Agile Computing Authors: Derek Weeks, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: Adobe Flex, Java IoT, IoT User Interface

Adobe Flex: Article

Agile Chronicles #3: Branch Workflow

Pre-schedule a time where the team knows their code will be merged with everyone else’s code

This entry is about utilizing branches for each developer in Subversion, Merge Day, and how while cool, it’s an ivory tower process.

Note: This isn’t a tenet of the Agile methodology itself, it’s just something that works well when you have a bunch of developers collaborating together rapidly, and a specific workflow our client requested we follow.

Branch Workflow

We’re utilizing a Branch Workflow on my current project.  What this means is that each developer creates their own branch in Subversion.  If you’re utilizing Tortoise SVN on PC or Versions on Mac, this is effectively a folder.  As you may know, Subversion has 3 default folders that you typically utilize in a repository, and hopefully each project gets its own repository.  These are branches, tags, and trunk.

Some people choose to ignore these.  Some put multiple projects into the same repo.  Both are fine because the mere fact people are utilizing source control in the first place, even if its just for disaster recovery, is great.

These folders, however, really do have a few reasons for their existence that have been well thought out.  Each source control system tries to out-do the next.  In Subversions case, the simple definitions are trunk is for the current version of your project, tags are for multiple older versions of your project, and branches are for experimental features or code that will possibly be merged back into trunk later.

Those are EXTREMELY simple definitions.  If you read the SVN book as well as other people who incorporate SVN into their workflow, the definitions and purposes can get quite complex.  For the project I’m currently on, branches take on a new meaning.  Not only are they where experimental code goes, but they each represent a user story.  Meaning, if I’m working on completing the user story where the user can modify their hardware device settings via a Flex form, that’ll go in it’s own branch.  Using source control to do this is pretty straight forward.  Instead of checking in here:


You instead check-in here:


And the other developer with me would be working from:


Pretty easy right?  It gets even easier to check in.  No more, “Dude, have you checked your shiz in?” to another developer, or the cardinal rule of doing an update before checking in.  Now you can check in to your hearts content knowing it’s your own repo to abuse how you wish.

This has the side benefit of NOT breaking trunk… usually.  Again, the point of having frozen code you KNOW for a fact works is to use a tag, or a series of tagged builds.  A lot of developers get seriously bent out of shape if you break the trunk.  At one job, whoever broke the trunk had to use this monkey icon for their IM icon for one week.  It was funny until the 50th person asked why I had a silly monkey icon, and by that point, I was swearing I’d never break ANY trunk ever again.  This can possibly have the effect of keeping ‘em happy.  At the very least, this reduces the possibility of it happening because no one is working from trunk.

Instead, you check into trunk at the end of every sprint, or for my team, from Merge Day onwards.

Merge Day

Part of Agile is to have a day a few days before your UAT where everyone merges their working user stories into the same code base and “works out the kinks”.  Since everyone was coding in a different direction, this can be good and bad.  Good because they are working on completely unrelated things, but in GUI coding, we all know some things are extremely related.  Specifically, these are your data model in the form of ValueObjects, calls to a framework such as the use of Event classes in Cairngorm and PureMVC Mediators, and modifying settings in higher level view’s or CSS.

Since this can potentially have major consequences for some portions of a user story, or set of stories, it’s important to devote a pre-scheduled time where the team knows their code will be merged with everyone else’s code.  This is called Merge Day on my project and it happens every other Wednesday.  I take my branch and my co-workers, and merge his code into mine.  Then, I fix things that explode.  This could be as simple as just merging code over, or a complex verbal discussion to work towards resolving 2 different implementations.  No code is trivial.  If another developer added a style to MXML for example, setting the background color may seem small to you, but could be the difference between working or non-working code for the other developer’s code, so its important you do these merges together.

Once that is done, I merge into trunk, test again, fix explosions, and finally check in the working build.  I then upload a new build, or in the case of my current project, deploy a new build in a new sandbox utilizing Django’s web interface.  It can deploy to the web the latest bin-release that’s checked into SVN by merely clicking a button.  I’ll send an email to all members of the team identifying what’s new in the build.  This includes user stories, fixed bugs, and other things of note that are different from previous builds.

For fellow developers, this is a courtesy.  For Project Managers, it’s a necessity for them to set client expectations for Friday’s UAT.  For everyone it’s a Sprint milestone as well as reality check.  You can identify what user stories are done, which ones aren’t, what older ones you may have broken, and which current ones have issues.  You can then plan with your team what to spend the next day and a half on.  This is also where the rules can potentially break down.  What I’ll usually do is check my local copy into a new branch, and either fix partially completed or broken user stories, or just finish what I can.  The temptation here is to abandon branches since you only have a day and a half and it isn’t worth the trouble; just don’t break trunk in the meantime.

