Why it's probably a good sign your PR gets a lot of comments

Peer reviews are a broad topic with infinite things to learn and discuss. And they can be scary, especially when you have just started your professional tech career. In this post, I will share some thoughts on the worst (is it?) thing that can happen: your PR is ripped into pieces.

Setting the Stage

We do not necessarily talk about PRs in the sense of FOSS. A wildly public contribution to a library maintained by a lot of contributors. We talk about peer reviews in an enterprise (or at least “work”) context. Or, to be even more specific. We won't even necessarily talk about PRs per se. But rather peer reviews. Any time your code gets reviewed by your co-workers. It doesn't depend on the medium or the concept. PRs are just “one” and probably the most popular among the possibilities.

What this is NOT About

Don't be afraid. This will not be a post about how you should appreciate and learn from the feedback, yada yada (it's true, tho). This is a rational, practical perspective on what a comment-heavy review tells you about yourself and your work. It's also opinionated and depends heavily on your circumstances. Please read it and think about whether the single points apply to you.

1. Your Code is Readable

People reviewed your code in detail! This means they were able to understand your code. You provided enough context, clean code, and documentation. That's awesome! Changes lacking these attributes are often prone to be waved through or ignored. None of this happened to your proposal!

2. You Showed Courage

Your anxiety about the negative feedback shows how much courage it took to request a review. This alone should make you proud! You stepped into the shark tank and made it out alive. And, by the way, being anxious about such is natural; you should not feel weak or inadequate about it. It's normal and an important mechanism.

3. Your Changes had the Right Length

Not only did you provide all the context, but you also made sure to keep the proposed change within the limit of bearable changed LOCs (btw a rule of thumb, keep it to less than 400). This is often done wrong and leads to insane “time to merge” because nobody has time for that.

4. People like to Engage with you

My last and probably most important item on this list is: people like to work with you! Or, to put it differently, people do not expect any backlash for giving you negative feedback. I can't stress enough how tremendous this is. Nothing keeps me more from reviewing than the certainty that it will result in bike-shedding, defiance, pointless discussion, or general drama. That people dare to give you negative feedback tells a lot about you. You are perceived as a rational, willing-to-learn person! Just put yourself in the shoes of a reviewer. Imagine you have to egg-dance a review that you probably don't have time for either way. And no matter how hard you try to avoid all the pitfalls, you know there will be some drama. The review would not be suggestion-rich or extensive. It would address the bare minimum.