Monday, February 6, 2012

Version Control

Software products are routinely labeled with "versions" and while this nomenclature has taken hold in the vernacular there seems to be little understanding of "number dot number" beyond "bigger must be better". While that is generally the intent, there is a bit more to it. Version number syntax is commonly:
A bump in the "major" number indicates a release of the product with significant additions to and improvements in functionality and may be incompatible with previous versions and possibly requires additional hardware or a newer platform.

"Minor" number bumps, often called "dot releases", fix significant bugs, improve performance and add minor features or functionality, but are always backward compatible within the major release and do not require a hardware upgrade though there may be significant benefit in improving the underlying platform.

Very often "bug fix" version numbers remain unpublished leaving Customer Support to suggest that users upgrade to the latest version and see if that works. In fact, many of these releases will remain unpublished unless one or more of the users demands a fix to a bug that annoys them.

Conventional wisdom suggests one should never buy One Dot Oh of anything and this thinking is so prevalent that some companies never label a product lower than Two Dot Oh. More fearful companies start at Two Dot Two or higher.This is based on the knowledge, born of experience, that initial releases suffer from "time to market" pressures resulting in feature "postponement" and buggy implementations. In many cases the designers are building what they want, not what their customers need. All too often, they don't even know what their customers really need.

Some take umbrage at the use of "Dunwoody Two Dot Oh", perhaps because there has been no clear indication that significant features have been added or that the "upgrade" will finally expose the need for "new hardware" in several key areas. If they are correct, this is just Dunwoody One Dot Two as we had our first dot release when we played musical chairs with one council seat. There seems to be some debate over whether it was an improvement or not, possibly based on comments like "we're going shopping", but it was a discernible change warranting a dot release.

But the voters screamed their displeasure with Dunwoody 1.x in their most recent visit to the polls and Dunwoody 2.0 started off with a recent executive session (well, they really started off with a "retreat") so there is some hope that this was to address glaring deficiencies in the existing "platform". Key personnel improvements are desperately needed.

As for minor changes, we probably won't see City Hall formally issuing bug fix releases, but things like removal of the blog from the City website will just happen over time. Or given the current level of transparency ( gives Dunwoody a "C-") one is probably safe in assuming there is no bug fixing going on down there. Perhaps transparency would be a good place to start.