This document explains the workflow for anyone working with issues in GitLab Inc. For the workflow that applies to everyone please see PROCESS.md.
Products at GitLab are built using the GitLab Flow.
We have specific rules around code review.
If you notice that pipelines for the
master branch of GitLab or GitLab FOSS is failing (red) or broken (green as a false positive), returning the build to a passing state takes priority over everything else development related, since everything we do while tests are broken may break existing functionality, or introduce new bugs and security issues.
All tests (unit, integration, and E2E QA) that fail on master are treated as
Any test failures or flakiness (either false positive or false negative) causes productivity impediments for all of engineering and our release processes.
If a change causes new test failures, the fix to the test should be made in the same Merge Request.
If the change causes new QA test failures, in addition to fixing the QA tests, the
review-qa-all job must be run to validate the fix before the Merge Request can be merged.
The cost to fix test failures increases exponentially as time passes. Our aim should be to keep
master free from failures, not to fix
master only after it breaks.
masterservice level objectives
There are two phases for fixing a
~"master:broken" issue which have a target SLO to clarify the urgency. The resolution phase is dependent on the completion of the triage phase.
|Phase||Service level objective||DRI|
|Triage||4 hours from the initial master pipeline failure until assigned
||Engineering Productivity team|
|Resolution||4 hours from assignment to DRI until issue is closed||Merge request author or team of merge request author|
Additional details about the phases are listed below.
The Engineering Productivity team is the triage DRI for monitoring master pipeline failures, identification and communication of
#master-brokenand will be reviewed by the team. These reactions will be applied by the triage DRI to signal current status:
:eyes:- signals the triage DRI is investigating a failing pipeline
:boom:- signals the pipeline contains a new failure. The triage DRI will create a new
~"master:broken"issue and reply in the thread with a link to the issue.
:fire_engine:- signals the pipeline is failing due to a known issue. The triage DRI will reply in the thread with a link to the existing issue(s).
:retry:- signals a system failure (e.g., Docker failure) is responsible and a retry has been triggered.
masterfailing for a non-flaky reason - create an issue with the following labels:
masterfailing for a flaky reason that cannot be reliably reproduced - create an issue with the following labels:
~"master:broken"merge request author if they are available at the moment. If the author is not available, mention the team Engineering Manager and seek assistance in the
#developmentSlack channel if there is no merge request that caused the
@username FYImessage. Additionally, a message can be posted in
#frontend_maintainersto get a maintainer take a look at the fix ASAP.
An example of the reactions for a failure is:
The merge request author of the change that broke master is the resolution DRI. In the event the merge request author is not available, the team of the merge request author will assume the resolution DRI responsibilities. If a DRI has not acknowledged or signaled working on a fix, any developer can take ownership using the reaction guidance below and assume the resolution DRI responsibilities.
~"master:broken"over new bug/feature work. Resolution options include:
~"master:broken"label from the issue and apply
masteraffects any auto-deploy, add the relevant
~"Pick into auto-deploy"label.
masteraffects any stable branches (e.g. https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab/-/merge_requests/25274), open new merge requests directly against the stable branches which are broken and ping the current release manager in the merge requests to avoid delays in releases / security releases. Optionally, post a message in
#developmentshould follow this guidance:
:eyes:- applied by the resolution DRI (or backup) to signal acknowledgment
:construction:- applied by the resolution DRI to signal that work is in progress on a fix
:white_check_mark:- applied by the resolution DRI to signal the fix is complete.
#frontendwhen the fix is in
masterbuild was failing and the underlying problem was quarantined / reverted / temporary workaround created but the root cause still needs to be discovered: create a new issue with the
~"master:broken"could have been prevented in the Merge Request pipeline.
Once the resolution DRI announces that
master is fixed:
master is red, we need to try hard to avoid introducing new failures,
since it's easy to lose confidence if it stays red for a long time.
Most merge requests don't need to be merged immediately, so the priority should
always be maintaining the stability of
master over keeping a high throughput.
In the rare cases where
master is broken for more than 4 hours (from the
#master-broken), maintainers are allowed to merge with a
broken pipeline if all the following conditions are met:
masterfor at least 4 hours.
