Using Git to Maintain Common RubyGem Functionality with BasicGem

Do you maintain several different RubyGems? Maybe you maintain dozens? Wouldn't it be nice to not have to repeat yourself when making changes that should be common to all the gems in your stable? For example, you decide that going forward, you will use Bundler for all your gem dependency needs. You could tweak your gemspecs and Rakefiles for each of your gems individually or you could use your customized fork of BasicGem as a common ancestor for all your gems. Now you can modify your BasicGem fork and merge these tweaks using Git into all your gems. As simple as...

cd ~/workspace/my_gem_cloned_from_my_basic_gem_fork
git pull my_basic_gem_fork HEAD
git mergetool

Introducing BasicGem, Gem Maintenance with Git

BasicGem is an opinionated RubyGem structure. BasicGem provides no stand-alone functionality. Its purpose is to provide a repository for jump-starting a new RubyGem and to provide a repository for cloned applications to pull future enhancements and fixes.


Example Usage, Jump-starting a New Gem with BasicGem

The following steps illustrate creating a new gem called "mutagem" that handles file based mutexes. See for full source.

NOTE: We are cloning from BasicGem directly. Normally, you will want to clone from your own fork of BasicGem so that you can control and fine-tune which future BasicGem modifications you will support.

cd ~/workspace
git clone git:// mutagem
cd mutagem

Setup the repository for the cloned project

We are going to change the origin URL to our own server and setup a remote for pulling in future BasicGem changes. If our own repo for your new gem is setup at git@red:mutagem.git, change the URL with sed:

sed -i 's/url =.*\.git$/url = git@red:mutagem.git/' .git/config

Push up the unchanged BasicGem repo

git push origin master:refs/heads/master

Allow Gemlock.lock to be stored in the repo

sed -i '/Gemfile\.lock$/d' .gitignore

Add BasicGem (or your fork of BasicGem) as remote for future merges

git remote add basic_gem git://

Rename your gem

Change the name of the gem from basic_gem to mutagem. Note that renames will be tracked in future merges since Git is tracking content and the content is non-trivial.

git mv lib/basic_gem.rb lib/mutagem.rb
git mv basic_gem.gemspec mutagem.gemspec

# commit renames now 
git commit -m "rename basic_gem files"

# BasicGem => Mutagem
find . -name *.rb -exec sed -i 's/BasicGem/Mutagem/' '{}' +
find . -name *.feature -exec sed -i 's/BasicGem/Mutagem/' '{}' +
sed -i 's/BasicGem/Mutagem/' Rakefile
sed -i 's/BasicGem/Mutagem/' mutagem.gemspec

# basic_gem => mutagem
find ./spec -type f -exec sed -i 's/basic_gem/mutagem/' '{}' +
find . -name *.rb -exec sed -i 's/basic_gem/mutagem/' '{}' +
find . -name *.feature -exec sed -i 's/basic_gem/mutagem/' '{}' +
sed -i 's/basic_gem/mutagem/' Rakefile
sed -i 's/basic_gem/mutagem/' mutagem.gemspec

Replace TODO's and update documentation

  • Replace README.markdown
  • Replace HISTORY.markdown
  • Replace TODO.markdown
  • Replace LICENSE
  • Replace VERSION
  • Modify .gemspec, add author information and replace the TODO's

Your gem should now be functional

rake spec
rake features

Setup git copy-merge

When we merge future BasicGem changes to our new gem, we want to always ignore some upstream documentation file changes.

Set the merge type for the files we want to ignore in .git/info/attributes. You could specify .gitattributes instead of .git/info/attributes but then if your new gem is forked, your forked repos will miss out on document merges.

echo "README.markdown merge=keep_local_copy" >> .git/info/attributes
echo "HISTORY.markdown merge=keep_local_copy" >> .git/info/attributes
echo "TODO.markdown merge=keep_local_copy" >> .git/info/attributes
echo "LICENSE merge=keep_local_copy" >> .git/info/attributes
echo "VERSION merge=keep_local_copy" >> .git/info/attributes

Setup the copy-merge driver. The "trick" is that the driver, keep_local_copy, is using the shell command "true" to return exit code 0. Basically, the files marked with the keep_local_copy merge type will always ignore upstream changes if a merge conflict occurs.

git config "always keep the local copy during merge"
git config merge.keep_local_copy.driver "true"


git add Gemfile.lock
git commit -a -m "renamed basic_gem to mutagem"

Add code to project's namespace

mkdir lib/mutagem
vim lib/mutagem/mutex.rb

Merging Future BasicGem Changes

Cherry picking method

git fetch basic_gem
git cherry-pick a0f9745

Merge 2-step method

git fetch basic_gem
git merge basic_gem/master

Trusting pull of HEAD

git pull basic_gem HEAD

Conflict resolution

NOTE: Most conflicts can be resolved with 'git mergetool' but 'CONFLICT (delete/modify)' will need to be resolved by hand.

git mergetool
git commit

BasicGem Provided Rake Tasks

rake -T

rake build         # Build mutagem-0.0.1.gem into the pkg directory
rake doc:clean     # Remove generated documenation
rake doc:generate  # Generate YARD Documentation
rake features      # Run Cucumber features
rake install       # Build and install mutagem-0.0.1.gem into system gems
rake release       # Create tag v0.0.1 and build and push mutagem-0.0.1.gem to Rubygems
rake spec          # Run specs
rake test          # Run specs and features

Autotesting with Watchr

Watchr provides a flexible alternative to Autotest. A jump start script is provided in spec/watchr.rb.

Install watchr

gem install watchr

Run watchr

watchr spec/watchr.rb

outputs a menu

Ctrl-\ for menu, Ctrl-C to quit

Watchr will now watch the files defined in 'spec/watchr.rb' and run Rspec or Cucumber, as appropriate. The watchr script provides a simple menu.


MENU: a = all , f = features  s = specs, l = last feature (none), q = quit
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