I’ve picked up the habit from some people I’ve worked with that whenever I create a new repository, I make an initial empty commit that has the commit message
:sunrise: and no changes in it.
I thought it might be helpful to jot down some context on why I do that, or at least why I think I do that.
Starting new repositories
When you initialize a new git repository, it doesn’t yet have any commits in it. Let’s say you create a new repository:
mkdir my-great-repository cd my-great-repository git init
And then ask git to tell you about it:
It will print out:
On branch master No commits yet nothing to commit (create/copy files and use "git add" to track)
And if you ask git to tell you about the commits:
It won’t be able to:
fatal: your current branch 'master' does not have any commits yet
Let’s try to make a commit and see what happens:
git commit --message "some commit"
It didn’t let us:
On branch master Initial commit nothing to commit
We tried to make a commit, but we hadn’t staged any changes to be included in the commit, and so git was like … no. Which is kind of fair, since ordinarily the point of making a commit is to introduce a change to the code base. But the first commit is kind of special: what does it even mean to make a change to nothing?
I encourage you not to spend too long pondering that question.
There are basically two ways out of this:
- Actually add some files and commit them
- Tell git that you don’t mind having an empty commit, and make an empty commit
The first way: having the first commit include some files
The first way is probably what most people do, since it’s pretty straight-forward:
echo "Hello" > README.md git add README.md git commit --message "some commit"
The last command will output:
[master (root-commit) e52641c] some commit
Notice the part that says
(root-commit), which is how you know that it’s the first commit.
This is basically fine.
git log works how you might suspect:
it shows that there’s one commit.
git show works just fine:
it prints out the details of the latest commit, including the changes.
It gets a little more complicated if you want to use
Let’s say you want to construct a
git diff command which will display the changes you introduced in your first commit.
What would that look like?
git diff ??? e52641c
Bizarrely, there is a way to do this, and it looks like this:
git diff 4b825dc642cb6eb9a060e54bf8d69288fbee4904 e52641c
What is that first sha? Basically don’t worry about it. It’s a constant in libgit2, although apparently it might change if git changes the algorithm it uses to generate hashes.
The second way: making a sunrise commit
The other thing that you could’ve done was make a sunrise commit:
git commit --allow-empty --message ":sunrise:"
What’s going on here?
This time, git lets us make a commit even though we haven’t staged any change, because we specifically passed the
--allow-empty flag to the commit command.
The commit message is short and sweet and paints a picture that fills your heart with hope.
Some advantages to making a sunrise commit:
- You can make a new repository on GitHub and push your sunrise commit to your default branch, and then immediately check out a feature branch and start working on sketching out the initial project structure, and open a PR to introduce that.
- If you want to make a new branch that has a totally empty tree, you can checkout your sunrise commit and then branch off from there. There are other ways to do that but they melt my brain a little more.
- All of the meaningful commits in your repository will have a parent, making them easily diffed.
- You feel the simple pleasure of following the recommendation from a blog post.
- Probably some other reason that I’m forgetting (fell free to tell me).
A handy alias
If you find yourself following this pattern, you may want to add this handy alias:
git config --global alias.sunrise "commit --allow-empty --message ':sunrise:'"
That way, you can run simply
git sunrise after you initialize a new repository.
Note: this will render as the sunrise emoji on GitHub. You can feel free to use the actual emoji. I don’t because emoji don’t render properly in terminal emulators on Linux, at least in my experience.
I’m pretty sure I picked up this habit from Devon Blandin.