~"master:broken"for it, see the "Triage DRI Responsibilities" steps above for more details
Before asking a maintainer to review, or before merging the merge request,
add a comment mentioning that the failure happens in
and post a reference to the issue. For instance:
Failure in <JOB_URL> happens in `master` and is being worked on in #XYZ.
Whether the merge requests pipeline is failing or not, if
master is red:
masterwith a link to the
~"master:broken"issue before clicking the red "Merge" button.
masterthe source branch is. If it's more than 100 commits behind
master, ask the author to rebase it before merging.
This reduces the chance of introducing new failures, and also acts to slow
(but not stop) the rate of change in
master, helping us to make it green again.
Security issues are managed and prioritized by the security team. If you are assigned to work on a security issue in a milestone, you need to follow the Security Release process.
If you find a security issue in GitLab, create a confidential issue mentioning the relevant security and engineering managers, and post about it in
If you accidentally push security commits to
gitlab-org/gitlab, we recommend that you:
#releases. It may be possible to execute a garbage collection (via the Housekeeping task in the repository settings) to remove the commits.
For more information on how the entire process works for security releases, see the documentation on security releases.
workflow::In devlabel to the issue.
Closes #issue_idfrom the MR description, to prevent auto closing of the issue after merging.
workflow::In review. If multiple people are working on the issue or multiple workflow labels might apply, consider breaking the issue up. Otherwise, default to the workflow label farthest away from completion. - Potentially, a reviewer offers feedback and assigns back to the author. - The author addresses the feedback and this goes back and forth until all reviewers approve the MR. - After approving, the reviewer in each category unassigns themselves and assigns the suggested maintainer in their category. - Maintainer reviews take place with any back and forth as necessary and attempts to resolve any open threads. - The last maintainer to approve the MR, follows the Merging a merge request guidelines. - (Optionally) Change the workflow label of the issue to
workflow::verification, to indicate all the development work for the issue has been done and it is waiting to be deployed and verified. We will use this label in cases where the work was requested to be verified by product OR we determined we need to perform this verification in production.
For larger issues or issues that contain many different moving parts, you'll be likely working in a team. This team will typically consist of a backend engineer, a frontend engineer, a Product Designer and a product manager.
Avoid adding configuration values in the application settings or in
gitlab.yml. Only add configuration if it is absolutely necessary. If you
find yourself adding parameters to tune specific features, stop and consider
how this can be avoided. Are the values really necessary? Could constants be
used that work across the board? Could values be determined automatically?
See Convention over Configuration for more discussion.
Start working on things with the highest priority in the current milestone. The priority of items are defined under labels in the repository, but you are able to sort by priority.
After sorting by priority, choose something that you’re able to tackle and falls under your responsibility. That means that if you’re a frontend developer, you work on something with the label
To filter very precisely, you could filter all issues for:
Use this link to quickly set the above parameters. You'll still need to filter by the label for your own team.
If you’re in doubt about what to work on, ask your lead. They will be able to tell you.
It's every developers' responsibilities to triage and review code contributed by the rest of the community, and work with them to get it ready for production.
Merge requests from the rest of the community should be labeled with the
Community Contribution label.
When evaluating a merge request from the community, please ensure that a relevant PM is aware of the pending MR by mentioning them.
This should be to be part of your daily routine. For instance, every morning you could triage new merge requests from the rest of the community that are not yet labeled
Community Contribution and either review them or ask a relevant person to review it.
Make sure to follow our Code Review Guidelines.
Labels are described in our Contribution guide.
GitLab.com is a very large instance of GitLab Enterprise Edition. It runs release candidates for new releases, and sees a lot of issues because of the amount of traffic it gets. There are several internal tools available for developers at GitLab to get data about what's happening in the production system:
If you've built feature flags into your code, be sure to read about how to use the feature flag to test a feature on GitLab.com.
Once a feature has been thoroughly tested the feature flag should be removed. The engineer who implemented the feature flag should ensure that it gets removed.
GitLab Inc has to be selective in working on particular issues. We have a limited capacity to work on new things. Therefore, we have to schedule issues carefully.
