2022-11-24 Project Proposal: Monorepo#

Author: @dhruvkb



For a comprehensive discussion about the pros, the cons and the counterpoints to each see discussion. Some of the more nuanced points are listed below, biased towards the overall benefits of a monorepo to justify the RFC. This RFC also proceeds to go into the implementation details hoping that the benefits are cumulatively enough of an improvement to convince everyone to migrate.

Benefits of monorepo#

  1. Single place for everything:

    Current criticism: We currently have many repos, and issues and PRs spanning all of them. While this makes it easier for us as maintainers to focus our efforts, it’s not easy for contributors. Let’s say you were a new contributor looking for good-first Python issues. We shouldn’t expect them to search in 3 repos openverse, openverse-api and openverse-catalog. We address this by making tools like Overvue or using search terms like this:

    is:open is:issue repo:WordPress/openverse-catalog repo:WordPress/openverse repo:WordPress/openverse-api repo:WordPress/openverse-frontend repo:WordPress/openverse-infrastructure sort:updated-desc

    The search term above perfectly illustrates the problem: we forgot about the extension. It’s unwieldy and hard to quickly reach and share.

    Monorepo solution: We could use GitHub’s own filters to narrow down what we’re looking for.

  2. Meta-issues:

    Current criticism: If an issue spans more than a single layer of the stack, we need to open a meta issue in WordPress/openverse, open sub-issues in each of the different repos, then manually close meta issues after the sub-issues are closed. Same goes for PRs. We make individual PRs for every layer and then have to cross-reference them so that reviewers can see the full picture. Meta issues are good when a work needs to split into subtasks, but they are not good for cross-repo work splitting, especially when the work happens completely outside the knowledge of the meta-issue.

    Monorepo solution: A monorepo allows our cross-layer PRs to be viewed more holistically and be reviewed as a complete change.

  3. No more sync:

    Current criticism: We use complex sync workflows to keep files in sync. Some workflows need to by synced to some repos only. Some workflows shouldn’t even be in the repo they’re synced from. Some files need subtle differences so we compile Jinja templates for them. We also sync GitHub labels and branch management rules. It’s a mess (I would know!).

    Monorepo solution: A monorepo eliminates all of this and saves the time and effort that goes into maintaining these systems.

  4. Unified documentation:

    Current criticism: Having many repos, each with its own doc site means two things. Common docs such as contribution process needs to be repeated several times and repo-specific docs get siloed and can only reference each other with external links. Also changing docs in one repo will break any links pointing to it.

    Monorepo solution: A better system would be one cohesive doc site, for which the API already has a framework that other repos can just use.

  5. Infra included:

    Current criticism: Our deployment workflows have code duplication. Secrets are stored in lots of repos, we keep secrets synced using Terraform. Containers are used in the infra repo but published in their individual repos.

    Monorepo solution: Monorepo enables the infra to coexist with the code (albeit in a separate module). Apart from the (encrypted) private secrets, the IaC could be open-sourced similar to the rest of the codebase. Our deployment workflows can share code and deployment secrets.

  6. GitHub Milestones:

    Milestones are confined by repository boundaries. To have milestones that cover issues in different layers of our stack, the only way is for them to be in a monorepo. This is a limitation imposed by GitHub and there is no workaround for this.

The overarching theme is that there are workarounds for everything. We have been working with split repos quite productively for over a year. My proposition is the the monorepo solutions are better than workarounds.

Migration path#

First we will merge the API and the frontend repos into WordPress/openverse. This decision was made for the following reasons.

  1. API and frontend are tightly linked. The frontend is a direct consumer of what the API produces.

  2. The API and frontend form the “service” side of Openverse that directly faces the users (both API consumers and Search engine users).

  3. The frontend uses ECS deployments and the API is well on the same track. This makes it possible for them to share some deployment code.

  4. I am very familiar with the scripts repo, the API and the frontend so merging them would be easier. Adding a third component would make the task daunting.

  5. Merging incurs a productivity hit for the initial transition. So merging everything in one swoop is not ideal. While we merge these three, effort can be diverted to the catalog.

  6. The API’s comprehensive tooling for developer documentation can benefit frontend devs and create a unified docs site for contributors.

