it is way easier to explain and to maintain than what we're doing now, or what we did a year ago.

With version control systems our natural perfectionist inclinations can cause us to want to rewrite history to make ourselves look more error-free than we actually were. In extreme cases (e.g., massive copyright infringement committed by a rogue developer) we would indeed need to rewrite history, despite all the hassles that would ensue with Git (hassle that would not be limited to commit-message contents!). However, in ordinary use we should resist the temptation to change history; at best it's makework.

So, for example, we should strive to get the "tiny change" stuff right the first time in commit messages; but if we make mistakes in that area it OK -- the sky will not fall down, and software archaeologists of the future will still be able to figure things out well enough.

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