Keep a Changelog without Conflicts

For years, like many others, we have maintained files inside our Git repositories for our apps and libraries. We have followed the standards outlined at and we have appreciated the benefits it has provided us for preparing releases and for maintaining a clear record of changes included in each release while still being targeted at the appropriate audience.

However, these benefits didn't come without drawbacks. The biggest being that while working on a repo with multiple people or developing locally using a patch stack workflow you continually run into Git conflicts solely with the file. These conflicts aren't meaningful in anyway. They are just an impedance to our development flow and process, both as a team and as individual contributors.

Well a few weeks ago Anthony Castelli and I decided it was time to remove this impedance not only for our local workflows but for the development workflow the team. We started out by analyzing the characteristics of the approach that we valued and the characteristics that were causing the issues. The biggest turned out to be one and the same, the tight coupling of the source code change to the entry. This tight coupling is what made it easy to prep releases of libs/apps because the developer that made the change, the person with context, also created the associated entry. However, this was also the practice that was triggering the useless conflicts in the

So we hashed this out and eventually came to the realization that we could have the tight coupling of the Changelog entry and the code while avoiding the conflicts all together. We just had to lift the Changelog entry out to the Git commit message. After contemplating implementation approaches and realizing at the core it would be similar to Git Patch Stack we immediately jumped into building a proof of concept Git command line tool extension to facilitate building a Changelog from entries in the Git commits.

Over the last few weeks we have been using it in our workflows and iterating on it to make sure it meets everyones needs. This work has resulted in our latest open source project, Git Changelog. Below is a ~15 min video where I introduce the concepts, values, the git-cl tool, as well as it's best practices.