Google Groups

Re: [git-users] Re: Basic question: confusing messages with git merge

Brad Malone May 10, 2012 9:07 AM
Posted in group: Git for human beings
Thomas and Antony,

Thank you both for taking time to write such detailed responses to my question! Now let me get to what you both have said individually.


Thanks for the notes on rebasing. From what I understood from reading git tutorials before was that rebasing was something which was usually nice to do whenever one has local changes (for which no commits have ever been made to the remote branch) so that the git history looks more linear. I have planned on using rebasing later on when my git usage becomes more complex, but currently I only work on my own private repo for which I *attempt* to always update before making local changes. So 99% of my work simply involves updating whatever local computer (I work on different computers) to the work that exists on my remote, doing my stuff, and then committing back. I believe that this current problem of mine is probably more due to the fact of an accidental 'git merge origin master' command.


I'm glad you think that this may have been the problem (since I really would like to understand why it happened). I had seen the octopus merge when looking in the documentation and online and figured that what might have been what happened. What I did *not* know was that this was old and no one really uses it anymore. Glad to know this so I don't try to incorporate it into my workflow (presumably there would be no need anyway or other people would use it as well). 

Yes, I see empty merge commits when this sort of thing happens. I am familiar (although probably no expert) with tracking of remote branches. My local master branches are always set up to track origin/master (see 'git remote' command below)

bmalone@papabear:~/repos/my_codes$ git remote show origin
Password for '': 
* remote origin
  Fetch URL:
  Push  URL:
  HEAD branch: master
  Remote branch:
    master tracked
  Local branch configured for 'git pull':
    master merges with remote master
  Local ref configured for 'git push':
    master pushes to master (local out of date)

, and so technically I should be able to use 'git pull' and merge automatically. This is actually what I did when I started using git a couple weeks ago. However, the reason I stopped doing was twofold:

1). I found that when I used 'git pull' that if I used 'git status' I would always find out that my local branch was some number of commits ahead of origin/master (this was in fact unrelated to me having made any local commits). I think the cause of this was actually that 'git pull' doesn't update my local copy of where origin/master is (which is what 'git fetch' does I think). I suppose I could use 'git fetch' followed by 'git pull', but I wasn't sure if that was the correct thing to do, mostly because of reason #2. Edit: Also I think it is true that people say that 'git pull' IS equivalent to a fetch and then a merge, but this never seemed to be the case for me because origin/master position was never updated. If I have to type in something like 'git remote update origin' then it seems that 'git pull' isn't saving me any typing. I hope I am making sense here. This problem is discussed constantly online (see and  but I haven't seen anyone answer it to much satisfaction.

2). This article: suggests that one should fetch and then merge rather than pull. This made me think that the pair fetch/merge was the best replacement for pull, and since pull wasn't updating the position of origin/master, I stopped using it. 

Is this understanding I have correct?

Thanks again,

On Thu, May 10, 2012 at 4:39 AM, Antony <> wrote:

On Thursday, 10 May 2012 00:49:15 UTC+1, Brad wrote:
What do these things mean? I'd imagine that 'Merge remote-tracking branch origin/master' should have been what happens when I type 'git merge origin/master', but what about the other? Could 'Merge branch master, remote-tracking branch origin' be what happens if I accidentally typed "git merge origin master"? If I do this, what happens exactly? 
Good guesswork!

One of git's merge algorithms is called an 'octopus merge', and merges more than two branches together. When you run 'git merge origin master', the fact that you named two branches (OK, 'origin' isn't a branch, but bear with me) causes the octopus merge algorithm to be invoked.

However, this algorithm is pretty old, no-one really uses it any more, and it's normally regarded as nothing more than a curiosity. Therefore it doesn't receive much love, and has some rather odd corner cases and bugs.

One such corner case is when one of the branches it's given to merge isn't a branch at all, and is instead the name of a remote. When this happens, you get the message you described, and some other stuff -- an empty merge commit I think? And I seem to recall there's another very strange oddness.

So, long story short, do not type 'git merge origin master'.
If you want an easier way to merge (with less typing) read on...

Do you know about git's branch tracking stuff? Basically, you can assign each branch an 'upstream' branch (defined in git's config). When you run 'git pull', git will merge in this upstream branch by default. ('git push' follows a different set of rules by default, although this might change. Read push.default in man git-config for now).

When a branch has an upstream configured, '@{upstream}', or '@{u}' points to that upstream branch. You can also see whether a branch has an upstream by typing 'git branch -vv' -- the upstream appears in square brackets.

So, to configure an upstream (if you don't have one set already), use 'git branch --set-upstream master origin/master', or 'git push -u origin master' if you want to push at the same time.
Having done this, you can type 'git merge @{u}' (with master checked out) to merge origin/master into master.

Hope that cleared up some confusion.


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Git for human beings" group.
To view this discussion on the web visit

To post to this group, send email to
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to
For more options, visit this group at