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Re: dVCS vs. CVS

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: dVCS vs. CVS
Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2008 21:00:41 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

On Mon, Jan 07, 2008 at 05:03:18PM +0100, Tassilo Horn wrote:
> > Lifting the barrier -

> > dVCS (and the fact that there are many of them) are a nightmare for
> > contributors who are not programmers, like translators and
> > documentation writers.  A dVCS is a sophisticated tool and a
> > complicated concept that such people do not understand, or at least
> > they do after substantial investment of time and sweat.

Also, a dVCS is much easier to understand for people who've already used
CVS (or the like).

> I disagree.  With CVS the basic workcycle for non-members looks like

>   cvs up
>   <edit>
>   cvs up # To check there're no conflicts
>   cvs diff > foo.patch
>   <email patch to emacs-devel>

> With git (or any other dVCS) it'd be something like

>   git-pull # pull from origin
>   <edit>
>   git-pull
>   git-commit -m "Foo bar"
>   git-format-patch origin
>   <email patch to emacs-devel>

> So basically the only difference is that you have to commit to your
> local repository.  As long as you don't use more advanced functions of
> the dVCS, there's nothing more complicated.

Sorry, but no.  What makes it complicated are all the other things that
you don't want to use.  The things that are there, but you are forced to
ignore.  The things that are going to trip you up, sooner or later, when
somebody else does something which forces you to pay attention.  The
things that make it difficult to build an internal mental model.  Or when
you unfortunately mis-type a command and put your own files into a wierd

I hate it when people do that to me - for example, making me use some
ghastly GUI interface, telling how easy everything is, and demonstrating
by clicking on one of many, many tiny little obscure icons with "that's
all you need to do, what's difficult about that?".  What's difficult is
ignoring the other 73 obscure little icons, and having to find the "easy"
command 3 levels of menu down leading to a 2 nested tab boxes and a
partridge in a pear tree.

It's a bit like saying Emacs is simple, because you can use it "just
like" a very basic text editor.

Also, a dVCS's documentation is more complicated.  Unless, of course, its
writers write a special cut down version for "unsophisticated" users -
Something they're hardly likely to, since they will want to encourage
people to use it "properly".

> > Not a silver bullet -

> > Autoconf, Automake, m4, Gnulib and other projects switched to Git some
> > time ago.  One would expect that there will be an avalanche of new
> > contributors who were not volunteering only because they needed a
> > modern VCS to go ahead.

> I guess that's not a good comparison, because those are pretty boring
> projects for most people.

So's Emacs.  ;-)

> Another project that switched from CVS to git recently is stumpwm, and
> this project now has a hundfull of contributors now instead of only one.

I can't honestly imagine that the VCS system in use is that critical a
factor in attracting most new contributors.  If I were joining Emacs
today, CVS wouldn't put me off, neither would git or mercurial or
whatever.  But for writers rather than programmers, a dVCS might well
push their tenacity to the limit.

> Bye,
> Tassilo

Alan Mackenzie (Nuremberg, Germany).

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