  7. The merge of two JavaScript codebases provides fertile ground for testing pnpm workspaces.

    • It also allows us to merge the browser extension later and split the design system/component library stuff into a separate package.

  8. The API is already organised by stack folders so the frontend/ directory will fit right in with the others like api/ and ingestion_server/. Similarly the scripts repo is nicely organised in folders, reducing conflicts.

  9. The API and frontend share identical tooling for Git hooks, linting and formatting. We will fight our tools less and encounter minimal friction.

    • The frontend’s approach for pre-commit expanded this type of usage to the API as well!

    • We’re expanding the use of double-quoted strings to JavaScript to further unify our style guides.

  10. The entire system can be integration tested during releases. The real API, populated with test data, can replace the Talkback server as long as we disable network calls and make output deterministic.

The WordPress/openverse repo will absorb the WordPress/openverse-api and WordPress/openverse-frontend repos. The WordPress/openverse-catalog will also be merged, later.


I’m following the steps listed below in a fork at @dhruvkb/monopenverse @dhruvkb/monoverse. You can refer to the fork, but note that it is a comes from a place of haste and has not been treated with the same level of love and care that the final treatment will receive.

Step 0: Prerequisites#

Get the timing right#

The first step will be to release the API and frontend, call a code freeze on both of them and pause work on both. This is to prevent the repos from continuing to drift as we merge a snapshot of them into the WordPress/openverse repo.

This can prove difficult given how productive our team is, so we will need to channel this productivity towards the catalog in the meantime. I can foresee the end-to-end migration taking one week (ideal scenario) to becoming workable again, and another week (for us to iron out any gaps in the docs and references).

Timeline breakdown#
  • Day 1: Merging the repos and resolving conflicts, restoring broken workflows except deploys

  • Day 2: Restoring deployment workflows including staging auto-deploy

  • Day 3: Transfer of issues from individual repos to monorepo

  • Day 4: Documentation fixes

  • Day 5: Housekeeping

The second week is planned as a buffer in case any of these tasks ends up taking more time than a day, if something breaks or if someone falls ill etc. The ideal scenario is that we’re completely back next week, the worst one takes two.

Note that in the transition period nothing will break. The old repos will continue to exists as they are, till we ensure everything works and then we archive the current split repos.

Step 1: Merge with histories#

This should be quick save for a few merge conflicts. In case of conflict refer to the resolution adopted by @dhruvkb/monoverse, and apply the resolution to the files. Do not blindly copy code from @dhruvkb/monoverse as it might be out of sync with the current state of the files.

Add remotes.

$ git remote add api ../openverse-api
$ git remote add frontend ../openverse-frontend

Merging API#

$ git pull api main --allow-unrelated-histories

Expected conflicts



Folderwise separation of owners, use from @dhruvkb/monoverse


Merge entries from all repos, use from @dhruvkb/monoverse


Python + Node.js linting, use from @dhruvkb/monoverse


Split into many smaller justfiles and one roota


Split into many smaller .gitignores and one rootb


Write new, referencing doc site


Write new, referencing doc site

$ git add . # Stage files with conflicts resolved
$ git commit -m "Merge branch 'main' of openverse-api"

a: see the following:

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/justfile

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/automations/justfile

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/api/justfile

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/ingestion_server/justfile

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/load_testing/justfile

b: see the following

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/.gitignore

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/api/.gitignore

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/ingestion_server/.gitignore

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/ingestion_server/test/.gitignore (unchanged)

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/load_testing/.gitignore (unchanged)

  • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/nginx/.gitignore (unchanged)

Merging frontend#

Change workdir to WordPress/openverse-frontend repo.

$ mkdir frontend

Move everything into it except the following directories and files:

File / directory



For obvious reasons


Must be in the root


For pnpm workspaces


For pnpm workspaces


Useful across the monorepo


Read by ESLint running in pre-commit


Read by ESLint running in pre-commit


Read by Prettier running in pre-commit


Read by Prettier running in pre-commit


Read by pre-commit


Root-level docs


Root-level docs


Root-level docs


Root-level docs

$ git add . # Stage all renamed files
$ git commit -m "Nest code under \`frontend/\`"

Switch to the monorepo.

$ git pull frontend main --allow-unrelated-histories

Since we fixed these files when merging the API, almost all these conflicts are redundant.

