When using a Continuous Integration build, before long you’ll break it. Breaking a build is not a bad thing, however it is typically the team’s top priority to have such a build fixed. Beyond the shame associated with having been named as the breaker, you then have the hassle of lots of people informing you you’ve broken it.
As a way of letting the development team know that:
- You know the build is broken
- You are fixing it
A simple broadcast mechanism can be highly useful.
Whilst I have seen high-tech solutions being recommended, the most effective example of a Build Fix Flag I’ve seen is simply using a giant paper flag. It was about 2 1/2 feet in height, and could be clearly seen above monitors. When a build failure was seen, a quick glance across the floor would indicate if someone was working on it.
What was nice was that before long, the same mechanism was used for notification of a number of development environments
Rules for the build fix flag
When using such a flag, we quickly decided on a set of rules as to how to use it:
- If you saw a CI build breakage, you looked for the flag
- If someone had the flag, you left them alone
- If you couldn’t see the flag, you tried to identify the person who made the last check in
- If you couldn’t find a likely culprit, you raised the flag and fixed it yourself