Sam Newman's site, a Consultant at ThoughtWorks

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:

  1. If you saw a CI build breakage, you looked for the flag
  2. If someone had the flag, you left them alone
  3. If you couldn’t see the flag, you tried to identify the person who made the last check in
  4. If you couldn’t find a likely culprit, you raised the flag and fixed it yourself

2 Responses to “Build Pattern: Build Fix Flag”

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