June 24, 2013

You're a developer? Hey, me too!

Helix Swarm
Version Control

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If you're reading this, there is a good chance we have a few things in common. One, we both use Perforce. Two, we both make software. And three, we care about our tools. If this isn't you, feel free to move along, but if it is, I'd like to have a little chat.

I want to speak developer-to-developer. I've been using Perforce for years and recently I have felt like something is missing. This feeling is strongest when I foray into open-source and encounter beautiful tools like GitHub. I'm not just talking about pretty tools -- although look and feel are very important -- I'm talking about tools that bring developers together. Something that will let me see what my team is working on and help us talk about our code. It's great if you can do this by peeking over the cube wall or across your open office, but those interactions are not recorded and they don't work if you're at home or your colleague is on the other side of the globe.

If what I'm saying resonates with you, great! If not, then it's possible I just wasted the past 6 months of my life, because late last year I got together with a few smart people at Perforce and started building Swarm. Our mission was to make something nice for other devs and the way we planned to do that was by making something that we would want to use ourselves (is there any other way to make software?)

In case you haven't heard about it, Swarm is a lightweight tool for developers that does code review and a bunch of other stuff to keep tabs on what people in your organization are doing. As a developer, I think you will appreciate the work that went into Swarm's diff. It might be the best web-based diff available today.

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As I was saying, we built the tool with ourselves in mind. This is how we know it is useful. One of our goals was to use Swarm to help develop Swarm as soon as possible. Pretty early on we stood up an internal instance that everyone in the company could access. This was a great experience. People could see what we were building and their feedback spurred us on. Check out this email I got from Zig (lead dev on Git Fusion):

"Have I mentioned how much I love the Swarm review emails and changelist display with side-by-side diff? Not yet this year? Okay. I love 'em."

In case you're wondering, I didn't pay Zig Zichterman to say that (I just ransomed his children). Seriously though, not all of the comments were complimentary. Most of the feedback we got was along the lines of "how come I get a 500 error when I try to view this 1 million line file?", or "why can't I watch funny videos in Swarm?" These sorts of comments are actually the most valuable because they are based in reality (note: we added support for funny videos as you can see above).

Throughout the course of Swarm's internal development, the preview release and our beta program, we placed a premium on real user feedback. This is something we intend to continue. So I encourage you to download Swarm and let us know what you think. We'd be thrilled to give you an eval license and talk about what features we messed up or forgot to include. It's pretty great now and with your help it is only going to get better!