Issues workflow

Issue tracker guidelines

Search the issue tracker for similar entries before submitting your own, there’s a good chance somebody else had the same issue or feature proposal. Show your support with an award emoji and/or join the discussion.

Please submit bugs using the ‘Bug’ issue template provided on the issue tracker. The text in the parenthesis is there to help you with what to include. Omit it when submitting the actual issue. You can copy-paste it and then edit as you see fit.

Issue triaging

Our issue triage policies are described in our handbook. You are very welcome to help the GitLab team triage issues. We also organize issue bash events once every quarter.

The most important thing is making sure valid issues receive feedback from the development team. Therefore the priority is mentioning developers that can help on those issues. Please select someone with relevant experience from the GitLab team. If there is nobody mentioned with that expertise look in the commit history for the affected files to find someone.

We also use GitLab Triage to automate some triaging policies. This is currently set up as a scheduled pipeline running on quality/triage-ops project.

Labels

To allow for asynchronous issue handling, we use milestones and labels. Leads and product managers handle most of the scheduling into milestones. Labelling is a task for everyone.

Most issues will have labels for at least one of the following:

  • Type: ~feature, ~bug, ~backstage, etc.
  • Stage: ~”devops::plan”, ~”devops::create”, etc.
  • Group: ~”group::source code”, ~”group::knowledge”, ~”group::editor”, etc.
  • Category: ~”Category:Code Analytics”, ~”Category:DevOps Score”, ~”Category:Templates”, etc.
  • Feature: ~wiki, ~ldap, ~api, ~issues, ~”merge requests”, etc.
  • Department: ~UX, ~Quality
  • Team: ~Documentation, ~Delivery
  • Specialization: ~frontend, ~backend
  • Release Scoping: ~Deliverable, ~Stretch, ~”Next Patch Release”
  • Priority: ~P1, ~P2, ~P3, ~P4
  • Severity: ~S1, ~S2, ~S3, ~S4

All labels, their meaning and priority are defined on the labels page.

If you come across an issue that has none of these, and you’re allowed to set labels, you can always add the team and type, and often also the subject.

Type labels

Type labels are very important. They define what kind of issue this is. Every issue should have one and only one.

The current type labels are:

  • ~feature
  • ~bug
  • ~backstage
  • ~”support request”
  • ~meta

A number of type labels have a priority assigned to them, which automatically makes them float to the top, depending on their importance.

Type labels are always lowercase, and can have any color, besides blue (which is already reserved for subject labels).

The descriptions on the labels page explain what falls under each type label.

Facet labels

Sometimes it’s useful to refine the type of an issue. In those cases, you can add facet labels.

Following is a non-exhaustive list of facet labels:

  • ~enhancement: This label can refine an issue that has the ~feature label.
  • ~”master:broken”: This label can refine an issue that has the ~bug label.
  • ~”master:flaky”: This label can refine an issue that has the ~bug label.
  • ~”technical debt”: This label can refine an issue that has the ~backstage label.
  • ~”static analysis”: This label can refine an issue that has the ~backstage label.
  • ~”ci-build”: This label can refine an issue that has the ~backstage label.
  • ~performance: A performance issue could describe a ~bug or a ~feature.
  • ~security: A security issue could describe a ~bug or a ~feature.
  • ~database: A database issue could describe a ~bug or a ~feature.
  • ~customer: This relates to an issue that was created by a customer, or that is of interest for a customer.

Stage labels

Stage labels specify which stage the issue belongs to.

Naming and color convention

Stage labels respects the devops::<stage_key> naming convention. <stage_key> is the stage key as it is in the single source of truth for stages at https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/www-gitlab-com/blob/master/data/stages.yml with _ replaced with a space.

For instance, the “Manage” stage is represented by the ~”devops::manage” label in the gitlab-org group since its key under stages is manage.

The current stage labels can be found by searching the labels list for devops::.

These labels are scoped labels and thus are mutually exclusive.

The Stage labels are used to generate the direction pages automatically.

Group labels

Group labels specify which groups the issue belongs to.

It’s highly recommended to add a group label, as it’s used by our triage automation to infer the correct stage label.

Naming and color convention

Group labels respects the group::<group_key> naming convention and their color is #A8D695. <group_key> is the group key as it is in the single source of truth for groups at https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/www-gitlab-com/blob/master/data/stages.yml, with _ replaced with a space.