Product Managers are responsible for scheduling all issues in their respective product areas, including features, bugs, and tech debt. Product managers alone determine the prioritization, but others are encouraged to influence the PMs decisions. The UX Lead and Engineering Leads are responsible for allocating people making sure things are done on time. Product Managers are not responsible for these activities, they are not project managers.
Direction issues are the big, prioritized new features for each release. They are limited to a small number per release so that we have plenty of capacity to work on other important issues, bug fixes, etc.
If you want to schedule an
Accepting merge requests issue, please remove the label first.
Any scheduled issue should have a team label assigned, and at least one type label.
To request scheduling an issue, ask the responsible product manager
We have many more requests for great features than we have capacity to work on.
There is a good chance we’ll not be able to work on something.
Make sure the appropriate labels (such as
customer) are applied so every issue is given the priority it deserves.
Teams (Product, UX, Engineering) continually work on issues according to their respective workflows.
There is no specified process whereby a particular person should be working on a set of issues in a given time period.
However, there are specific deadlines that should inform team workflows and prioritization.
Suppose we are talking about milestone
m that will be shipped in month
M (on the 22nd).
We have the following deadlines:
M-1, 4th(at least 14 days before milestone
M-1, 13th(at least 5 days before milestone
M-1, 16th(at least 1 day before milestone
M-1, 18th(or next business day, milestone
mbegins): Kick off! 📣
missues with docs have been merged into master.
mrelease. See feature flags.
mrelease. See release timelines.
M, 19th, or
M, 20th, or
M, 22nd: Release Day 🚀
M, 23rd(the day after the release):
mstarts. This includes regular and security patch releases.
missues and merge requests are automatically moved to milestone
m+1, with the exception of
M+1, 4th(within a few weeks of milestone
Refer to release post content reviews for additional deadlines.
Note that deployments to GitLab.com are more frequent than monthly major/minor releases on the 22nd. See auto deploy transition guidance for details.
Team members use labels to track issues throughout development. This gives visibility to other developers, product managers, and designers, so that they can adjust their plans during a monthly iteration. An issue should follow these stages:
workflow::In dev: A developer indicates they are developing an issue by applying the
workflow::In review: A developer indicates the issue is in code review and UX review by removing the
In devlabel, and applying the
workflow::verification: A developer indicates that all the development work for the issue has been done and is waiting to be deployed and verified.
When the issue has been verfied and everything is working, it can be closed.
At the beginning of each release, we have a kickoff meeting, publicly livestreamed to YouTube. In the call, the Product Development team (PMs, Product Designers, and Engineers) communicate with the rest of the organization which issues are in scope for the upcoming release. The call is structured by product area with each PM leading their part of the call.
The notes are available in a publicly-accessible Google doc. Refer to the doc for details on viewing the livestream.
After each release, we have a retrospective meeting, publicly livestreamed to YouTube. We discuss what went well, what went wrong, and what we can improve for the next release.
The format for the retrospective is as follows. The notes for the retrospective are kept in a publicly-accessible Google doc. In order to keep the call on time and to make sure we leave ample room to discuss how we can improve, the moderator may move the meeting forward with the timing indicated:
The purpose of the retrospective is to help Engineering at GitLab learn and improve as much as possible from every monthly release. In line with our value of transparency, we livestream the meeting to YouTube and monitor chat for questions from viewers. Please check the retrospective notes for details on joining the livestream.
At the end of each retrospective the Engineering Productivity team is responsible for triaging improvement items identified from the retrospective. This is needed for a single owner to be aware of the bigger picture technical debt and backstage work. The actual work can be assigned out to other teams or engineers to execute.
Engineering Managers are responsible for capacity planning and scheduling for their respective teams with guidance from their counterpart Product Managers.
To ensure hygiene across Engineering, we run scheduled pipelines to move
unfinished work (open issues and merge requests) with the expired milestone to
the next milestone, and label
~"missed:x.y" for the expired milestone.
This is currently implemented as part of our automated triage operations. Additionally, issues with the
~Deliverable label which have a milestone beyond current +1, will have the
~Deliverable label removed.
