A Really $h!t Branching Policy

“As a topic of conversation, I find branching policies to be very interesting”, “Branching is great fun!”, “I wish we could do more branching” are just some of the comments on branching that you will never hear. And with good reason, because branching is boring. Merging is also boring. None of this stuff is fun. But for some strange reason, I still see the occasional branching policy which involves using the largest number of branches you can possibly justify, and of course the most random, highly complex merging process you can think of.

Here’s an example of a really $h!t branching policy:

Look how hateful it is!! I imagine this is the kind of conversation that leads to this sort of branching policy:

“Right, let’s just work on main and then take a release branch when we’re nearly ready to release”

“Waaaaait a second there… that sounds too easy. A better idea would be to have a branch for every environment, maybe one for each developer as well, and we should merge only at the most inconvenient time, and when we’ve merged to the production branch we should make a build and deploy it straight to Live, safe in the knowledge that the huge merge we just did went perfectly and couldn’t possibly have resulted in any integration issues”

“Er, what?”

“You see! Its complexity is beautiful”

Conclusion

Branching is boring. Merging is dull and risky. Don’t have more branches than you need. Work on main, take a branch at the latest possible time, release from there and merge daily. Don’t start conversations about branching with girls you’re trying to impress. Don’t talk about branches as if they have personalities, that’s just weird. Use a source control system that maintains branch history. Floss regularly. Stretch after exercise.

 

 

 

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Maven the Version Number Nazi

Maven doesn’t like it when you use different verison numbers to the Maven standard format. Of course it doesn’t. It wouldn’t would it? It’s Maven, and Maven only likes it when you do what it tells you to do. I’m still a bit annoyed with Maven, as you can probably tell.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not “Maven bashing”, it’s just that this particular problem doesn’t have quite the elegant solution I was looking for. I do appreciate Maven, honestly.

This was the problem:

I wanted to change our versioning system from something like 1.0.0-1234 to something like 1.0.0-1234-01

Why the hell would I want to do that?? I’ll explain…

Our verisoning is like this:

{major}.{minor}.{patch}-{build}

The only problem was, the build number was taken from the Perforce check-in number, and this number didn’t always change whenever a build was made, especially if the build was kicked off by an upstream dependency, or a forced build was triggered. Basically, if the build was kicked off by anything other than a commit to Perforce, the build would create an artifact of identical version to the previous build. This, in theory, shouldn’t be a problem, because it is actually building exactly the same thing, but I just don’t like it. Anything could happen, any environmental change could produce a slightly different build to the previous one.

The problem was that I wasn’t using an incremental counter anywhere in my version numbe. It’s essential to have an incrementing version number in order to ensure that every single build creates a unique identifier, so that no two different builds can appear to be the same build.

My first thought was to append a build counter on the end, like this:

{major}.{minor}.{patch}-{build}-{counter}

And that would have worked fine, if it wasn’t for the fact that we use version ranges in our dependencies, and we already have plenty of builds which use the previous versioning system. Maven kept picking up the builds with the previous version system, even though, in every possible sense, the new ones had higher version numbers. It made no sense. That’s when I looked into how maven works out versions. Basically it says “if you’re using version ranges, and not using the maven standard versioning format, you might as well forget it”. If it sees dependencies using the standard format, and ones using the non-standard maven format, it’ll pick up the standard format ones and basically ignore the new ones. To get around this you can delete all the old builds using the standard maven format, and then it’ll work, because it’ll treat each build version like a string and just get you the latest in whatever your range is.

Sadly, this isn’t an option for me, as I want to kep the old builds using the old format. So I tried a few things. I tried putting a string in as a separator, so it would look like this:

{major}.{minor}.{patch}-{build}rc{counter}

This effectively produces something looking like:

1.0.0-1234rc01

I’m fine with that. Maven, on the other hand, isn’t. I made a build with this version 1.0.0-9999rc01 and used it as a dependency in another build, but the other build still went and got 1.0.0-1234, the OLD build using the standard maven versioning. I mean, you’d think 1.0.0-9999rc01 > 1.0.0-1234 but apparently not.

I was a bit pushed for time so I couldn’t spend forever looking into this, so I’ve basically just appended the build counter directly onto the end of the perforce number. This works ok, but just looks a little ugly.

There’s more information on the Maven versioning rules here. It seems that you can break the rules no problems, but you’re in trouble if you use version ranges in your dependencies, and your dependencies need to live alongside binaries which use the standard maven versioning system 😦

If anyone has any better solutions I’d like to hear them. And please don’t say “stop using Maven”.