For instance, the “Continuous Integration” group is represented by the ~”group::continuous integration” label in the gitlab-org group since its key under stages.manage.groups is continuous_integration.

The current group labels can be found by searching the labels list for group::.

These labels are scoped labels and thus are mutually exclusive.

You can find the groups listed in the Product Stages, Groups, and Categories page.

We use the term group to map down product requirements from our product stages. As a team needs some way to collect the work their members are planning to be assigned to, we use the ~group:: labels to do so.

Normally there is a 1:1 relationship between Stage labels and Group labels. In the spirit of “Everyone can contribute”, any issue can be picked up by any group, depending on current priorities. For example, an issue labeled ~”devops::create” may be picked up by the ~”group::access” group.

We also use stage and group labels to help quantify our throughput. Please read Stage and Group labels in Throughtput for more information on how the labels are used in this context.

Category labels

From the handbook’s Product stages, groups, and categories page:

Categories are high-level capabilities that may be a standalone product at another company. e.g. Portfolio Management.

It’s highly recommended to add a category label, as it’s used by our triage automation to infer the correct group and stage labels.

If you are an expert in a particular area, it makes it easier to find issues to work on. You can also subscribe to those labels to receive an email each time an issue is labeled with a category label corresponding to your expertise.

Naming and color convention

Category labels respects the Category:<Category Name> naming convention and their color is #428BCA. <Category Name> is the category name as it is in the single source of truth for categories at https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/www-gitlab-com/blob/master/data/categories.yml.

For instance, the “Code Analytics” category is represented by the ~”Category:Code Analytics” label in the gitlab-org group since its code_analytics.name value is “Code Analytics”.

If a category’s label doesn’t respect this naming convention, it should be specified with the label attribute in https://gitlab.com/gitlab-com/www-gitlab-com/blob/master/data/categories.yml.

Feature labels

From the handbook’s Product stages, groups, and categories page:

Features: Small, discrete functionalities. e.g. Issue weights. Some common features are listed within parentheses to facilitate finding responsible PMs by keyword.

It’s highly recommended to add a feature label if no category label applies, as it’s used by our triage automation to infer the correct group and stage labels.

If you are an expert in a particular area, it makes it easier to find issues to work on. You can also subscribe to those labels to receive an email each time an issue is labeled with a feature label corresponding to your expertise.

Examples of feature labels are ~wiki, ~ldap, ~api, ~issues, ~”merge requests” etc.

Naming and color convention

Feature labels are all-lowercase.

Department labels

The current department labels are:

  • ~UX
  • ~Quality

Team labels

Important: Most of the historical team labels (e.g. Manage, Plan etc.) are now deprecated in favor of Group labels and Stage labels.

Team labels specify what team is responsible for this issue. Assigning a team label makes sure issues get the attention of the appropriate people.

The current team labels are:

  • ~Delivery
  • ~Documentation

Naming and color convention

Team labels are always capitalized so that they show up as the first label for any issue.

Specialization labels

These labels narrow the specialization on a unit of work.

  • ~frontend
  • ~backend

Release scoping labels

Release Scoping labels help us clearly communicate expectations of the work for the release. There are three levels of Release Scoping labels:

  • ~Deliverable: Issues that are expected to be delivered in the current milestone.
  • ~Stretch: Issues that are a stretch goal for delivering in the current milestone. If these issues are not done in the current release, they will strongly be considered for the next release.
  • ~”Next Patch Release”: Issues to put in the next patch release. Work on these first, and add the “Pick Into X” label to the merge request, along with the appropriate milestone.

Each issue scheduled for the current milestone should be labeled ~Deliverable or ~”Stretch”. Any open issue for a previous milestone should be labeled ~”Next Patch Release”, or otherwise rescheduled to a different milestone.

Priority labels

Priority labels help us define the time a ~bug fix should be completed. Priority determines how quickly the defect turnaround time must be. If there are multiple defects, the priority decides which defect has to be fixed immediately versus later. This label documents the planned timeline & urgency which is used to measure against our target SLO on delivering ~bug fixes.

