Doing away with changelogs

Jeffrey Hutzelman jhutz at
Mon Apr 17 14:53:26 EDT 2006

On Friday, April 07, 2006 04:13:02 PM -0400 Sam Hartman <hartmans at> 

> Folks, as we have been using Subversion and branches more, we've been
> determining that ChangeLog files are hard to deal with in the following
> ways:
> * It is hard to merge them to/from branches
> * Outside developers tend not to update them
> * They tend to repeat a lot of information in subversion logs.
> Ken and I would like to consider the possibility of dropping all the
> ChangeLog files from the trunk.  If we do this we'd need to make sure
> that merges contained enough log information that you know what has
> changed.  In particular, if you merge something onto a branch, you
> would want to include the subversion log of the things you are
> merging.  Similarly if you merge a bunch of development onto the
> trunk, include a possibly edited version of that information in the
> subversion log on the trunk.
> I'd like to seek comments on this proposal.

I've been told I might not have been sufficiently clear on my position.

For me, the value of a ChangeLog in a source release is to make it easy for 
me to find out what has changed since the last release, or some earlier 
release (because I might not download every release).  It's most useful if 
that information is expressed in a way that's accurate and easy to read. 
It's a big win if the information is still available when I look at a 
source release years later, and if it is available to me even when I don't 
have connectivity to the Internet.

For those uses...

- An automatically-generated log is superior to a manually-maintained one.
- A global ChangeLog is superior to per-directory logs
- A copy of a ChangeLog is superior to a reference to one.

It seems to me like eliminating manually-maintained per-directory ChangeLog 
files would be a big win, because it would not only reduce the maintenance 
burden but also increase both accuracy and ease of use.

However, I also think that it would be a big win for source distributions 
to include a copy of a ChangeLog file which is generated automatically 
based on the subversion logs.  Such a file would collect all the 
information in one place, and increase its accessibility to people 
separated from the svn server in time and/or space.

-- Jeff

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