On 02/18/2014 08:51 PM, Junio C Hamano wrote:
> John Keeping <j...@keeping.me.uk> writes:
>> There's already the arbitrary set of prefixes in
>> refs.c::prettify_refname() and refs.c::ref_rev_parse_rules().  I can see
>> how a user might think that since "git log refs/heads/name" is
>> equivalent to "git log master" then "git branch refs/heads/name" should
>> be equivalent to "git branch name".
> Not quite, I am afraid.  Branch names used for "git branch <name>"
> and "git checkout <name>" are like the Lvalue of an assignment, as
> opposed to extended SHA-1 expressions to express any commit
> (e.g. 'master^0', 'refs/heads/master', or 'master') that correspond
> to the Rvalues used in an expression.  Because "git checkout" can
> take a branch name or an arbitrary commit object name, there needs a
> way for the users to disambiguate.
> Saying that "git checkout refs/heads/name" must be equivalent to
> "git checkout name" is like arguing that assignment "value+0 = x"
> should be valid because "value+0" is a valid value.

Your logic is impeccable...and yet the user's logic is also quite
reasonable.  I fell into this trap when I started using Git, and so did
most (all?) of my colleagues.

I think the problem is partly caused by the visual and semantic
similarity between references and Unix pathnames.  For pathnames, the
file that is called "filename.txt" in my current context has an
unambiguous, canonical name that might be "/home/mhagger/filename.txt".
 My first mental model of Git references was that "branch" and
"refs/heads/branch" are synonyms, and that the latter is somehow the
"unambiguous" and "canonical" way to write it.  I think this mental
model is what led me to make the universal beginner's mistake

    git branch refs/heads/mybranch

It took me a while to figure out how to fix the situation, and the whole
experience was very frustrating.

I wonder whether we could give a way to specify a reference in an
unambiguous, canonical fashion like I expected, for example by using a
leading slash: "/refs/heads/mybranch".  This could be a way for the user
to ask for DWIMming to be turned off without having to resort to
plumbing commands like update-ref.  This wouldn't necessarily solve the
problem, but it would at least lead the new user to type

    git branch /refs/heads/mybranch

instead of the ambiguous command above, which Git could either accept or
reject in good conscience rather than having to speculate about what the
user *really* meant.  I think that supporting absolute reference names
like this would also be useful for scripts, which otherwise probably
often have subtle failure modes if the user has defined reference names
that are ambiguous, modulo DWIM, with the reference that the script


Michael Haggerty
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