As I mentioned in my last post, the discussion about whether we move to Git from SVN has been raging pretty hard in the past few days, and while the general opinion seems to be one in favor of a move, there certainly isn't concensus on the point just yet.
I'm in favor of Git, although I certainly wouldn't list my bent as a "passion" as some opinions in the community have been described. In Parrot world I use SVN exclusively. I could use git-svn, or I could try to use dukeleto's Git mirror on Github, but I don't. As far as I am concerned those add an additional layer of complexity, an additional abstraction that layer that I can ignore most of the time until something goes wrong. It simply isn't worth it to me to try and force a Git interface onto Parrot's SVN repository.
Let me tell a short story.
When I was a graduate student I was given a "computer" for my "desk" in my "office" that I could use to do my normal school work and also to develop my thesis. This computer was a complete beast of a performance machine. At least, it had been several years earlier when it was first purchased. By the time I got it, circa 2006, it's 12Gb hard drive and screaming 128Mb RAM weren't quite as impressive comparatively.
I was paranoid about data integrity, considering I was working on the most important academic project of my whole life on the least qualified machine on campus. So, I took some steps to help shore up my defenses. First thing, I scrounged together several other small harddrives from other dusty computer carcasses. I removed the CDROM drive and jammed four HDDs into my case. Two of them were just hanging inside because there wasn't enough space to physically mount them all. I also had a shared network drive supplied by the university, a flash drive, and a personal laptop.
I set up SVN on the computer, and backed up my work as follows: On the second drive was where my work was (the first drive was barely large enough to hold Windows XP and the other software I needed). I had a script that I used to simultaneously svn co my work to the third drive and xcopy my working directory to the fourth. I had an hourly task that would then backup my svn repo from the third drive and an xcopy of the directory on the fourth drive to the network shared drive. At the end of each day, I would xcopy my working directory to my flash drive, go home, and store a copy on my personal laptop. About once a week I would email myself a copy of my thesis paper, in hopes that if all else failed, at least Google could safeguard the all-important final deliverable.
This may all sound excessive, but by the end of the year I had lost two hard drives (one of which actually caught on fire), my flash drive got crushed, and the network drive has experienced several outages.
Story aside, the idea that there is only one copy of the entire history of the Parrot repository (or even two copies, assuming the server has a tape backup plan) is hardly reassuring to me. This is why I really like the Git idea that everybody has a complete copy of the entire history of the repository.
Let's look at things from a different angle: Git is a distributed version control system. While it certainly supports it, there is no true need for a single, central, "master" repository to work from. We could, as a community, radically change our workflow if we had Git. If we were going to use it exactly the same way as we currently use SVN, there really isn't enough of a reason to switch.
What we have now is a single master trunk, which is where most of the action takes place. People make branches, do work, merge them to trunk. Then, on the second Tuesday of every month, somebody copies trunk to a tag, calls it a release, and we continue on with our normal development.
So let's imagine a different workflow. I'll posit one example, but this certainly isn't the only choice. With Git, everybody has their own local branch where they do work and make commits. Hell, "everybody" here can be a much larger group than the committers we have now: Anybody can make a fork and do work on their own local branches. We could have something like a master integration branch where trusted committers could pull changes from the entire ecosystem. The integration branch would be more like a testbed and less like a master reference copy.
From the integration branch, a monthly release manager would cherry pick the good stable features of the integration branch into a release master branch. At the end of the cycle, the release manager's master branch would get tagged as a release, and would become the new baseline integration branch. Remaining changes from the previous integration branch could be pulled in if they were worthy or if they gained more maturity. At that point, the old integration branch could disappear, and the cycle starts again.
This idea is more complex than our current system, but it does have a few nice features. First, we can strive for higher-quality releases by keeping closer track of what ends up in the release branch. Second, we can try to get more people involved by allowing everybody to create a development branch to do "real" work, not just our designated committers. Third, the release manager has more control over releases, including being able to shift the focus on the release and be able to drive it in a way that is not possible now.
I like Git, I like the idea of it and I like the things that it makes possible. I don't dislike SVN, but it doesn't have any compelling features that make me want to stay with it. SVN is good but not great, and there's one usage pattern for SVN that works but is limiting. SVN isn't hurting Parrot, but it's not lifting us up to the next level either.