Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Github doesn't support pull-request notifications to mailing lists

Recently I played around with github a bit, with the intention of finding a useful setup for hosting python-bugzilla (and possibly virt-manager). However I want to preserve the traditional open source mailing list driven development model.

github's whole development model is built around pull requests. Personally I kinda like the setup, but for a pre-existing project built around patches on a mailing list it's quite a different workflow.

github doesn't allow disabling the pull-request option. This is understandable since it's pretty central to their entire model. However my main sticking point is that github doesn't provide a straightforward way to send pull request notifications to a mailing list. I don't want everyone on a mailing list to have to opt in to watching the repo on github to be notified of pull requests. I want non-github users to be able to contribute to pull request discussions on a mailing list. I want pull requests on the project mailing list since it's already a part of my workflow. I don't want my project to be one of those that accumulates ignored pull-requests because it isn't part of the project workflow and no one is watching the output.

Googling about this was quite frustrating, it was difficult to find a clear answer. I eventually found an abandoned pull request to github-services that made everything clear. But not before I tried quite a few things. Here's what I tried:
  • Opening a github account using the mailing list address, 'watch' the repository. It works, but yeah, not too safe since anyone can just trigger a 'forgot password' reset email.
  • Put the repo in an 'organization', add the mailing list as a secondary address to your account, have all notifications for the organization go to the mailing list. But even secondary accounts work for the password reset, so that's out.
  • 'email' webhook/service: At your github repo, go to settings->webhooks & services->configure services->email. Hey, this looks promising. The problem is it's quite limited in scope, only supporting email notifications for repo pushes and when  a public repo is added.
  • The actual webhook configuration is quite elaborate and allows notifying of pull-requests and everything else you would want to know, but that requires running an actual web service somewhere. But I have no interest in maintaining a public service just to proxy some email.
There's a public repo for the bit of github that the 'email' webhook lives under. I stuck some thoughts on an open issue that more or less tracks the RFE to extend the email capabilities.

Someone out there with some spare time and ruby-fu want to take a crack at this? I think many old school open source projects would be thankful for it :)


  1. Were you able to find anything that works since? This is driving me crazy.

    1. No unfortunately. Google points me to this[1] which is new since I posted i, but it's a webhook service that you'll need to host.


    2. Apparently the anaconda team has one too: https://github.com/rhinstaller/github-email-hook/