Beyond the GitHub Slack integration

On keeping the watercooler sacred

Ted Spare's avatar
Ted Spare

Jan 27, 2022

For millions of developers around the world, GitHub has become much more than code storage. It hosts deployment pipelines, code review, discussions, and kanban boards.

The best part? Many of GitHub's tools scale to huge development teams. Consider these two key areas: code review and CI/CD (integration and deployment). That is, pull requests (PRs) and GitHub Actions.

To an engineer, tech lead, or engineering manager, the review request is both bottleneck and opportunity. An opportunity to merge code, ship features, and fix bugs more quickly. A workflow or action run is a trigger for teams to move onto the next stage in a software lifecycle. On the flip side, a stale PR means lost time. A long wait for PR review means an engineer spends time not working. On failure, an action is a notifier that you need to fix something and trigger another run.

Desktop notifications for a pull request and action in Neat.

Desktop notifications for a pull request and action in Neat.

So to get features to users, efficient review, integration, and deployment are critical. But they're great enablers, too. High-performing teams use actions to automate manual tasks. Pull requests are where senior engineers pass on their knowledge.

Tools for efficient code review

Knowing when to re-run a workflow or review a merge request is key. How would you go about this problem? Three common approaches are to

  • get an email for every change,
  • add GitHub notifications to Slack, or
  • get Neat (or another smart actions feed).

Consider the pros and cons to each approach. GitHub email notifications are the default. You can get emails for comments, reviews, pushes, and your own updates. You can pick which email gets GitHub notifications in settings. Email is as old as the internet so it's reliable and familiar. Yet, you might like to keep email for communication. In that case, emails for updates can be distracting. You can stop getting emails from GitHub notifications in settings.

The next popular approach is Slack notifications for actions and PRs. The Slack + GitHub app lets you subscribe to repos and open issues from Slack. Integrate GitHub with Slack to know when a PR opens. To notify your team of reviews, comments, and commits, you'll have to subscribe to each repo and PR by hand. The downsides? As with email, many prefer to keep Slack a place for talking.

GitHub Slack pull request notifications.

GitHub Slack pull request notifications.

GitHub Slack pull request notifications are great. That said, you might want to use the notification feed as a shared inbox or issue triage room. For example, you might want GitHub actions to notify Slack on failure. For this purpose, PullReminders, Toast app, and Axolo work well.

Given the options, you might realize you only need to be notified when you're assigned, blocking, or otherwise needed. Several tools offer personalized, GitHub desktop notifications. Neat puts important GitHub notifications in the menu bar on your macOS desktop. Your development time is valuable, so Neat will only notify you when you need to act. You won't miss a review request or action failure.

Keeping code review and CI/CD cycles tight is key to brilliant products. We invite you to try the available tools and let us know what you think. We're aiming to make the best tool for helping you stay on top of your repos and ship faster.

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