Respond to GitHub Issues in a Timely Manner

GitHub Mascot Octocat

Recently my coworker, Coen Jacobs, wrote a great post about the Art of Commit Messages. And there's a lot for a developer to learn there. The part that we don't hear much about the art of maintaining a repo on GitHub. Do they have any duties? Is there any etiquette when it comes to maintaining a GitHub repo?

I have one tip – be timely with your repos.

Why Be Timely?

I can't think of a single developer that has oodles of time. If you do happen to have some extra free time you're probably going to pick up another project. That's just the nature of most of the developers I've met. But regardless of how busy you are you still need to make time for people who are interacting with you on your GitHub repos.

People Lose Motivation

If you take too long to respond to an issue or a pull request there's a good chance you'll never hear from the developer again. The other developer might have needed it for a client project and now that you're asking them for more information after they've finished the job there isn't much incentive to help.

I once had someone ask for an updated pull request on (you're going to love the irony here) GitHub's gitignore repo. An entire year after I submitted the request to update something they ask me to update the pull request – I knew that it would still help me and the community down the road so I did it anyway. Were this a smaller project I don't know if I would have taken the time to update the pull request. I already have enough on my plate.

People Lose Context

The other problem waiting too long to respond to someone is that they'll lose information on the project. They might have had a test site they could use to replicate the problem. Or they might have switched systems and aren't even using your project anymore.


The biggest reason though is a simple one. Respect. If I'm submitting a patch to make your project better take a few minutes out of your day to tinker with it and pull it in. I'm not talking about troubleshooting here – that's a different issue. I'm just talking about managing real issues & pull requests. You never know when you'll need that developer's help down the road.

Say No

Disable Github Issues

Disable GitHub issues

If you can't help them because you're no longer maintaining the project then say so. Close the issue saying that you can't help them. Better yet – you can turn off GitHub issues and update the readme with a notice. This way you'll save someone else's valuable time and in this busy day and age that's one of the nicest things you can do.

One thought on “Respond to GitHub Issues in a Timely Manner

  1. This is one of the things I talk about in my book (linked in my Website field)! It’s important to encourage the people who are helping you support your code by responding quickly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.