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February 15th, 2009

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03:40 pm - Giving early warning to users
Although we try to keep backward incompatible changes to git to an absolute minimum, sometimes we need to bite the bullet and do so when the improvements far outweighs the downsides, and potential inconvenience caused by such a change to people who prefer the status quo can easily be worked around.

Now, if you think "Don't make any backward incompatible changes." is your answer, you are missing the point.  Yes, that's a nice goal to aim for, and we are doing our best to minimize the need for such changes. But you still need to think about what to do when you need to make an exception to that rule, and saying "Don't" is merely refusing to think things through.

For example, in 1.6.0, we finally stopped installing many subcommands (e.g. git-cat-file) in users' $PATH, in response to long-standing complaints from many users, and having warned about the change for two years.  The workaround for people who have scripts that used the "dashed form" subcommands is simple, and many people may have known that the change would eventually come, but nevertheless, they found that the change did hit them by surprise. Main complaints after 1.6.0 was released were that the change could have been advertised better.

It however is harder to reach and give early warnings to the user community, once your software is used by wide audience, than people would think. Developer mailing lists of many projects that use git do not accept messages from non-subscribers, and there is no comprehensive list of projects that want/need to receive important messages.

So I am asking for people from projects that use git as their SCM of choice to help me (and others) with a way to spread the word when needed.  There is a ProjectContacts page prepared at Git Wiki site.



(2 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:February 17th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)

Check out answers at Stackoverflow

I have created question for that at Stackoverflow, a programming Q & A site:
Date:February 17th, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Check out answers at Stackoverflow

The Stackoverflow question seems to have forgotten to describe the most important avenue that has already been planned: give warning messages to the end user of the command when it is used in the upcoming release (without making the incompatible change yet), with an configuration variable to turn the warning off and at the same time set the default action to match his wish *now*, so that the backward incompatible change made in the future version will *not* affect his use of the system when an upgrade is made.

The request for help was actually about one step *w*a*y* before any of these happen. How to announce the presense of a discussion to plan such a change and involve wider range of users in the planning, so that later people won't come and say "I was not told that this was coming".
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