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Branch by Abstraction

Feature toggles are great for new features or features that are either enabled or disabled. Branch by Abstraction offers the same benefits as feature toggles but the seam to introduce the change is the abstraction itself. Unlike Feature Toggles, the use of Branch by Abstraction allows a gradual transition to new functionality.

Start by duplicating the type or implementing a new version of the abstraction. The work in progress changes can be made safely while the system is using the original implementations. In order to demonstrate the new functionality, rely on automated tests or wire up the new version. Once fully integrated and tested, simply remove the old implementation. The addition or removal of implementations acts as the toggle in this case.

To extend the SimpleReceiptWriter a new version is made. This work in progress implementation has no limit on the time to complete. The new implementation will only take effect once configured.

Configuration takes the form of composition root or dependency injection container changes. Given your code does not know the concrete implementation (apart from tests) you should be fine to make these switches.

If no abstraction exists you can introduce one if valid. If no valid abstraction exists you can simply fallback to feature toggles.

Branch by Abstraction plays nicely with Walking Skeletons. Your first implementation will most likely be a simple first pass attempt. Overtime these can be replaced with more fleshed out versions.

Anytime you feel the need to create a branch in source, Branch by Abstraction can be a valid alternate in most cases. UI changes are better suited as Feature Toggles due to the nature of the code.


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