Thursday, 3 September 2009

Branching is evil

Almost a year ago I blogged about "Source Branches". Over the past year this somewhat have become an ongoing discussion I had repeated a few times with. In fact believe that post was my most commented one ever. Today Martin Fowler has posted about the differences between

  1. Simple Feature Branch - each feature is developed on its own branch and merged when finished.
  2. Continuing Integration (CI) - no branching
  3. Promiscuous Integration (PI)- same as feature branching with the twist that each feature directly merges with other features that might affect it.

he also explained the risks and benefits of each approach, and I really liked that post

What I would add to that post is the human aspects that each approach brings.

Feature Branch - The easy way out

In my eyes feature branching is choosing the path of least resistance. Its an approach born in fear (I'm going to break the system before ill make it work again), taken when wanting to work in isolation without the need to constantly communicate with the rest of the team. In some cases I've seen the actual branch was born with ill intent in mind.

Promiscuous Integration - the middle ground?

The PI I think is slight better off, being the middle way it does encourage communication (to a degree), while keeping some of the apparent benefits of working in isolation. But the more I think of it the more I doubt that this can actually work (for a long period of time). Its just seems to much of a hustle. I have a strong feeling that in practice there's a good chance this will revert into a "main trunk" for bug fixes with a ongoing branch for new development (i.e. classical branching), or to a a more simple feature branching.

Continuous Integration - Encourage quality

The continuous integration path is the one I like best. The thing I like most in it, is the fact that working on a single stream of development, forces the team to sustain high quality standards. For this to work all code committed MUST not break the system. in fact when committing into a single line of development one must be sure that even if the work is half done it will no have any negative effect on the system (and in most case should be easily taken out). And quality as you all know is the only way to go fast

Disclaimer - There are business contexts in which branches CANT be avoided. and yes. modern CVS will make this a lesser issue. but to me branching is always an inferior solution to a bad situation.


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