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Ask K5: Web Development: Multiple Developers?

By base10 in Internet
Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 02:12:42 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

I'm a web developer at a smallish marketing company (50 employees). We've got six people here that do work on the web, and our clients sometimes like to lend a hand as well. Oh, and we're in Revision Control Hell.

We currently use Dreamweaver and its check in/out functionality to do our site editing. We have an ftp server set up with a copy of the live site to do dev work on, and when the work is done and has client approval, I use plain old FTP to put the new files on the live site.

The problem we're having is that when the same site has multiple projects being done by multiple people, images have a tendency to get modified by two people at the same time, and DW doesn't seem to automatically check them out. Furthermore, we have no decent system to track whether an image was approved on one page, but was modified by a different developer on another before being posted to the live site. Finally, we have no good way to do revision control: when I upload files, I keep a copy of the live site on my hard drive, but as we add more people and more sites this is becoming a real hassle.

I'd like to hear if anyone is in a similar situation and what work flow solutions/tools/procedures/policies you have in place to simplify life and avoid problems with your development work.

Thanks much,


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Ask K5: Web Development: Multiple Developers? | 20 comments (15 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
let me know if you find a good solution (none / 0) (#1)
by gregholmes on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 12:27:55 PM EST

We're looking a Team Site from Interwoven, but it looks like it could turn into a mess or a straight jacket (because other teams are involved). It could also be good! I'm hoping.

Right now we just segregate sub-'sites' as much as possible between the six on my team, and carefully coordinate when interfacing with others. I just have this fear we'll adopt a solution that is worse than the problem.

I'd be curious whether you think you might be better off with no revision control at all rather than what you have.

Try CVS (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by ObeseWhale on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 12:33:12 PM EST

Although the Concurrent Versioning System is more geared towards programming, it works well with everything from books to images.


"The hunger for liberty may he suppressed for a time; yet never exterminated. Man's natural instinct is for freedom, and no power on earth can succeed in crushing it for very long."
-Alexander Berkman
I'm curious about this too (4.00 / 1) (#4)
by Skippy on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 12:35:37 PM EST

I'm sure you could use something like CVS (although it might be overkill) for the source code. I'm wondering if there is an equivalent for binary stuff like graphics. It's not a problem now since I'm the only one doing graphics but it might be in the future.

Right now there are only 2 of us working on this project so version conrol isn't a problem yet but we might grow. How tough is setting up a CVS repository? Or would K5'ers suggest something else?

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

Bitkeeper! (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by rusty on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 12:43:29 PM EST

Bitkeeper rules. It's a revision control system, like CVS, but much better. It comes with some very nice GUI tools (like the unbelievably useful citool), it handles any kind of file you care to throw at it, and it even revisions file names, symlinks, directories, etc etc. It's semi-free... that is, it's free to use if you don't mind having your changelogs publically available (not the files or code, just the change messages). Definitely give it a look.

Not the real rusty
win32 clients? (none / 0) (#17)
by Delirium on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 06:49:17 PM EST

I looked around the site a bit, and some of the improvements over CVS look interesting/useful, but I was unable to find any information on win32 interoperability. CVS is nice in that there's both CLI and GUI clients for nearly every platform, but Bitkeeper seems to be, as far as I can tell, UNIX-only, which is a significant limitation.

[ Parent ]
See here... (none / 0) (#20)
by rusty on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 11:18:21 AM EST

See their platforms page. Basically, it runs on anything you're likely to have, including Win 98/NT/2000. All their GUI tools are written in TCL/TK, and Larry McVoy knows his stuff (he wrote the POSIX layer for SunOS, pretty much singlehandedly) so I bet all the code is cross-platform. It probably just gets recompiled for each platform.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Doing CM/VC (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by Maniac on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 01:18:22 PM EST

I'll echo the comments about using CVS or bitkeeper. There are also other wannabe's like subversion. Pick one and use it. I'm not quite happy with the way CVS handles binary files - you may need to find a better tool.

We're developing source code (10's of developers, hundreds of thousands of lines of code) and CVS is working fine for what we're doing up to this point. We can build shell scripts and some basic guidelines to do what CVS doesn't. When we go into a full production mode with the full team (>150 developers, millions of lines of code, multiple levels of control) I might find CVS to be inadequate. I'm looking at doing a larger scale test in the next month to prevent a big SNAFU.

If you don't mind the upgrade... (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by Remy on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 01:29:33 PM EST

According to this Webmonkey article, the newest release of Dreamweaver, version 4, has "integrated" MS Visual Source Safe. (See this page of the article for the particulars.)

I have no idea how well it works out, but previous experience with VSS in my office seemed to work well for small groups.