Label Meaning Target SLO (applies only to ~bug and ~security defects)
~P1 Urgent Priority The current release + potentially immediate hotfix to GitLab.com (30 days)
~P2 High Priority The next release (60 days)
~P3 Medium Priority Within the next 3 releases (approx one quarter or 90 days)
~P4 Low Priority Anything outside the next 3 releases (more than one quarter or 120 days)

Severity labels

Severity labels help us clearly communicate the impact of a ~bug on users. There can be multiple facets of the impact. The below is a guideline.

Label Meaning Functionality Affected Users GitLab.com Availability Performance Degradation
~S1 Blocker Unusable feature with no workaround, user is blocked Impacts 50% or more of users Outage, Significant impact on all of GitLab.com  
~S2 Critical Severity Broken Feature, workaround too complex & unacceptable Impacts between 25%-50% of users Significant impact on large portions of GitLab.com Degradation is guaranteed to occur in the near future
~S3 Major Severity Broken feature with an acceptable workaround Impacts up to 25% of users Limited impact on important portions of GitLab.com Degradation is likely to occur in the near future
~S4 Low Severity Functionality inconvenience or cosmetic issue Impacts less than 5% of users Minor impact on GitLab.com Degradation may occur but it’s not likely

If a bug seems to fall between two severity labels, assign it to the higher-severity label.

  • Example(s) of ~S1
    • Data corruption/loss.
    • Security breach.
    • Unable to create an issue or merge request.
    • Unable to add a comment or thread to the issue or merge request.
  • Example(s) of ~S2
    • Cannot submit changes through the web IDE but the commandline works.
    • A status widget on the merge request page is not working but information can be seen in the test pipeline page.
  • Example(s) of ~S3
    • Can create merge requests only from the Merge Requests list view, not from an Issue page.
    • Status is not updated in real time and needs a page refresh.
  • Example(s) of ~S4
    • Label colors are incorrect.
    • UI elements are not fully aligned.

Label for community contributors

Issues that are beneficial to our users, ‘nice to haves’, that we currently do not have the capacity for or want to give the priority to, are labeled as ~”Accepting merge requests”, so the community can make a contribution.

Community contributors can submit merge requests for any issue they want, but the ~”Accepting merge requests” label has a special meaning. It points to changes that:

  1. We already agreed on,
  2. Are well-defined,
  3. Are likely to get accepted by a maintainer.

We want to avoid a situation when a contributor picks an ~”Accepting merge requests” issue and then their merge request gets closed, because we realize that it does not fit our vision, or we want to solve it in a different way.

We add the ~”Accepting merge requests” label to:

  • Low priority ~bug issues (i.e. we do not add it to the bugs that we want to solve in the ~”Next Patch Release”)
  • Small ~feature
  • Small ~”technical debt” issues

After adding the ~”Accepting merge requests” label, we try to estimate the weight of the issue. We use issue weight to let contributors know how difficult the issue is. Additionally:

If you’ve decided that you would like to work on an issue, please @-mention the appropriate product manager as soon as possible. The product manager will then pull in appropriate GitLab team members to further discuss scope, design, and technical considerations. This will ensure that your contribution is aligned with the GitLab product and minimize any rework and delay in getting it merged into master.

GitLab team members who apply the ~”Accepting merge requests” label to an issue should update the issue description with a responsible product manager, inviting any potential community contributor to @-mention per above.

Stewardship label

For issues related to the open source stewardship of GitLab, there is the ~”stewardship” label.

This label is to be used for issues in which the stewardship of GitLab is a topic of discussion. For instance if GitLab Inc. is planning to add features from GitLab EE to GitLab CE, related issues would be labelled with ~”stewardship”.

A recent example of this was the issue for bringing the time tracking API to GitLab CE.

Feature proposals

To create a feature proposal for CE, open an issue on the issue tracker of CE.

For feature proposals for EE, open an issue on the issue tracker of EE.

In order to help track the feature proposals, we have created a feature label. For the time being, users that are not members of the project cannot add labels. You can instead ask one of the core team members to add the label ~feature to the issue or add the following code snippet right after your description in a new line: ~feature.

Please keep feature proposals as small and simple as possible, complex ones might be edited to make them small and simple.

Please submit Feature Proposals using the ‘Feature Proposal’ issue template provided on the issue tracker.

For changes in the interface, it is helpful to include a mockup. Issues that add to, or change, the interface should be given the ~”UX” label. This will allow the UX team to provide input and guidance. You may need to ask one of the core team members to add the label, if you do not have permissions to do it by yourself.

