Operational Version Control

Abstract of a talk I just gave:

It would be useful to have version control like git but for data structures, particularly the data structures we call spreadsheets, databases, and ASTs. Operational Version Control observes changes to typed data structures by recording high-level operations performed in a GUI or API. These operations can change both values and types, with type changes inducing corresponding value changes (so-called schema migration). Version control capabilities such as differencing, merging, and reverting are constructed out of transformations on operation histories. This theory requires as input a set of rules formalizing the intuitive sense that two operations “do the same thing” in different states. Our prototype implementation presents the user a simplified conceptual model: branches with linear append-only histories, forking by copying branches, and cherry-picking as the fundamental merge operation.

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