…riiiight.  The last thing you want to have happen the day before UAT is get all stressed out because trunk is broken.  To me, it’s worth the extra time in using the process to ensure your UAT prep goes smoothly.  I’m conservative.

I say that all high and mighty like, but on Sprint #2, I did just that.  Did I get lucky or was it just mad skillz?  Luck.


Now, all of the above processes could have been done with just utilizing trunk.  As you can hopefully see utilizing a branch for each developer, or multiple since creating a new folder is really easy, helps things go a lot smoother without surprises.  You can also plan for the chaos on Merge Day, which while extremely stressful for whoever is doing the merging, is at least expected and a concerted team effort.  I really have enjoyed the Branch Workflow so far.

…however, I don’t see it catching on.  Every Flash & Flex developer I’ve ever talked to doesn’t use branches.  Sam Robbins mentioned over Twitter they might start adopting this workflow at their place of work, and that’s great, but again, it seems to me most developers feel trunk is good enough and branches are just an unnecessary complication.

Stay tuned for #4 in the Agile Chronicles series where I talk about the POC (Proof of Concept), business strategy, and design challenges.

More Stories By Jesse Randall Warden

Jesse R. Warden, a member of the Editorial Board of Web Developer's & Designer's Journal, is a Flex, Flash and Flash Lite consultant for Universal Mind. A professional multimedia developer, he maintains a Website at jessewarden.com where he writes about technical topics that relate to Flash and Flex.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things (IoT), in all its myriad manifestations, has great potential. Much of that potential comes from the evolving data management and analytic (DMA) technologies and processes that allow us to gain insight from all of the IoT data that can be generated and gathered. This potential may never be met as those data sets are tied to specific industry verticals and single markets, with no clear way to use IoT data and sensor analytics to fulfill the hype being given the IoT today.
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftNet Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftNet Solutions specializes in Enterprise Solutions for Hadoop and Big Data. It offers customers the most open, robust, and value-conscious portfolio of solutions, services, and tools for the shortest route to success with Big Data. The unique differentiator is the ability to architect and ...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
A completely new computing platform is on the horizon. They’re called Microservers by some, ARM Servers by others, and sometimes even ARM-based Servers. No matter what you call them, Microservers will have a huge impact on the data center and on server computing in general. Although few people are familiar with Microservers today, their impact will be felt very soon. This is a new category of computing platform that is available today and is predicted to have triple-digit growth rates for some ...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue an...
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, will be adding the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining sensor...
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
Established in 1998, Calsoft is a leading software product engineering Services Company specializing in Storage, Networking, Virtualization and Cloud business verticals. Calsoft provides End-to-End Product Development, Quality Assurance Sustenance, Solution Engineering and Professional Services expertise to assist customers in achieving their product development and business goals. The company's deep domain knowledge of Storage, Virtualization, Networking and Cloud verticals helps in delivering ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their online busine...
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Penta Security is a leading vendor for data security solutions, including its encryption solution, D’Amo. By using FPE technology, D’Amo allows for the implementation of encryption technology to sensitive data fields without modification to schema in the database environment. With businesses having their data become increasingly more complicated in their mission-critical applications (such as ERP, CRM, HRM), continued ...
OnProcess Technology has announced it will be a featured speaker at @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1 - 3, 2016, in Santa Clara, California. Dan Gettens, OnProcess’ Chief Analytics Officer, will discuss how Internet of Things (IoT) data can be leveraged to predict product failures, improve uptime and slash costly inventory stock. @ThingsExpo is an annual gathering of IoT and cloud developers, practitioners and thought-leaders who exchange ideas and insights on topics ranging from Big Data in...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudbric, a leading website security provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudbric is an elite full service website protection solution specifically designed for IT novices, entrepreneurs, and small and medium businesses. First launched in 2015, Cloudbric is based on the enterprise level Web Application Firewall by Penta Security Sys...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Transparent Cloud Computing (T-Cloud) Consortium will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Transparent Cloud Computing Consortium (T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data proces...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, will draw together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Coalfire will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Coalfire is the trusted leader in cybersecurity risk management and compliance services. Coalfire integrates advisory and technical assessments and recommendations to the corporate directors, executives, boards, and IT organizations for global brands and organizations in the technology, cloud, health...
As ridesharing competitors and enhanced services increase, notable changes are occurring in the transportation model. Despite the cost-effective means and flexibility of ridesharing, both drivers and users will need to be aware of the connected environment and how it will impact the ridesharing experience. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Timothy Evavold, Executive Director Automotive at Covisint, will discuss key challenges and solutions to powering a ride sharing and/or multimodal model in the a...