Great Developers Use Source Control

I was rewatching Ike Ellis (b|t) talk on the habits of Great SQL Developers from SQL in the City 2018, and his first item was “Use Source Control“. I happen to agree with Ike, which is why I’m writing this, and I really hope you do as well. Certainly at Redgate we’ve built tools that help you get your T-SQL code into a VCS, but whether you want to work manually, use someone else’s tool, use our SQL Source Control or ReadyRoll, I’d ask that you consider getting all your code into some sort of VCS (Version Control System).

Ike notes that if viewers did this one thing, he’d be thrilled. I agree. Please, learn to use version control. If you wonder why, listen to Ike’s talk. He relates a story that notes that using source control doesn’t make you a better developer, but that better developers do use a VCS. This is a habit that helps build better habits and is a step on the journey to you becoming a great developer.

Does it help? Well, I think it does in some sense. Developers that use a VCS often build a habit of checking in changes before they try something that might be problematic. They also in a more integrated fashion with their work, and easily rollback problematic code without wasting time (or focus) trying to undo something. They get a previous version back and move forward.

I do think that this one thing changes the way you view code, and it provides you with a safety net. This is one of those skills that I’d really recommend you learning, as it will pay back it’s value tremendously over time as you learn to depend on the VCS and stop doing things like keeping multiple objects or files around, and trying to sort out what code is where. As you work with others, or even with your past self, you’ll learn to include better comments that help you change focus quickly and understand the particular reason behind a version of code. This will help you learn to be a better developer.

There are numerous ways to get your T-SQL code into a VCS. There are tools, but there are plenty of PoSh or other scripting methods. In fact, every DBA should get in the habit of scripting out instance level objects (which most tools don’t handle). Store them away, and then repeat as you need to make changes. You might be surprised how often you’ll be glad you have the previous version of a job, a schedule, a linked server, or more. I learned to keep all my scripts, from replication to running a quick report for a business user, in a VCS. I’ve never regretted this choice.

Steve Jones

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