If you want to create something yourself, consider opening an issue first to discuss whether it is interesting to include this in GitLab.

Issue weight

Issue weight allows us to get an idea of the amount of work required to solve one or multiple issues. This makes it possible to schedule work more accurately.

You are encouraged to set the weight of any issue. Following the guidelines below will make it easy to manage this, without unnecessary overhead.

  1. Set weight for any issue at the earliest possible convenience
  2. If you don’t agree with a set weight, discuss with other developers until consensus is reached about the weight
  3. Issue weights are an abstract measurement of complexity of the issue. Do not relate issue weight directly to time. This is called anchoring and something you want to avoid.
  4. Something that has a weight of 1 (or no weight) is really small and simple. Something that is 9 is rewriting a large fundamental part of GitLab, which might lead to many hard problems to solve. Changing some text in GitLab is probably 1, adding a new Git Hook maybe 4 or 5, big features 7-9.
  5. If something is very large, it should probably be split up in multiple issues or chunks. You can simply not set the weight of a parent issue and set weights to children issues.

Regression issues

Every monthly release has a corresponding issue on the CE issue tracker to keep track of functionality broken by that release and any fixes that need to be included in a patch release (see 8.3 Regressions as an example).

As outlined in the issue description, the intended workflow is to post one note with a reference to an issue describing the regression, and then to update that note with a reference to the merge request that fixes it as it becomes available.

If you’re a contributor who doesn’t have the required permissions to update other users’ notes, please post a new note with a reference to both the issue and the merge request.

The release manager will update the notes in the regression issue as fixes are addressed.

Technical and UX debt

In order to track things that can be improved in GitLab’s codebase, we use the ~”technical debt” label in GitLab’s issue tracker. For missed user experience requirements, we use the ~”UX debt” label.

These labels should be added to issues that describe things that can be improved, shortcuts that have been taken, features that need additional attention, and all other things that have been left behind due to high velocity of development. For example, code that needs refactoring should use the ~”technical debt” label, something that didn’t ship according to our Design System guidelines should use the ~”UX debt” label.

Everyone can create an issue, though you may need to ask for adding a specific label, if you do not have permissions to do it by yourself. Additional labels can be combined with these labels, to make it easier to schedule the improvements for a release.

Issues tagged with these labels have the same priority like issues that describe a new feature to be introduced in GitLab, and should be scheduled for a release by the appropriate person.

Make sure to mention the merge request that the ~”technical debt” issue or ~”UX debt” issue is associated with in the description of the issue.

Technical debt in follow-up issues

It’s common to discover technical debt during development of a new feature. In the spirit of “minimum viable change”, resolution is often deferred to a follow-up issue. However, this cannot be used as an excuse to merge poor-quality code that would otherwise not pass review, or to overlook trivial matters that don’t deserve the be scheduled independently, and would be best resolved in the original merge request - or not tracked at all!

The overheads of scheduling, and rate of change in the GitLab codebase, mean that the cost of a trivial technical debt issue can quickly exceed the value of tracking it. This generally means we should resolve these in the original merge request - or simply not create a follow-up issue at all.

For example, a typo in a comment that is being copied between files is worth fixing in the same MR, but not worth creating a follow-up issue for. Renaming a method that is used in many places to make its intent slightly clearer may be worth fixing, but it should not happen in the same MR, and is generally not worth the overhead of having an issue of its own. These issues would invariably be labelled ~P4 ~S4 if we were to create them.

More severe technical debt can have implications for development velocity. If it isn’t addressed in a timely manner, the codebase becomes needlessly difficult to change, new features become difficult to add, and regressions abound.

Discoveries of this kind of technical debt should be treated seriously, and while resolution in a follow-up issue may be appropriate, maintainers should generally obtain a scheduling commitment from the author of the original MR, or the engineering or product manager for the relevant area. This may take the form of appropriate Priority / Severity labels on the issue, or an explicit milestone and assignee.

The maintainer must always agree before an outstanding discussion is resolved in this manner, and will be the one to create the issue. The title and description should be of the same quality as those created in the usual manner - in particular, the issue title must not begin with Follow-up! The creating maintainer should also expect to be involved in some capacity when work begins on the follow-up issue.


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