Might be worth the upgrade. *shrugs*

-- "The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms." - Morpheus, Deus Ex
VSS (none / 0) (#13)
by forgey on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 01:57:51 PM EST

We have been using VSS for our web development environment for at least a year and have no complaints. Well, one complaint. Integration with InterDev is a bitch to get working.

I hate Interdev!

VSS though has been great. If you keep an eye on it and do regular database maintenance, especially after any large additions/deletions, it runs rock solid.

The greatest features of VSS have to be it's ability to share code and deploy entire sites with a button click. I do have a fairly long wish list for VSS, including integrating security with NT, but I haven't had too many problems with it.

I would definitely recommend this route if you are primarily a windows shop.


[ Parent ]
Visual Source Safe (none / 0) (#16)
by mihalis on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 04:48:13 PM EST

VSS is, at best, ok. Yes if you have all Windows platforms for clients of the repository, and if they are all on a low-latency link to it, it's ok, however clients for other platforms are expensive or unavailable, and it plain does not work to share with people in other continents. I collaborate with a chap in London. It used to take several hours for him to check the source code out of SourceSafe. I persuaded him to use CVS instead and now it works really well for us both, and also across all three platforms we build the software on (windows and solaris for production, linux for home work for some of us).

The information I've come across about SourceSafe is that Microsoft did not do the original development, is not actively developing it, and does not use it itself. Says a lot I think.

One thing that's either mandatory or common with Source Safe is the reserved checkout model which is fairly discredited these days. CVS stands for concurrent versioning system. It's based on simultaneous access to all files for all developers with highly controlled commits. If you don't understand this or find it shocking you probably should read the CVS manual. It is at least another point of view to consider.
-- Chris Morgan <see em at mihalis dot net>
[ Parent ]

RCS or CVS (none / 0) (#11)
by Robert Uhl on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 01:30:24 PM EST

Depending on the size of the project, I'd use RCS or CVS. RCS works well enough for smallish things, but for large multiuser situations CVS is really much better. It works very well, and can be secured to a reasonable level, more than enough for intranet use. I'm not certain I'd put it up for Internet use, but I know that a lot of projects do.

CVS for web sites (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by danny on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 07:40:15 AM EST

I'm thinking of moving one of the sites I work on to CVS. I found a writeup on using CVS for web sites that you may find useful.

[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

Right question, totally wrong answers (5.00 / 2) (#14)
by DesiredUsername on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 03:49:33 PM EST

You asked the right question, but everyone here (so far) has given the totally wrong answer: you don't need software, at least not yet. You need a procedure

I'm not a web designer so I don't have any suggestions for a procedure that will fit well (let alone software that might implement [part of] that procedure). But if you approach the problem less like "we need some coffee, where's the filter" and more like "a customer needs a product, what are the requirements" you will have a lot more success.

Play 囲碁
Clarification... (none / 0) (#18)
by base10 on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 05:10:17 AM EST

Thanks for all the responses so far. I think the most likely software choice for the company is to just use the builtin VSS stuff in DW4. We're already using DW3 (except me, I hand-code), and we've got three people with DW4 upgrades waiting to be installed.

I'll just hafta make sure VSS integration works on the macs too. I forgot to mention in my story that I use NT, and everyone else involved uses macs. Although I'm a Linux enthusiast, the extent of Linux presence in our office is unfortunately limited to a tiny P120 with our IRC server and some filesharing (Samba) running on it. :P

Perhaps I should have phrased it better, but as DesiredUsername pointed out, what I really wanted to know was this: how do other companies handle multiple people, working on multiple simultaneous and possibly overlapping projects on the same single website... with the added stipulation that the client must rubber-stamp each completed page before it gets posted on the live site? Or, is my company completely off the wall in expecting this to happen in a painless manner (the company is a print agency at heart, and this is how we've always done it with print work).

Wow, it's 4:30AM on Sunday morning, and I'm thinking about work. I need to get a life (and some sleep).


Delta-V and CVS (none / 0) (#19)
by farmerJohn on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 09:45:32 AM EST

Hopefully before too long we will be able to avail ourselves of Delta-V. This is a versioning system built on the WebDAV protocol.

Until then I think CVS is the answer. There is a procedure outlined at arsdigita for managing version control with a development, staging, and production server.

Another procedure is described here.

I have also considered using the -i module option in CVS to specify a Perl program to run when a file is committed. This program would upload the file to the corresponding location on the webserver.

I have personally tried none of these methods since I'm in an all NT environment and the CVS server for NT is not yet ready for prime-time.

Ask K5: Web Development: Multiple Developers? | 20 comments (15 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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