See docs/README.developers.  We don't have a written convention for
when to use a branch, so it's a judgment call considering how
invasive the changes will be, duration, likelihood of success, and
whatever else.  (I am planning to remove my old merged branches,
maybe after the release.  We don't do that very often, maybe this
can give you a clue to how often we create branches.)


That pretty much nails it. I think most of us just work on private local branches until we're ready to merge to the head and push back to the main repository. Public branches generally show up when things need wider testing and review before being merged back to the trunk; they show up infrequently.

--lyndon


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