The joint Mercurial / Bazaar-NG sprint: aftermath

The weekend in London, now almost a week past, was sufficiently intense that I didn’t have the energy to write it up as I went along, or indeed to write much of anything about it until now.

Of course we didn’t come to any conclusions about one project subsuming the other, but we did gain a better understanding of where our respective projects stand relative to each other.

The sprint lasted three days. We spent much of the first day talking about how we got to where we are; how did people get interested in revision control, why and how they started contributing to their respective projects, and so on. The second day involved more discussions of details, while thinking in terms of how we could do things that benefited each project individually while assisting both. A few prospects, for example, were a common format for exporting metadata to the likes of GUIs, and a common plugin framework. The third day was much less structured; we showed off interesting bits of functionality, hacked a little, and talked about whatever topics were interesting at the time.

In terms of “stuff we have that they don’t”, the standouts on each side were performance and complete handling of renamed files and directories. Mercurial has performance, and the Bazaar-NG team people want it; and Bazaar-NG handles merging edits across renames, while the Mercurial team wants it.

For me, it was very energising to meet so many people, all deeply interested in distributed revision control, all at once. I’d already known Matt from his days living in San Francisco, but everyone else was new to me. I was struck by how fortunate each project is to have a core of people who are whip-smart, thoughtful, and a lot of fun to spend time with. The tone of our conversations was great; everyone was amicable and engaged, able to both talk well and listen carefully.

So we’ve converged on such similar user interfaces, we found it easy to talk to each other, and we found so many cases where we were tackling or ignoring the same problems in similar ways. What will be our respective paths forward? I don’t have a clear answer. Some of the possibilities have non-technical constraints that may prove amenable to compromise; we’ll have to see.

Of course, it is ultimately not in low cunning, marketing, or funding that one project shall in the end dominate, but in mindless feats of strength (that’s Mark Shuttleworth on the left, Matt Mackall on the right).

Thanks to everyone who took the time to attend and, through their willingness to talk and listen, made the weekend a memorable and worthwhile event. In particular, I’d like to thank Mark Shuttleworth for sponsoring the event.

Posted in mercurial, software

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