Category Archives: Community

Imported from Pebble

Slides from OSDC 2012: Navigating the Incubator at the Apache Software Foundation

Last week I was at OSDC in Sydney. It was my first time there, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting a new segment of the Australian tech. crowd.

I gave a talk on the Apache Software Foundation, and particularly how the Incubator functions (based on a similar talk from ApacheCon NA 2011). The slides are up on Slideshare now:

Official Apache Blogs Launched

If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you may have been following Planet Apache previously – the aggregator for the individual blogs of committers at the Apache Software Foundation. Recently, the infrastructure team have also set up an official blogs site to set up blogs for official news from the foundation, infrastructure, and for individual projects to use as desired.

This is a deliberately separate feed, so that you can subscribe to foundation news without getting it mixed in with committer’s personal opinions, photography and basically whatever they feel like posting. So if you were previously subscribed to the committers feed at Planet Apache, you’ll need to subscribe to the official blogs separately.

It will be interesting to see how many projects take this up, but already with the infrastructure and foundation blogs there it is worth subscribing to.

Philippine Open Source Summit

Back in late June, I was able to attend the Philippine Open Source Summit in Cebu. It was another good trip, both for the conference and the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues.

The conference itself was very well attended, so it is great to see that level of interest in open source in the Philippines, and to meet a number of people involved in communities there. I hope that events like this are an encouragement to grow both individual and commercial involvement in open source in the region.

There were a number of technology-specific sessions as well, and I enjoyed catching Webtide’s Greg Wilkins giving an overview of Jetty and Deng Ching giving an overview Maven, Archiva and Continuum. Also presenting from Exist were Ludwig (Pentaho) and Erle (Eclipse plugin development), and though I was unfortunately only able to catch the last portions of each talk I’m reliably informed they went well.

I spoke there about Open Source Communities, and chose to discuss the model used at the Apache Software Foundation, and to share a few of my opinions on why it works so well, when it does. It was actually billed as a panel, sharing a time slot with two other speakers. Rather than the usual back and forth discussion, it was set up as a series of 15 minute speaking slots followed by a joint Q & A. My talk went well despite the usual hiccups with video, microphones and a partially failed attempt to introduce myself in Tagalog.

There were a number of good questions asked in our segment. The most interesting, and hardest, was the question of whether there was a challenge for Filipinos to get involved in open source projects coming from a predominantly non-confrontational culture. This can be a real difficulty, particularly as many projects are based around decision-making structures that involve public disagreement. However, my belief is that in a meritocratic open source community, respect built on accumulated merit should balance this out – and certainly in my experience, Pinoy culture emphasises respect and a non-egocentric demeanour, which makes a very valuable addition to the dynamics of an open source community.

Of course, in reality, communities are never perfect, and it comes down to individual personalities. Speaking more generally, I’d always encourage anyone to participate when they feel they have something useful to offer. If they are unable, or uncomfortable, to do that in a particular project, they have the choice to try and change it from within, or invest energy elsewhere. It’s the responsibility of the members of a project themselves to ensure they do not have any invisible barriers to participation for contributors who could make very valuable technical contributions – and it is their loss otherwise. After all, the "open" in open source is about more than just the code!

Anyway, no trip to Cebu is complete without discussing the food. We ate at a couple of old favourites there, but another stand out was a small group of us getting all-you-can-eat Japanese. I’m still recovering 3 weeks later! Good times.

 

What I Value at the ASF

I’ve been given a couple of reasons to think about what it is that I value about being a contributor to the Apache Software Foundation this year. Someone raised the question of "the Apache way" again today, and so I thought it was worth repeating my own opinions.

I value that projects are not islands. I also value that multiple projects are allowed in the same space allowing each to innovate, and for collaboration to occur on more natural rather than imposed terms. I value that there are a not a great number of rules and policies, but that there are enough to ensure the fundamental principles of the Foundation are unchanging.

I value that the ASF focuses on enabling, whether that be by bringing people together from across the world, by enabling others to build solutions on top of ASF projects through the Apache License, or by enabling change, such as the work in the JCP.

I value most the opportunity to work with, and meet in person, great people.

I’m a "true believer" in the concept of community before code. I don’t believe that means discussing instead of doing – but rather doing something openly, and being inclusive of developers, contributors, and users alike to seek the best solutions. I particularly dislike artificial barriers to openness. I believe open communities not only mature faster, but are generally more fun to be around.

Of course, not everyone has the same opinion, and it doesn’t always work out that way – but as an individual, it is how I try to guide my participation.

Being reminded of the benefits of a community in open source

To anyone that has worked in a healthy open source community, this will seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the real benefits when you involve a community of diverse developers in what you’re doing.

Earlier in the week, Joakim brought up the discussion topic on the Archiva Development List about converting from Plexus to Spring. The original plan was comprehensive, but there were some worries about a "big bang" approach since most of our Plexus components were autowired. I wasn’t initially sure we even wanted to convert everything either.

So I spared a few hours to try an experiment, and we had a functional but ugly way to use both Plexus components from Spring, and vice-versa. I figured that would make do for a short term solution.

Then Nicolas ran with it and has come up with a much more transparent way to implement it. Once a few issues are ironed out, we have a solution that is release-quality at any time as we gradually make the migration, will require much less work hacking the test rigs, and we have Joakim’s comprehensive list (which he’s already started doing on trunk).

In a different environment, we could have very easily ended up with a massive refactoring that halted all the current development, or I could have had a half implemented change that rotted away locally. But together in less than a week (part time) :) the 3 of us and the others chiming in on the list, have a pretty complete solution and a plan of attack. We were able to maximise the available time of the contributors, and their particular interests (whereas I’d have run out of both much earlier otherwise).

It’s not revolutionary, or surprising – but it is cool – and if you can harness this kind of small innovation on a regular basis it makes a big difference.

Archiva is probably the most fun project I’m involved in right now because of the good people, the enthusiasm, and influx of new users and contributors since the recent releases. One of the main reasons we were looking at Spring was to lower the barrier to contributions – so if you’re using Archiva and have something you’d like to see done or fixed, why not come and join the party?