I'm excited to announce that Mrgr is out of private beta and available to the public. If you're a manager or tech lead or anyone who reviews a lot of pull requests, Mrgr was built for you to get a handle on your work stream and be more efficient.
In this post I'd like to give you a brief product tour, plus outline how we got here, why we're doing this, and what's coming next.
The seeds for this project came three years ago, when I was CTO of a small and growing startup. At first I was the only engineer, committing code, developing features, and keeping the lights on. As I hired out my team, the role changed quickly. With more management duties I didn't have time to write code anymore.
My team was kicking ass and getting stuff out the door, but despite this velocity I had a big problem: I was responsible for keeping things moving and the overall health of the codebase, but it was hard to know exactly what was going in. I didn't have time to look through all the open PRs and get my head around the changes.
The Big Problem
The Big Problem was how to triage my attention.
- If I have 20 minutes to review PRs, which ones do I look at first?
- How can I quickly figure out what needs to be done next on a PR (merge it, address comments, etc) and ping my team to Do That Thing?
- How do I keep from being overwhelmed when I pull up a list of open PRs with various labels and no direction on where to start?
- How do I quickly identify critical PRs? For example, if a Very Important Change comes through that deserves an extra looksee (a database migration, say), how do I elevate that PR over ones that don't require my attention?
- If my product spans multiple repositories and involves coordinated merging and deployment, how do I get a better interface than Github so I have a clear view of what is going on?
The bottom line was I had the wrong level of info about a PR (either too much detail or not enough), no high-level overview, and no notifications of important changes.
I needed a tool that:
- showed me an executive summary of what was in flight across all my repositories and what the blockers to progress were;
- gave me the right level of detail on a PR so I could decide to ignore it or dig deeper;
- alerted me when important changes were made;
- aligned with my workflow: get in, make a quick assessment, ping the team about open PRs to move them along, follow up, and get out;
- was closer to the code than Jira/Linear/Shortcut/Pivotal, which could only tell me that a PR was, in fact, still open.
So I built Mrgr.
Mrgr takes the confusion and guesswork out of a list of open pull requests. We show you everything you need to do next and help you to do it. We give you executive summaries of pull requests - not too little, not too much -- and make it easy to deep dive into them if you need to. We alert you when important changes come through. It's the manager's Github.
Advanced Pull Request Management
The Mrgr Dashboard groups your pull requests into three categories:
- Ready to Merge;
- Needs Approval;
- Fix CI.
Pick one and scan through what's open. Our PR summaries give you everything you need to know at a glance - labels, requested approvers (and who's approved), recent comments, recent commits, files changed, a sparkline of recent activity, and a date that gets angry when a PR has been open for more than few days. It's all designed to give you an intuitive sense of the pull request.
Want to dig deeper? Click through into Github for all the details and dig to your heart's content. Or stay in Mrgr at a high level, and simply ping your team directly from our UI so they can get on it and you can keep your context. Then snooze the PR for a day or two and move on. You always know what's next to do.
Still not enough? Create your own custom dashboards to keep an eye on specific repos or team members. If you use Github labels to organize your PRs, you can create clean swim lanes by making one dashboard per label. Organized is easy.
High Impact Changes
Mrgr's High Impact Changes make it easy to get notified about updates to specific files or folders in your repos. We provide sane defaults out of the box for database migrations, dependency changes, and API changes. Any PR with a change to these files will get a little badge, and they can all be found in our High Impact Changes tab on the dashboard. You can even choose to receive an email whenever a PR with a High Impact Change is opened. It's also a great way to designate changes to an upstream repo that may affect your app. Don't get caught out again!
Merge Freezes that Actually Freeze
Do you institute a merge freeze by writing "@here please don't merge any PRs!" and hoping for the best? I did. Sometimes it even worked.
Mrgr freezes merges the correct way - by placing a failing check on all PRs and relying on machine rules to prevent merging. One click turns it on for a repo, one click turns it off. Easy! That's why this section is short :).
Repository Security Policies
Quick, can you prove that all of your repos require at least one approving review to merge? We know you can do it, but can you do it quickly? With Mrgr it takes seconds. Instead of clicking through endless settings screens, you can see all that information in one place. It's easy and helps keep your auditors happy. Or go further and create a policy which states that a repo must have X approving reviews and only allow Squash merges. Assign the policy to any number of repos and we'll automatically enforce it if a repo drifts. You can even set a policy to apply to newly created repos so you can simply set it and forget it.
Mrgr works for you in several ways. You can fly solo and unobtrusively keep an eye on your team, or you can invite them onto the platform to make them more efficient in their review process.
Mrgr can also be installed in different organizations, which is great if you're a contractor working on several projects or you administer various open source repositories. Toggle between organizations to seamlessly transition between contexts. You can even install it in your personal account.
How it Works
Install the Mrgr Github App into your organization so we can pull in your data and receive webhooks. You'll need to be an administrator of your Github org to do this. Once the integration is set up, our Dashboard will populate automatically and stay up to date. Enjoy a two-week free trial to see how much easier it makes your review process.
Mrgr is built by technical leaders for technical leaders. We have been in the coding trenches and the management trenches. We know how challenging it can be to keep track of in-flight work, and the anxious feeling that something important might have been missed.
Mrgr's goal is to make your work easier, more efficient, and less stressful. Our commitment is to build a great product that serves the working needs of highly effective teams. This isn't an analytics tool for poring over stats (though we do show the key figures of PR Throughput and Average Time to Close). It's an actionable system designed to make the most of your limited time so you get more done, faster.
Our North Star is improving the pull request review process and speeding up throughput. Soon we'll introduce more features to give you different views into what's important in your pull requests, plus integrations with the project management ecosystem to round out a holistic view. Other questions we're asking are:
- How can we help de-risk changes?
- How can we ensure PRs don't go stale?
- How can we identify blockers in the review and merging process and make it all happen faster?
- And of course- what do you want to see? Got an idea? Get in touch!
We are committed to helping the developer community by making their lives easier. And boldly making Star Trek jokes along the way. Join us!
Desmond Bowe, Founder