Monday, March 23, 2009

The mechanics of continuous integration

I was reading this nice post about Continuous Integration, from Distilled Brilliance, by John Feminella (thanks to Marco Abis for pointing me to that, via twitter), and I have to say I wholeheartedly agree: setting up a CI dedicated machine is absolutely pointless if mechanics and disciplines are note attacked.
  • Unless the teams move to a smaller increment policy, some of the advantages of CI won't be appreciated.
  • To make consistent progress with small increments, TDD is your better friend.
  • If the team is using a CI server, but team members don't quickly fix the build if it happens to be broken, then you're probably lost (I know this is rather obvious... but... )
  • If the team is using a CI server but nobody checks the status before updating the local version of the code you're probably lost again.
  • The team should be working on the trunk, and not on separate branches.
As John pointed out, it's much more a matter of discipline rather than of practice. And discipline takes time and effort. In this case it takes trust and coordination. The same kind you might find in a crowded bar at rush hour when many bartenders are communicating quickly and finding things exactly where they should be, by adhering to team standards (such as "she small dish calls for an espresso" while "the large one calls for a cappuccino").

It takes time to get there, but once you're there, the benefits are great.
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