Friday, September 4, 2009

The Spinning Continuous

Martin has posted another interesting musing on Feature Branching. It's particularly enlightening on its coverage of the thorny problems related to this practice with large scale concurrent (and sometimes conflicting) development - the Fear of the Big Merge - and how Continuous Integration can help.

Martin points out that the more recent Distributed Version Control Systems (DVCS) such as Git have largely solved the visibility and understanding of syntactical or textual differences when merging but they can't solve the semantic differences. And they aren't any help when refactorings have renamed, reshaped and morphed classes, methods, etc. The pain of the Big Merge make folks reluctant to do the refactoring necessary to keep the code clean and relatively free of technical debt.

Martin's answer: a variant on the old joke 'Doctor, it hurts when I do this.' 'So don't do that!'
If the Big Merge is painful, don't do the Big Merge. Do a continuous small merge and then when there are semantic uncertainties, communicate with the developer(s) working in that area. Use CI to do the small merges and use your voice and brain to do the communication part.

Simple, perhaps obvious advice - but the best kind usually is and it never hurts to hear it regularly.

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