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Should I use a release branch to push changes out to production or release it off master branch - the main pipeline where changes are merged by developers of their feature branches?

Not to mention, there is still some amount of manual testing and that happens on the master branch after developer has completed the changes in feature branch and automation testing, code review is completed and changes are merged to master.

What is the recommended practice?

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A common practice is to build and test off of a pull request to master. Your developers create feature branches, and submit a pull request to master when it is complete. This then triggers a build job based on the PR.

For example, if you are using Github and Jenkins, you could use the Github pull request plugin to run a Jenkins job when a PR is submitted to master. If it passes, then perform your code review and manual testing.

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