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Paweł Ruciński
Paweł Ruciński

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Resolve common branch conflict

Yes, I use git. Yes, I enjoy it. And no, I am not infallible.

I have been using git for 3-4 years now - since the beginning of my software developer’s journey. At first I was overwhelmed by large amount of commands and I couldn’t understand how all of these distributed branches/repositories worked together. Over time, I was getting deeper and deeper into knowing git better. Only now, I am ready to work with it, as a first-choice version control system tool. Still - I don't think that I know git as much as I want and need to, but I am learning new things every day.

At my current work we are using a most common (I think) branching convention:

  • Dev
  • Test
  • Stage
  • Prod

Dev branch is sort of a playground/sandbox for developers. A superior and more stable is a Test for testers - trying to break our code and raise first bugs/issues. Stage is for testing again, but this time by our end-client's Quality-Assurance team. Finally Prod is THE prod :)


When we find a conflict/problem with merging, it is not a big deal on our feature branch. One way we can stash our work and apply it on clear new branch, solve this problem by pulling changes from dev branch (and resolve conflicts on local branch) or take any other wonderful way/tool to get our code into dev branch. By default, we create a policies to protect branches like (stage, test, prod) from direct commits. The real problem is when conflict occurs on superior branch. Because of our default policies, we cannot push changes directly, but somehow we find ourselves in a place with conflict again. Let me outline the situation better.

One sunny day, we had to push our hotfix to stage for our client’s QA team. Developer who took this on her/his shoulders, merged the whole test branch into mentioned stage. She/he didn't realize that on inferior (test) branch were already some features that shouldn't be pushed into stage yet. So what unfortunate developer did? Do you know what command revert is? She/he knew it. After some commits with new features had been reverted, everything went well. Client got only needed changes, we did not expose new/unready features. Everyone was happy. Yhmm... no, not at all. Some time later, when our testers said that new fresh features were ready to be pushed into stage branch, we met a problem. Why? Because, last sunny day some commits were made on stage branch directly. None knew that, except one developer. What was the problem, you say? Because of the revert-commit, we already had in our git commits history, we could not deliver changes (from test branch) to our client.


So how did the git behave? Merge branches with no changes?! Finally, how to fix this situation? There was a way, but we needed to know how does the git work. Git compares the history of two branches and applies new commits which are not merged yet. Conflicts occur, when branches have different commits. History starts to dump. But we had a perfectly clear history with all commits covered from test on stage. This made me thinking about history. I reviewed all commits, found unlucky revert and then finally, we could start working on that. I checkouted new branch based on stage, did a revert to revert-commit, pulled changes from inferior branch and created a pull request for that. And it worked 🙂

Final thoughts

After that, I tried to remember to:

  • not to squash commits (at first try, I had squashed them, and it did not work),
  • create fix branch from superior,
  • pull changes from conflicted inferior branch,
  • resolve conflicts on your local machine,
  • then merge (create a pull request) into superior branch and … voila!

Did you meet any difficulties when using git? Please share it with me here.

This article was created after reading Is git the best vcs? Also helpful were all of tips received after my last article Dealing with evenings bursts of creativity.

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