December 18, 2012

Commons - what would we (or at least I) do without you!

Version Control

perforce commons logoIf you’ve been hanging out near this blog or the Perforce website over the last 6 months or so, you couldn’t miss a lot of talk about Commons. It’s entirely likely you may have been wondering “what’s that got to do with me?” or “Looks interesting but I haven’t got the time to find out more yet.”

It might be useful to help with both of those questions to see how we’ve been using Commons internally for a particular project and then you might be interested in finding out more. Here’s a true story of one instance where I’ve been grateful for Commons recently.

Back in November, we hosted our Global Sales Partner Summit in the UK near the Perforce UK HQ. Somehow I was “lucky” enough to be volunteered to present on 5 topics ranging from how internal processes work through to product roadmaps (I have to quote the ‘Lucky’ to make it look like I was press-ganged into it - I hope no one finds out I actually enjoy doing this stuff!). There were other great presentations from various team members including Perforce CEO and Founder Christopher Seiwald and the Partners themselves.

The Summit had some training sessions at the beginning of the week but the main session started after lunch on the Wednesday. As is normal, I had been working on the presentations late the previous evening and into Wednesday morning (purely so that the content was completely fresh, you understand - not that I was late getting ready, oh no.) The team had already been using Commons to collate all the various presentations, agenda, artwork etc and that had been working great - I could take a quick look in Commons in my browser and see if anything had been updated recently either by the “New” flag on the space name or checking the Activity Stream.

Wednesday lunchtime was rapidly approaching, my presentations were looking glorious (well, pretty good anyway) and I’m thinking I was done. So, last thing to do was to put my files back into Commons. I’d actually been updating some decks I’d already been working on and also created a new file. All the files were lying on my Mac’s desktop, so I selected them all and dropped them onto the Commons client.

perforce file valet Immediately “File Valet” jumped into action. It spotted that 3 of the files were new revisions of existing files. No other changes had been made so new revisions were automatically created for me. It also spotted that I had created a new file and went ahead and added it for me and gave me the opportunity to add a meaningful description. There was one file left and File Valet spotted that someone else had already updated the presentation since I’d taken my copy the previous evening. I was even able to compare the two files side by side to see what changes had been made. This version of Commons can compare the slide text side by side and future releases will offer a merge but even this compare was great because I could see my co-presenter (who was doing the interesting bit of the session - the demo) had added a new slide to introduce his section. I could quickly copy the slide over to my copy and then drop the file back into Commons which then gave me the chance to create a new revision which I was, of course, very happy to do.

At that point all my files had been updated, I’d avoided overwriting someone else’s content and I could be confident that if my laptop got run over my valuable work was safely stored away. But there was an added bonus. When I arrived at the venue to set up for the first afternoon session, I was greeted with a cheery “I saw you’d updated the presentations in Commons so I’ve pulled them all down and they’re already on the presentation laptop” - wow! Not only had that saved me the grief of finding a memory stick to copy the files over but it had given me time to go and get lunch :-)

I think that’s what some people might describe as “Commons - FTW!”

It’s been said a few times that Commons is something you really need to use to understand and I think that’s very true. You can download a pre-configured Commons virtual machine, but, even easier, you get get a free Cloud-hosted Commons trial.

I recommend you give it a try. You might even get time for lunch if you rely on Commons!