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The basic upshot of all this is that vgo's attempt to avoid NP-completeness in the dependency resolution algorithm is solving a problem that doesn't matter in practice, and is simultaneously creating downsides that do matter in practice.

This is consistent with what I've seen with systems like Cargo. If I had to make a list of top 10 issues I run into with Cargo, theoretical scalability of the core dependency resolution algorithm wouldn't make the cut.




On the other hand, git became successful by being fast and by not solving certain of the hard theoretical problems that specialists were obsessed with solving. It's hard to know before hand what the healthy compromise might be.


git may have become successful, but that doesn't mean it's right. I'd argue that most developers still don't really understand git. I know seasoned, senior developers who struggle when git gets into an unfamiliar state, or who are completely mystified as to how it actually works. And don't forget that git spent years improving its initially horrific UI to make it easier and more palatable to people who aren't kernel developers.

If you compare git to rival tools such as Mercurial and Fossil or even Darcs, it's pretty evident that git didn't really win on technical merit, user friendliness or indeed hardly any other metric. It was fast, and it had the dubious advantage of being better than a lot of crappy alternatives at the time, and of being the product of a famous developer. But if technical merit was how we chose software, we might all be using Mercurial today. It's quite possible we'd be better off, too.

git's punting of "certain of the hard theoretical problems" lead to major shortcomings in its design. For example, git does not track branching histories. Once you merge your changes back into a branch and delete the origin branch, the path that your commits took are lost. Another example: Since git's data model works entirely on repository snapshots (there are no "patches" or logical operations, only snapshots), it doesn't know about file renames. Some commands, like log and diff, do understand how to detect renames (but not out of the box!), but it's fundamentally a fuzzy-matching operation that can only work perfectly if you separate your rename commits from modification commits, which is rarely feasible.

Don't get me wrong, git has overall been a force for good, but I think it's a pretty terrible example in this particular case. In fact, I'm not sure I can think of many cases where the "worse is better" philosophy was ultimately a good idea. In every instance that comes to mind (MySQL, MongoDB, PHP), the fast-and-loose attitude ultimately came back to hurt everyone, and years were spent paying for those mistakes, plugging one hole at a time.

The original decision by the Go team to build package management into the language ("go get") was made without really understanding the problem, and this decision has been haunting us pretty much since day one, with developers having to chase unofficial package management tools of the week in order to get their work done. I really want it to be done right, even if takes a bit longer. It's a problem worth solving well.


Git isn’t ideal, but it is right. It’s right because it’s solving source code control for a huge percentage of software projects. Something better could be even more right, and adoption would be the measure.

> git may have become successful, but that doesn't mean it's right.


Gits adoption was driven by github, which won by making public repos free & private repos cost.

If bitbucket had that business model instead of the inverse we’d all think of git as that weird bad hg that Linus forces the Linux devs to use.

Git is a classic example of other factors than the software driving use.


Great then you should be able to do even better, right?

Seriously give it a try


First we need to power up to Linus skill level, then we can apply the same community influence spells.

Git would be dead on the water if it wasn't for being written by Linus and a requirement to interact with Linux development.


> Git isn’t ideal, but it is right. It’s right because it’s solving source code control for a huge percentage of software projects.

Your statement is only true to the degree that it's a tautology: Git's popularity demonstrates that it's right and the definition of "right" is "popular".

But if you want to use "right" to mean anything else, maybe to say something about it's technical merits independent of sociological factors like the network effect, first-mover advantage, high-profile early adopter, etc. then your sentence doesn't add any information.

Personally, I think Git's user experience is an unremitting shitshow, the kind of disaster that makes one reconsider Hanlon's Razor.

The technical capabilities buried under that UX are pretty nice, though you could probably discard 1/3 of them without impacting any noticeable fraction of users.

The performance is excellent and it's very easy for developers to underrate how much that effects user satisfaction.

And it had the good fortune to win on almost all of the sociological factors that largely determine product success.


I get the general thrust, but this argument can be used for any incumbent. `git` is popular because _github_ works. Had github's founders stumbled upon Mercurial first, we would all be in a moderately better place. But yes, at the end of the day, Git Is Good Enough (TM).


You compare vgo to git but I think your comparison is backward, in regard of not solving “hard theoretical problems” git is more like current package manager. They don't care about the hypothetical NP-hardness of the problem. Vgo is an attempt to work-around this hard theoretical problem that doesn't even matter in practice.


This rings as a wrong interpretation of history.

