Distributed Source Control and Set-Based Design

That distributed version control systems are the current flavour of the moment, everybody already knows, so I’m not here to talk about the N reasons why you should not use svn/cvs anymore.

But what I hadn’t notice until recently is that git (or any other DVCS) actually allow you to do one very important thing in software development: set-based design

As Mary Poppendieck pointed out:

Toyota and 3M use the same concept for product design.  They explore the entire solution space and find intersections that everyone finds acceptable, gradually adding detail and converging on a solution.  This approach is called set-based design, and contrasts sharply with point-based designs which start with a single solution that undergoes a series of optimizations.  In most cases, set-based design produces the best design in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of communication.  It’s strange that this principle, so obvious when you are scheduling meetings, seems counterintuitive in the development environment

The eureka moment came to me in my latest project (in which i’m using svn), when I was thinking about exploring an alternative path to some code that was already implemented, but I thought it could be redone in a better way. How to do it with svn?

I could enter the obscure world of svn branches and merges, where I would have to fight hard to get my code back in one piece, but that didn’t sound inviting at all, and that’s why I haven’t actually implemented the second option, waiting to be more certain about it.

The interesting thing is that since I’ve been using git for the last year, I always took it for granted, and didn’t actually realize this benefit from DVC systems.

So, if you are thinking about why change from cvs/svn to a distributed system, add this point to your list.

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