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Continuous Deployments on Non Essential Projects

Quite a while ago now I was introduced to dependency update tools like Renovate and Greenkeeper, at the time I thought they were awesome, keeping your projects patched and secure so I went and used them in every project I made.

Busy work

Some of my GitHub projects has a ridiculous amount of commits on them. I remember pointing Jamie Barton to a project I did to make a dynamic navigation bar with GraphCMS and he commented on the amount of commits ~1.5k commits. I’d say about 99% of those were dependency updates from the Renovate bot, it’s bonkers!

One of the main reasons for using Renovate was for keeping the project up to date when I wasn’t working on it. I haven’t done anything with it for years!

So there’s this long list of dependency updates on a project that’s not in production which I haven’t worked on in years.

I guess I thought I can keep it updated for when I eventually get round to working on it again and just merge any updates as and when they’re made.

I had this whole strategy of a patch branch that I’d merge into a develop branch that would eventually make it’s way into master the thing is, if I wanted to find a specific commit I’d be wading through hundreds of commits from a bot.

Great tool

Renovate is an awesome tool with fantastic configuration that you can use to effectively keep your dependencies up to date. On the creation of each of my GitHub projects there’s a default checkbox for Renovate which I’d think yeah cool, better keep it updated.

Noisy

That’s great n’ all but when you also have a GitHub build integration like the Netlify or Vercel integrations to build new PRs when there’s a new release then things start to go south.

With Netlify if your a non pro user you get 300 build minutes a month if you have a package in your project dependencies that has a high turnover of releases, like Gatsby, then each time there’s a release Renovate will make a PR and the Netlify integration will kick off a build with the updated dependency.

This is when things can start to break down a touch, say you have several projects all of which have Prettier installed along with Gatsby and another popular JS lib with high release turnover. If they all release on the same day for the many projects you have then say goodbye to the 300 build minutes you had with Netlify, Vercel will stop any builds being processed for what I’ve seen at four hours at a time when this happens as well.

Renovate will try again when there’s a new release, Gatsby can release many many times in one day, so if you have waited patiently through your four hours cut off to push another change and there’s another release from Gatsby then you’re back where you started as the Vercel integration will start getting hammered again by the Renovate bot being helpful and making PRs for you.

Config

“Why don’t you configure it properly Scott?” You could avoid all this if you took the time to configure your renovate.json correctly.

I love no a friction process, the thing with Renovate is it comes with a base configuration so there’s no need to spend any time when you’re first setting up your project to do that as well, just get on with what you’re doing and let Renovate do it’s thing in the background.

Before I knew it though I had 30+ projects all with Renovate configured to ping a PR on all those projects and hammer my build queue for Vercel and Netlify any time there was a new release.

Lessons learned

I changed the default on Renovate to only be enabled on selected projects and not all by default.

It was an incredible PITA (Pain in the Arse) to remove the Renovate config from each project.

Using Renovate may sound like a good idea, everything is kept current and secure and you always have some PRs to review on GitHub.

But if you have a lot of projects with a dependency that has high release rates or that you use in every project (Gatsby, Prettier) then when update time comes there’s a lot of ‘busy work’ involved.

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