WTP How to: Branching Policy and Practices

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This page is to capture issues, best practices and pragmatic information on how to work with branches in WTP Development. This includes how and when developers should branch, and how other committers and members of the community can discover which branches they need load into their workspace so it matches a particular build or development stream.


Issues and Problems with WTP Branching

These are some of the main issues to consider.

  • WTP Projects (and components) should have flexibility to do branching as they see decide, using what ever works best for them, their team's workflow, and habits.
  • But, we need to make it easy for others to know what to load in their workspace, to match any particular stream or build.
  • And, we need to avoid those silly bugs or build breaks where the wrong branch is released to the wrong branch of a map file.

Complicating factors

Just to list a few complicating factors here to keep in mind.

Each team is usually doing something different; focusing on 2.0.x maintenance, versus focusing on 3.0.0 development.

There are probably some bundles that will not change much in either stream, others may change a relatively large amount in either stream.

Solution

There are several ways to accomplish what we need, and the difference between them are how they balance the issues above. (That is, none are perfect).

On one extreme, we could just say we'll branch everything at once so it's clear what to get, and where to do work. The concern is that this will be more work for developers ... error prone work, at that ... to make sure bugs fixed in 2.0.x get rolled up to the HEAD stream. Tools could help, but some have expressed less that stellar success with merge utilities.

On the other extreme each team could do branching on a plugin-by-plugin basis, as they found a need to. This would be easiest for those actively working on the code, but not easy for other committers from other WTP teams, and certainly not the community at large! Plus, this method would be prone to the error of releasing into the wrong map, since easy for mis-matched bundles to end up in the same workspace, in the same map.

So, I propose a compromise between the two extremes, something larger than a plugin, but smaller than everything. A "feature" might be one such branching unit, but there are no tools oriented towards CVS and features. Therefore, I suggest we use the map files as the operational "unit of work" when making or getting branches.

To give a concrete example, if someone was to make a 3.0-only change in the xml.core plugin, then at that point, besides just branching xml.core plugin, all the other bundles listed in wst-xml-core.map must be branched also, namely sse.core, xsd.core, and dtd.core. This would help make sure bundles of a map stayed together as a branch, making mis-released code more unlikely.

And, on the other hand, if not much new work was going on in the xml-ui plugins, they would not have to be branched, so any bugs fixed there would be expected to be released twice, using exact same version number, into both branches of releng maps.