[darcs-users] marketing, darcs-2 bugs and a tiny bit about darcs 3

Eric Kow kowey at darcs.net
Mon Mar 16 23:34:46 UTC 2009

Hi Max,

I'm very pleased that you're thinking about this stuff, and I'm
wondering if you would be interested in working with Guillaume in
forming some sort of darcs communications and marketing team.

In case I've asked you this before, I'm not trying to twist your
arm; I just thought maybe now you would be in a better position to
do this :-D

For what it's worth, one idea I've been kicking around is to publish a
"tip of the month" on http://blog.darcs.net, the idea being that we need
to increase the general level of darcs expertise in the world and
working awareness of what makes darcs especially useful.  This is kind
of thing we need somebody to declare themselves responsible for, i.e.

Anyway, it seems like the Marketing Machine needs to have two jobs:

(A) Getting the word out: what makes darcs exciting to us, why we feel
    it's genuinely different, what kind of seamlessness we're after.
    When it works, it works extraordinarily well.

(B) Proactive honesty.  Simple honesty is not enough.  What we need
    is the kind of honesty, where we actively anticipating all the
    things we are not telling people and make damned sure we tell
    them these things up front.  People have to know exactly what
    they're getting into.  The newbie confusion thread is an example
    where I failed in this front.  Too much enthusiasm, not enough

Quoting Karl Fogel's /Producing Open Source Software/:

  As for users, one of the worst things a project can do is attract
  users before the software is ready for them. A reputation for
  instability or bugginess is very hard to shake, once acquired.
  Conservativism pays off in the long run; it's always better for the
  software to be more stable than the user expected than less, and
  pleasant surprises produce the best kind of word-of-mouth.

What I would like a kind of Marketing Machine that can teach people why
we are excited about darcs and why we think we should use it, while also
being very careful to point out the kinds of situations where darcs is
just not the right tool for the job (... yet).  Of course, the flip side
to this is that we also need to do a better job getting people to
recognise "actually, my projects are just the right size for darcs,
let's go!".  In any case, perhaps it would be useful to have a Marketing
Machine that can get people rooting for darcs, even if they don't use it

On Mon, Mar 16, 2009 at 16:16:54 -0400, Max Battcher wrote:
> At the moment, I've yet to see anyone post a bad example of a darcs-2  
> conflict fight. The conflict issues may not yet be finally and truly  
> solved, but it is important to repeat that progress has been made (and  
> is continuing to happen). A lot of people are still being told to avoid  
> darcs because of the conflicts situation and the community does need to  
> trumpet the importance of darcs-2 format repositories.  At least darcs-2  
> is now the default format.

Darcs 2 does indeed help people to avoid miserable conflict situations.
For example, in issue http://bugs.darcs.net/issue969, the GHC team tried
to merge some patches that deleted a directory with patches that
modified a directory.  In our tests, we converted the GHC repository to
darcs 2 and tried the same merge, and this time it went very smoothly.

That said, we know of the following theory-related problems in the
darcs-2 format:
-  http://bugs.darcs.net/issue1014

Plus the following crashers:
- http://bugs.darcs.net/issue1211

Two bugs we haven't figured out how to reproduce yet:
- http://bugs.darcs.net/issue701 (solved but then re-opened)
- http://bugs.darcs.net/issue847

And at least one unknown (and unknown is not a happy state to be in):
- http://bugs.darcs.net/issue1363

The good news is that at least some of the scarier looking issues
have been long fixed, notably
- http://bugs.darcs.net/issue1043

I still believe in in the darcs 2 format enough to use it for our own
needs (though yes, as Petr says, we have had to recover some branches
the hard way when we choked on some dog food -- I'm thinking of
issue1211; Petr may be thinking of others), and we do believe that all
*new* repositories should be created in the darcs 2 format, and that
anybody who is experiencing some sort of conflict misery should also
upgrade.  The patch-tag.com folks think that they should just push
everybody to use darcs-2 from a user experience/simplicity perspective,
which I think I can be convinced by.

The point is that yes, people *should* use the darcs 2 format and people
should understand that the darcs 2 format does resolve a whole lot of
conflict pain.

But darcs-2 is not perfect.  Bad things can happen, rarely, perhaps; but
the possibility is still there.  The darcs-2 format is still a net
improvement over the darcs-1 format in my opinion, but over the long run
we will need to work on darcs-3.  The good news is that Ian has gotten a
head start with his work on camp; I hear proving things with Coq is

> Maybe darcs should team up with Mercurial for an soft spoken, big stick  
> anti-git marketing campaign... Perhaps "Use a DVCS that cares for your  
> sanity."

I'm not sure about going anti-git, but I like the idea of soft spoken.

Eric Kow <http://www.nltg.brighton.ac.uk/home/Eric.Kow>
PGP Key ID: 08AC04F9
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