Semantically Releasing Julia Packages
2021-07-29, 19:40–19:50 (UTC), Blue

The Julia community has embraced semantic versioning from a very early stage (if not from the get-go). The Julia package release flow has also been put through its paces and is easy to get started with. This is a great foundation and may be sufficient for most. However, some may require a more structured approach to release preparation, incorporating it into their day-to-day operations. This talk will show how to use the 'semantic release' framework for Julia packages to accomplish this.


The 'semantic release' framework (https://semantic-release.gitbook.io) builds upon the 'semantic versioning' (https://semver.org) and 'conventional commits' (https://www.conventionalcommits.org) specifications to bring release preparation closer to day-to-day operations.

When the time rolls around for a new release of a Julia package, multiple decisions have to be made regarding which version number to assign, documenting what has changed, etc. This is not always a straightforward task. Gathering this information may require coordination within a group of people, or stretch long periods of time requiring effort to regain an overview of the current state of a package relative to the previous one to be able to document it. By adopting a specific commit message format, standard tooling can be used to extract this information automatically, whenever a release is desired. For instance, based on the content of commit messages the new semantic version can be determined, a changelog for the public API can be automatically generated, etc.

An argument can be made that, as all of this information is available in the version control system, there is no need for tooling such as this. However, the information contained in these systems is typically either too high-level due to sloppy commit messages, or it is too detailed requiring deep knowledge of the software to understand the implications of changes. It is typically not convenient for consumers of a Julia package to find out how a new release of a dependency affects their software.

Adopting a 'semantic release' process benefits both developers and consumers of Julia software. For the former, it enables thinking about the impact of changes 'in the moment', instead of 'after the fact'. This is typically beneficial for the quality of documentation of these changes (e.g. reasons why, etc.). For the latter, it becomes easier to judge whether a new release of a dependency actually has an impact on their software.

Slides are available at https://bauglir.gitlab.io/talks/juliacon-2021-semantically-releasing-julia-packages/.

I'm a senior software engineer with GN Advanced Science and have been working with Julia since 2014. My Julia work is focused on platform development for rapid prototyping of audio signal processing algorithm personalization and cloud-based deployment. I'm passionate about making software development accessible from a technical perspective through abstraction and automation.