Sometimes there are emergency CLs that must pass through the entire code review process as quickly as possible.
What Is An Emergency?
An emergency CL would be a small change that: allows a major launch to continue instead of rolling back, fixes a bug significantly affecting users in production, handles a pressing legal issue, closes a major security hole, etc.
In emergencies we really do care about the speed of the entire code review process, not just the speed of response. In this case only, the reviewer should care more about the speed of the review and the correctness of the code (does it actually resolve the emergency?) than anything else. Also (perhaps obviously) such reviews should take priority over all other code reviews, when they come up.
However, after the emergency is resolved you should look over the emergency CLs again and give them a more thorough review.
What Is NOT An Emergency?
To be clear, the following cases are not an emergency:
- Wanting to launch this week rather than next week (unless there is some actual hard deadline for launch such as a partner agreement).
- The developer has worked on a feature for a very long time and they really want to get the CL in.
- The reviewers are all in another timezone where it is currently nighttime or they are away on an off-site.
- It is the end of the day on a Friday and it would just be great to get this CL in before the developer leaves for the weekend.
- A manager says that this review has to be complete and the CL checked in today because of a soft (not hard) deadline.
- Rolling back a CL that is causing test failures or build breakages.
And so on.
What Is a Hard Deadline?
A hard deadline is one where something disastrous would happen if you miss it. For example:
- Submitting your CL by a certain date is necessary for a contractual obligation.
- Your product will completely fail in the marketplace if not released by a certain date.
- Some hardware manufacturers only ship new hardware once a year. If you miss the deadline to submit code to them, that could be disastrous, depending on what type of code you’re trying to ship.
Delaying a release for a week is not disastrous. Missing an important conference might be disastrous, but often is not.
Most deadlines are soft deadlines, not hard deadlines. They represent a desire for a feature to be done by a certain time. They are important, but you shouldn’t be sacrificing code health to make them.
If you have a long release cycle (several weeks) it can be tempting to sacrifice code review quality to get a feature in before the next cycle. However, this pattern, if repeated, is a common way for projects to build up overwhelming technical debt. If developers are routinely submitting CLs near the end of the cycle that “must get in” with only superficial review, then the team should modify its process so that large feature changes happen early in the cycle and have enough time for good review.