In technology as in life, some folks get it, and some don’t. Trying to make the ones who don’t get it get it can sometimes challenge even the hardiest of tech-souls. Michelle made a valiant effort to enlighten one such individual, and failed. This is her story.


Michelle’s predecessor had migrated their code-base from VSS to SVN, before fleeing for the hills. Michelle was “the replacement.” Before she finished finding her cube, she was cornered by her manager and peers with some concerns. “About this new-fangled SVN source control system,” they began, and then they tried to pin her down as to how she could address their “issues”…

Specifically, Bob, the manager asked: “Is it true that in SVN, anyone can check-out the code?”

“Of course”, Michelle replied. She explained that anyone with an account can check out the source code at any time. This started an avalanche of stupidity that, not unlike one of snow, only gained mass and momentum with time.

Jim, the lead developer, said that this was a problem. “If I checked out a file, I would have no idea if someone else was working on that file as well.” When Michelle just looked at him, blankly, he continued: “VSS was much better in that respect.”

Michelle explained that this was the whole point, and in fact, one of the main benefits of SVN. Unlike VSS, SVN supports concurrent development, and it’s smart enough to automatically keep track of who’s changing what for you.

Jim was worried that if he was working in an area of code, he needed to know that nobody else was working on it, so his change(s) wouldn’t get overwritten by the other developer.

Michelle went on to console him by explaining the concept of merges and how merge collisions would be handled.

“Yeah, but we’re working on a major bug and need to know that no-one else is working on those files!”

Michelle then explained the concept of branches. She further explained that the file history was available for examination, and in an extreme case, an automatic email notification could be sent where anyone on the mailing list would receive notification every time someone committed code.

Bob and Jim would have none of that. Bob complained, “No that’s not good enough. We can’t risk developers clobbering each other’s code. You need to change this. When I go to the bathroom, I have exclusive use of the stall. Others can only use it before me or after me, but not at the same time as me. We need this same level of isolation in handling our source code.”

Try as she might, there was no explaining that this was really not necessary, as going to the bathroom and editing source code were, in fact, two very different things, and that it defeated the point of a multi-versioned, concurrent development environment…

Bob insisted, in absolute finality: “No it’s too dangerous. Please change SVN to make to make it single check-out only; now! Before something terrible happens!”

In reality, something terrible already had. Michelle resigned herself to the stupidity of running source control in the same way as accessing a toilet, she wrote a trigger script hack to disable parallel check outs. But at the end of the day, she couldn’t bring herself to activate crap mode.

[Advertisement] Release! is a light card game about software and the people who make it. Play with 2-5 people, or up to 10 with two copies - only $9.95 shipped!