As a developer, even when I’m developing solo, subversion saves me both time and headaches. When working with additional developers…well Dan Cederholm puts it best:

You can work on your own, commit changes, send a message with that change, I’m totally hooked on this way of working on web apps. Yeah, it’s so much fun working on something of your own. You feel more invested and you don’t feel like you’re on the clock so you put more detail, more attention to detail, and you’re just more excited about it. It’s fun. With a lot of the client work I do, because I’m focused on the UI a lot of times I’m handing off what I did to someone else, they’re implementing it, it usually gets messed up, that’s sort of par for the course and it’s rare when it doesn’t. Working on something yourself with somebody else when you’re both in tune with what this product is, it’s so much fun and it’s far superior.

A number of tech people I work with regularly comment on how designers could really benefit from subversion. Bit-wise version control seems so much smarter, from both a size/storage perspective, as well as a team integration perspective, than this_is_the_newest_version_1.0b_final_reallyitsfinaliswear.psd.

Subversion for Design

Of course, in respect to designers, the whole prospect of working from a command line is understandably intimidating. And even with a myriad of GUIs for subversion, when it occasionally gets unruly (which it does…there’s no denying that), you need some command line mojo to get things cleaned back up.

A photoshop plugin would be sweet, something like “save as version” that takes care of all of the legwork. Consider that an official “pretty pretty please someone build that for CS3”

The real story

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. I’m writing about what I always get psyched about, a really cool LOCAL project coming from one of my new friends here in the Philly tech/creative community. I spoke to Chris Nagele of Wildbit the other day at the Cream Cheese Session and he was pimping a new rails app that his team has built, currently going by the mysterious name “Project Alpha”. In short, Project Alpha is hosted subversion. That’s not new, not even close. It also has a built in browser, and tracking, but that itself also isn’t new (though Chris’s implementation is about as sharp as I’ve seen). What’s REALLY smart is direct integration with Fogbugz, Lighthouse, and Basecamp. Essentially, all subversion activity is filtered to the right people on the team, regardless of if they are working directly with the code. This isn’t a code hosting, this is code hosting geared towards team integration and highly productive workflows. I’ve snagged some screenshots from Chris’s post on the Wildbit site, check them out.

The Dashboard

Repository Overview


File Browser

There’s clear cues that were taken from some of our favorite team and project management tools, which I love because the way webapps are being built now, once you use one you can be comfortable in many other ones. Features, rather than interfaces, are the defining differences.

Why this works

My business workflow uses a bunch of apps. Why would I pay for multiple hosted apps rather than have one “do-it-all” suite? I think that the current trend of “do one thing really, really well” apps is smart, so long as their data is portable (like Project Alpha takes advantage of), I’m happy to have a dozen “best of breed” apps that talk to each other than one large lumbering suite that sucks at everything. I’m looking at you, Microsoft Office.


Not-so-silent wish? I’d love to see a partnership between these tools and the model that’s run at BountySource. BS has it’s own SVN browser, which is not only part of their system bus is an open source rails plugin as well. I really like some of it’s features and Dave and Warren @ BountySource work really hard to promote open source as a viable business model. I could see both of these ventures really benefiting from each others’ work.

Also I’ll push for the integration of OpenID (so I can log into multiple accounts I’m invited into with the same URL based identity, of course), and microformats (i see opportunity for hatom and hcard immediately, I’m sure we can find a couple more things that can be marked up). But I’m sure these are considerations for down the road, because Chris is a smart guy 🙂

Testers needed!

Oh, one last thing. Chris is looking to get some testers to work with Project Alpha. Also from his blog post:

We are releasing a private beta soon. When it is ready, it will be launched as a hosted subscription-based service with free and paid accounts. We are thinking about a free single project installable version as well, but have not made up our minds yet. If you are interested in the Private Beta, please email me and provide some details on how you might use the system (size of team, number of repos, etc).

[tags]svn, subversion, hosted app, wildbit, philadelphia, independentshall, chris nagele, Project Alpha, OpenID, microformats[/tags]