We keep the milestone open for 3 months after it's expired, based on the release and maintenance policy.
The milestone cleanup is currently applied to the following groups and projects:
Milestones closure is in the remit of the Delivery team. At any point in time a release might need to be created for an active milestone,and once that is no longer the case, the Delivery team closes the milestone.
M, 22ndis Monday:
M, 21stwhichever is Friday, if
M, 22ndis on weekend.
M, 22ndis any other day
These actions will be applied to open issues:
~"missed-deliverable"will also be added whenever
Milestones are closed when the Delivery team no longer needs to create a backport release for a specific milestone.
Both the monthly kickoff and retrospective meetings are publicly streamed to the GitLab Unfiltered YouTube Channel. The EBA for Engineering is the moderator and responsible for initiating the Public Stream or designating another moderator if EBA is unable to attend.
When working in GitLab (and in particular, the GitLab.org group), use group labels and group milestones as much as you can. It is easier to plan issues and merge requests at the group level, and exposes ideas across projects more naturally. If you have a project label, you can promote it to a group milestone. This will merge all project labels with the same name into the one group label. The same is true for promoting group milestones.
We definitely don't want our technical debt to grow faster than our code base. To prevent this from happening we should consider not only the impact of the technical debt but also a contagion. How big and how fast is this problem going to be over time? Is it likely a bad piece of code will be copy-pasted for a future feature? In the end, the amount of resources available is always less than amount of technical debt to address.
To help with prioritization and decision-making process here, we recommend thinking about contagion as an interest rate of the technical debt. There is a great comment from the internet about it:
You wouldn't pay off your $50k student loan before first paying off your $5k credit card and it's because of the high interest rate. The best debt to pay off first is one that has the highest loan payment to recurring payment reduction ratio, i.e. the one that reduces your overall debt payments the most, and that is usually the loan with the highest interest rate.
For technical debt which might span, or fall in gaps between groups they should be brought up for a globally optimzed prioritization in retrospectives or directly with the appropriate member of the Product Leadership team. Additional avenues for addressing technical debt outside of product groups are Rapid Action issues and working groups.
Sometimes features release to production without meeting design and Pajamas specifications. We create UX debt issues to capture these discrepancies. For the same reasons as technical debt, we don't want UX debt to grow faster than our code base.
We apply the
UX debt label to these issues, and it is prioritized like other technical decisions in product groups by product management. You can see the number of UX debt issues on the UX Debt dashboard.
Security is our top priority. Our Security Team is raising the bar on security every day to protect users' data and make GitLab a safe place for everyone to contribute. There are many lines of code, and Security Teams need to scale. That means shifting security left in the Software Development LifeCycle (SDLC). Being able to start the security review process earlier in the software development lifecycle means we will catch vulnerabilities earlier, and mitigate identified vulnerabilities before the code is merged. We are fixing the obvious security issues before every merge, and therefore, scaling the security review process. Our workflow includes a check and validation by the reviewers of every merge request, thereby enabling developers to act on identified vulnerabilities before merging. As part of that process, developers are also empowered to reach out to the Security Team to discuss the issue at that stage, rather than later on, when mitigating vulnerabilities becomes more expensive. After all, security is everyone's job. See also our Security Paradigm
From time to time, there are occasions that engineering team must act quickly in response to urgent issues. This section describes how the engineering team handles certain kinds of such issues.
Not everything is urgent. See below for a non-exclusive list of things that are in-scope and not in-scope. As always, use your experience and judgment, and communicate with others.
To timely address high impact availability and performance issues, a weekly refinement session is held by the Infrastructure, Development, and QE teams jointly to triage issues for prioritization and planning with the Product team. A high impact issue has a direct measurable impact on GitLab.com service levels or error budgets.
There are two issue boards being reviewed in this refinement exercise.
~production requestlabel. When an issue has
~infradev ~S1 ~P1 ~production requestlabels applied, it is required to work on immediate resolution. In the case of a
~production request, please engage Development management based on group assignment to further the process along.
Milestoneor the label
workflow::ready for developmentis missing.
Milestoneand the label
workflow::ready for development.