An example of controlled technical debt

When I started working to help with Ceph backports, I was not familiar with the workflow (who does what, when and why) or the conventions (referencing commits from redmine issues, the redmine backport field, …). I felt the need for scripts to help me cross reference information (from git, github and redmine) and consolidate them into an inventory which I could use as a central point to measure progress and find what needed to be done. But I was not able to formulate this in so many words and at the beginning it was little more than a vague feeling that I would quickly be lost if I did not write down my findings. I chose to write a script, with no tests and no structure, to do things like matching a pull request with a redmine issue when the only clue was a Fixes: #XXX embedded in the comment one of the commits.

After a few weeks the script grew into a 500 lines monstrosity, extremely useful and quite impossible to maintain in the long run. My excuse was that I had no clue what I needed to begin with and that I could not have understood the backport workflow without this script. After the first backport release was declared ready, I stopped adding functionalities and re-started from scratch what became the ceph-workbench backport sub command.

This refactor was done without modifying the behavior of the original script (there were only a few occurrences where it was impossible to preserve). The architecture of the script was completely new: the original script was a near linear sequence of operations with only global variables. The quick summary is that the script pulls information from a few sources (one class for redmine, one for gitlab, one for git), cross reference them with ad-hoc methods and display them into rdoc pages to be displayed in the wiki.

Writing unit tests helped proceed incrementally, pulling one code snippet after the other and checking they were not broken by the refactor. Instead of unit testing the top level command, integration tests were written and run via tox, using real gitlab and redmine instances as fixtures running in docker containers. It will help when adding new use cases such as scrapping the ceph-qa mailing list to match teuthology job failures with the corresponding redmine issue or interpreting the Backport: field in commit messages.

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