When git became successful, there were scant few other options with a comparable feature-set regardless of speed.

Its distributed nature, ability to easily merge and rebase sets of changes, etc, were all wonderful solutions to real problems.

I'm unconvinced that its success was because it solved fewer problems than the state of the art, but rather that it solved more. This is a stark contrast to vgo which is intentionally solving fewer problems than other modern dependency management tools.

In addition, git must be performant enough to handle a git repo (namely the linux kernel, its original usecase). Beyond that, I think there's no evidence it intentionally cut features or complexity to be faster.

In the case of vgo, it cuts additional user-facing features in order to be faster, but there's 0 evidence that the speed matters, that there are any go projects in the world that cannot be solved quickly enough with an approximation of a sat solver.


My company was using Darcs at the time when git (mid-2008) was gaining popularity. Github wasn't around yet. At the time, git felt like a big step backwards technologically. It had a terrible UI, and the whole thing felt like something put together with tape and paperclips. Meanwhile, Darcs was (and still is) pure magic.

At the time, the choice of git wasn't that obvious. There were several popular, quite attractive contenders, including Mercurial, Monotone, Bazaar and GNU arch (and its forks), and it wasn't obvious who would win. But then Github arrived and changed everything, and it felt like everyone was suddenly caught up in a historic momentum whether they liked it or not.

We've had lots of those historic moments, some of them more slow-moving than others. Mac and NeXT being outmaneouvered by Windows; Lisp, Dylan and Smalltalk being relegated to the dustbin through the rise of more popular, worse languages; and so on. Not all of these developments are terrible (I love that Nginx prevailed over Apache and that Rails took over from Java app servers), but it's ridiculous how often the paperclip solutions win over the more thoughtful ones.


Mercurial was pretty close to contemporaneus. And when git was first launched it was extremely bare bones and even more incredibly hard to use than it is now. Darcs, Monotone, and Arch were slower and I think predated git. Darcs in particular blew the doors off of git as far as ease of use given the problem domain.

Git won almost entirely due to two factors.

1. The linux kernel used it so that brought some prestige.

2. Github made git hosting easy and free for a lot of people and had the cultural cachet to drive adoption.

Git has a very solid underpinning. But it's user interface and lack of guard rails has always made it painful. People endure the pain because if they don't they won't be able to use the tool that their industry has chosen. But some of us wish a different choice had been made in the dvcs arena.


It's also important to remember just how far Git was ahead of most competitors in performance. I was using monotone quite a bit around this time, and while its UI was frankly not much better than git's, it at least worked acceptably quickly. Darcs was mostly defined in the public eye by the exponential merge issue. Hg was fine, for some definition of fine, but it was enough slower than git to be annoying -- maybe not deal-breaking, but noticeable on pretty much any task.

I remember installing cogito to act as a front-end for git because very early on it seemed obvious that (a) git was going to win, and (b) it was going to win in spite of its UI, which was saying something.


Darcs was easy to use? Are you referring to the same darcs whose manual tried to explain concepts by making analogies to the simpler and better-understood theory of quantum mechanics?


> This is a stark contrast to vgo which is intentionally solving fewer problems than other modern dependency management tools.

The thing is, modern dependency management tools for development suck. They are complex and slow and terribly unreliable.

A fresh, unconventional approach is needed, and vgo may be it.


Back when DCVS was just becoming a thing, I started with darcs and rather liked its model. I soon discovered that darcs had a nasty problem of quietly accepting large binary files that it could not manage -- you only discovered that the file was too large when you needed a revert or something similar. This led me to give up on darcs, and I switched to git. I could have gone to mercurial, but it appeared too sane and not as exotic.


(from memory) there was arch (larch,arx,) and monotone and others.

They were glacially slow and difficult to use. But they had very roughly the feature set; in particular the distributed nature.


Darcs was one of the well-known examples that could be brandished


That's the same hand. Unless I'm misunderstanding, pcwalton said that solving the hard theoretical problem doesn't even rate on his list.


>On the other hand, git became successful by being fast

In a totally different domain with involves working diffs for and managing gigabytes of source code....


I'm curious to hear what problems you've had with cargo. I've found it to be incredibly reliable and easy to use compared to most other similar tools in other languages like java, python, c++ (if its fair to pick on c++ here...)


My pet peeve with cargo is lack of binary dependencies.

Sure you can get around it with having a common workspace where all build artifacts are dumped, but still have to go for a coffee while dependencies like gtkrs-pango get compiled.




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