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Distributed version control is natural way of thinking

Every day I get amazed with afraid looks in developer eyes when I mention working with distributed version control systems. These systems are now very mature and present for a long time and todays developers should feel confortable trying things out.

...BUT reality is very different. Since there are not many enthusiast out there experimenting every day, being passionate about software and focusing on their work in big enterprises I get the situation. I do not think this is good.

.. Yes yes I know it is expensive for an enterprise to upgrade some technology. There are banks out there still having their system on Java 1.2 with no upgrade plan (and of course there are many exams relaying on Cobol). And ok thats fine.

...BUT again we leave in a rapid changing world. We want to be productive and more efficient every day. We want to improve. We are engineers we move forward every day.. or at least some of us do.

I want to encourage positive thinking and educate people over the things I find useful and productive. DVCS are the thing to go.


Because DVCS implemented natural human thinking behavior. Our thought BRANCH. They branch very often, and then we return and rethink what we have done and branch to other direction, and then rethink again and again branch and then we come to conclusion. Potentially not the best one but with a big chance to be the best one simple because we have been experimenting with different paths.

That is what distributed is all about. Experiment as much as you like. Branch whenever you need, be creative, productive and efficient.

What are the causes for not accepting this not so new movement? Developers learned to think as the machines worked and now when we managed to make machines work as we think not all of us have evolved to that level.

Do you remember working with MS SourceSafe? No? Good for you. I never personally used it (when I didn't had to) but have worked on educating many developers migrate from it.


Developers love locking. You lock your file and work on it. So you are the only owner of the file and no one else is not interfering your work. Great in some world, but inefficient, slow and I am not thinking of indirect impact that this revision system caused to poor development teams that were not used to playing good in teams. They all worked in their own world. Their were thought and encouraged to work like that. Thats bad..

Somehow we all managed to overcome this and got used using SVN and merging files become normal.

BUT! SVN (and similars) are central systems. Whatever you want to do to you have to do it over server. Ok it is not the problem because internet is available everywhere. But why will you share all your mindmapping and your experiments with all other developers? Ok even if you want to share it, thats fine, but that is simple bloating the repository since it will be garbage for others but for you valuable process of thinking. And this process is slow! Branching in SVN is slow, comparing changes, listing history (arrrghhh I can scream at the thought of this again) ... all of this needs to go through the central repository.

So you try to overcome all of this and think linearly and keep working with constraints that are not natural to your mind and you transfer that limitations to your code. You do not let your mind play and explore. You do not search for great solutions, but instead just go with the flow, find the shortest path. Thats bad..

And then came DVCS. This is what we needed from the start, but machines were not ready, as machines evolved and our understanding of the ways how to interact with them evolved mankind came up with a way to allow developers work as their brains work, not imposing limitations but instead encouraged experiments. Then github came and made distributed a cool thing and others followed: bitbucket, gitorius, etc.. (I am more a Mercurial guy but do not mind git.. they are both great).

BUT! Enterprises didn't follow and this is bad thing! Enterprises do not realize how much are they loosing. Productivity is suffering. Employees are limited, they are not exploring, not finding better solutions. This should change. Everybody needs to move forward. Its in the nature of mankind. And trust me Mercurial is easy to setup in the enterprise and set up all permission models very similar to SVN so just go ahead an try it.

WHY should I bother?

DVC allows you to experiment. Start working on something, realize that you might do it differently, go back couple of steps start going to different direction, realize that you have a better way, and again go back and do it. Then merge something that you liked about your other work, cherry pick some part that you liked. And then you want to share with others. Its simple, pick what you want to share, share just some branches, rebase your changes and compact them to one change set. Remove the clutter for others. Its very very very easy.

And it gets even better!

You have multiple ways of sharing. E.g. you have a central push repository but during your work you want to share some pre alpha code with your coworker thats working on other part of the functionality. There is still no need to push this code to central and you SHOULDN'T. Share it by publishing it to your friend (multiple options here: shared folder, email, web server) and work together, exchange prepare the code and then push it to central. As you see easy and not limiting at all.

I strongly believe that DVCS make better software engineers, and those that are having trouble working this way are NOT welcome to my team. Unset your limits and let your minds free!

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