Thursday, July 14, 2005

SCM Principles from GoF Design Patterns

I was reading Leading Edge Java online and saw an article on Design Principles from Design Patterns. The article is part III of a conversation with Erich Gamma, one of the famous Gang of Four who authored the now legendary book Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software.

In this third installment, Gamma discusses two design principles highlighted in the GoF book:
  • program to an interface, not an implementation (a.k.a "separate interface from implementation")

  • favor object composition over class inheritance
Another recurring theme echoed throughout the book is:
  • encapsulate the thing that varies (separate the things that change from the things that stay the same during a certain moment/interval)
I think these three GoF Design Principles have pretty clear translations into the SCM domain:
  • Separate Interface from Implementation - this applies not only to code, but to Make/ANT scripts when dealing with multi-platform issues like building for different operating environments, or windowing systems, or component libraries from different vendors for the same functionality. We are often able to use variables to represent the target platform and corresponding set of build options/libraries: the rules for building the targets operate at the abstract level, independent of the particular platform. This can also apply to defining the process itself, trying to ensure the high-level workflow roles, states & actions are mostly independent of a particular vendor tool

  • Prefer Composition & Configuration over Branching & Merging - This is one of my favorites, because it talks about one of my pet peeves: inapproproriate use of branching to solve a problem that is better solved by using either compile-time, install-time, or run-time configuration options to "switch on" the desired combinations of variant behavior. Why deal with the pain of branching and then having to merge a subsequent fix/enhancement to multiple variant-branches if you can code it once in the same directory structure with patterns like Strategy, Decorator, Wrapper-Facade, or other product-line practices

  • Isolate Variation - this one is almost too obvious. Private Workspaces and Private Branches isolate variation/change, as does just about any codeline. And we do the same things in the build-scripts too

Can you think of any other valid interpretations of the above design rules in terms of how they translate into the SCM domain?

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