[tz] Proposal: Use Git and Github better

Matt Johnson mj1856 at hotmail.com
Sat Jul 26 18:38:38 UTC 2014

I think it's great that we're using Git and Github as the experimental /
unofficial repository at https://github.com/eggert/tz.  It's much easier to
track change history looking through the commit log and see the changes than
by reading through emails with patch attachments.  However, we're not
currently taking advantage of all that this environment has to offer.

-- Item 1 --
We should be making better use of branches.  We currently have a single
"master" branch that everything gets committed to.  This is problematic,
because it doesn't separate things that are certain to be released from
things that are proposed changes.  For example, the recent time.tab file,
and the other large-scale proposed changes that are currently being debated,
could have been created on feature branches.  This would have given the tz
list members a place to look at the proposed changes and make additional
suggestions (via pull requests) before things are finalized.

As it sits today, since everything is in master, if the proposal is
ultimately defeated then new commits will have to be made to master to
revert these changes.  The danger comes if, say we needed to issue an
emergency release sometime in between.  Since master isn't in a state of
positive agreement, then one would have to branch from an earlier point in
history to build a hotfix release, then merge that hotfix back to master
later.   It's much easier if we can just trust that master always consists
of things that are certain to be released.

See also:

-- Item 2 --
I think that we should all make better use of forking and pull-requests for
submitting proposed changes.  Instead of submitting a patch file to the
mailing list, one should fork the GitHub repo, make their changes, then
create a pull request.  This allows for place for discussion on proposals
where the code can be referenced much easier.  It also ensures that the
author of each and every change is tracked in the commit log.  And finally,
it makes it much clearer which proposals were adopted and which were not.
Presently, looking through the mailing list archives, it's quite difficult
to tell if any given patch was actually applied or not.

-- Item 3 --
We should decide how the GitHub issue tracker fits in to the ecosystem.  I
see that there have been a few issues reported to via the issue tracker in
the past, but most things have come through the mailing list.  If we adopt
the conventions used by other modern projects, then we should be reporting
bugs through the issue tracker so their history can be more easily found.
Another benefit is that you can reference issue numbers in commits, and you
can reference commits in the comments of an issue.  This linking makes it
quite easy to find the code or data that was changed in response to an
issue.   The mailing list should probably be used for extended discussion,
rather than as a place to report issues.  Though, there may be some blend of
both, I personally think that an issue tracker is much more palatable than a
mailing list for many of these kinds of things.  There should probably be
some guidance document on the iana tz page about what goes where.

-- Item 4 --
While Paul Eggert is the tz maintainer, and I appreciate his efforts
greatly, I personally don't feel that it's appropriate for the github repo
to be in his personal "eggert" account.  There should instead be a common
"organizational account" for the project, such as github.com/tzdb or
similar.  ("iana" is taken, but appears to be unused or abandonded.  Someone
may want to inquire about obtaining it, as "github.com/iana/tz" would be
quite appropriate IMHO).   Though Paul would be the administrator of this
account, his own personal account would no longer be authoritative.

That also ties back to the idea of pull-requests.  Since Paul makes the
majority of changes, he would first make them in his own account, and then
send a pull-request to the main account.  Then a link could be sent to the
mailing list for discussion on the pull request before it was merged in.

As a side note - I've found that several third-party projects are linking to
the unofficial sources using git submodules.  While this isn't officially
sanctioned, it would be much better if they could link to iana/tz instead of

-- Item 5 --
While code and data often go hand-in-hand, there are quite a lot of projects
these days that only rely on the tz data.  There are also a lot of releases
of code changes that don't require data changes.  Having both code and data
in a single project seems rather inefficient.  I propose that they be split
back to separate projects, and maintained in separate github repos  (tzdata
/ tzcode).

Also, consider also that perhaps there are too many merged projects just
within the code.  For example, tzselect, zic, zdump, etc. might be broken
out for better visibility of changes and for clarity of dependent files.

I look forward to feedback on these items.  I'm sure not all will be in
agreement, but I think it's important that we look forward to new and better
ways to manage this project - rather than just sticking with the ways of the


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