Expected conflicts



Use existing


Use existing


Uncomment the commented regions


Use existing


Use existing


Use existing


Use existing


  1. Create “stack: *” labels to help with issue and PR management. Spoiler/foreshadowing: these labels will be used for more things later.

  2. Migrate issues from WordPress/openverse-frontend and WordPress/openverse-api. We can directly transfer the issues, retaining all their comments. Apply the “stack: frontend” / “stack: backend” label to them after moving.

# Substitute repo with WordPress/openverse-frontend and WordPress/openverse-api
$ gh api \
    -X GET \
    repos/WordPress/<repo>/issues \
    -f pulls=false \
    -f state=all \
    --jq '.[].number' \
    --paginate \
  | xargs \
    -n 1 \
    -I num \
  gh issue transfer \
    num \
    WordPress/openverse \
    -R WordPress/<repo>

With this done, we can archive the API and frontend repo. The following notice will be added to the README.md files for clarification before archiving.


This repository has moved to WordPress/openverse as part of a monorepo.

Step 1. Restore functionality#

Combine linting#

All lint steps can be combined in .pre-commit-config.yaml. This also implies the CI jobs can now be merged.

  1. Remove pre-commit scripts from frontend/package.json and the install-pre-commit.sh script.

  2. Remove lint job from CI, there are plenty of those.

pnpm workspace#

  1. Move frontend/.pnpmfile.cjs outside to the root directory, update the reference to frontend/package.json.

  2. Remove frontend/.npmrc created earlier because pnpm will automatically use the one in the root of the workspace.

  3. Create pnpm-workspaces.yaml file, see https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/.pre-commit-config.yaml.

  4. Update the package.json files, see the following:

    • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/package.json

    • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/frontend/package.json

    • https://github.com/dhruvkb/monoverse/blob/main/automations/js/package.json

  5. pnpm i in the monorepo root.

  6. Update the recipe pnpm in frontend/justfile to include --filter "openverse-frontend".

  7. git commit -m "Setup workspaces"

Step 3. Restore workflows#

New actions#

To clean up the workflows we will define three new actions. The code for all three is available at @dhruvkb/monoverse.

  1. setup-env to setup Just, Node.js and Python or a subset of these.

  2. load-img to download Docker images into /tmp and load them in Docker.

  3. build-docs to build and merge Sphinx, Storybook and Tailwind Config Viewer.

Update workflows#

Workflows with major changes:

  • ci_cd.yml from the API will absorb ci.yml from the frontend

  • lint.yml will be deleted


  • migration_safety_warning.yml

  • generate_pot.yml

With this done, the development on the API and frontend can continue inside their subdirectories. The development of both parts will be independent, at least until we reach long-term consolidation.



The soon-to-be-ECS-based API and ECS-based frontend will continue to deploy to staging via the CI + CD pipeline, with deployment starting as soon as all CI checks have passed. They will use similar code as the frontend auto-deploy for staging used currently.

These will be separate jobs with specific path-based filters.


For production, we will not be able to use GitHub Releases and will have to use a manually-triggered workflow to build the assets and tag them. The tag can be set via a workflow input (simple) or can be calculated based on the update scope of major, minor or patch (not as simple).

Step 3. Housekeeping and DX cleanup#

There will be a few rough edges that I cannot foresee and we can continuously fix those as we spot them. But up to this point we should be in a position where we can continue to build the API and the frontend independently but from one repo.

  1. The action banyan/auto-label will need to be configured (auto-label.json) to add the “stack: *” labels based on the modified directory.

Step 4. Documentation merge#

The following documentation files will need reorganisation or merge.

  • README.md (both repos)

  • CODE_OF_CONDUCT.md (both repos)

  • CONTRIBUTING.md (both repos)

  • CONTRIBUTORS.md (API only; also why?)


  • TESTING_GUIDELINES.md (frontend only)

  • DEPLOYMENT.md (frontend only)

I will need more information about this because IANAL.

  • LICENSE (both repos)

Step 5. Long-term consolidation#

This is the long term combination of code for the frontend and the API. Ideas like end-to-end testing go here. This is beyond my imagination at the moment, and more importantly, beyond the scope of this RFC. It will surely be covered in future RFCs.

Thanks for reading and providing feedback.