Tag Archives: Community

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:

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?

Carlos Sanchez on Maven, Eclipse, Kepler and Q4E

After a busy period over the end of September/October travelling and going to Eclipse Summit, I got to post an interview with Carlos Sanchez on devzuz.org. We talked about his history in Maven, and what he has been up to with Eclipse and Maven recently.


Social Networking Apps – Bringing Benefits or Waste of Time?

Social networking applications are hardly a new phenomenon but there is no denying their recent surge in popularity. I’d tried a few infrequently here and there – such as sixdegrees.com and schoolfriends.com.au – but beyond the initial "something to do" in a moment of procrastination, not much to them.

I was a reluctant sign up to LinkedIn about 3 years ago – not really seeing the point, not looking for work at the time, and not interested in any more spam in a day. But they did execute it very well – a minimum in nuisance mails, and very easy to grow your network. It was intriguing to realise how closely connected people were in the local area, and even more so as I started to traverse open source contacts. It definitely had some appeal to the techie.

Fast forward to today, and over the last 5 months or so I’ve found myself being quite willing to sign up to yet-another-social-network.

Facebook is still the most recent I’ve used, and obviously a lot has been said about it in that time. It initially has all those same benefits – really easy to grow your network, full of information about people, but no real nuisance value (or at least easily ignored). By bringing in the application platform that has seen it have constant growth, they have also brought it that techie appeal.

I’ll admit to sinking a bit of time into it playing around with various different applications – adding everything I got invited to and letting the profile grow out of control at times. But I’ve found it less compelling to log in regularly and see what my network is up to over time. Now don’t get me wrong – I love playing pretend Jedi as much as the next guy – but are these sites bringing some value past the original "cool" factor, or just becoming a massive time sink?

I thought I’d take a look at the sites I actively use and compare:

  • Facebook: Obviously the big one, and my original intent for this was to aggregate all the other social networks I was on through the use of the applications. It hasn’t really fulfilled that promise, but on the other hand I’ve quickly built the biggest network here – not only my immediate contacts but getting back in touch with friends from a number of years ago.

    Sheer size is the benefit here – it’s great to hear from people you don’t regularly, and to get to know more about people you do. I’ve had people ask if they can borrow a book they never knew I had before, and other such similar instances where it’s had some actual practical benefit. And in appropriate doses, it is fun to play around with the applications.

  • LinkedIn: I’ve never used LinkedIn to go searching for work, and have only once or twice received an invitation or request to pass an invitation on. I can see how it might be of benefit to such users – but it’s never really applied to me. I’ve found the greatest practical benefit being that I hear where my former colleagues or acquaintances are moving to when they change jobs.

    It’s a good place to keep up a separate professional network though, and all the original benefits are still there, though I’ve not seen a killer new feature in some time that has drawn me back into the site either.

  • Dopplr: I was a little skeptical about Dopplr at first – but as I’ve started travelling more it is becoming interesting to see who is going to the same places. I think this requires more non-conference travel and a bigger network to see the benefits, but it could be interesting – and I’ve seen at least one instance of a person catching up halfway across the planet through dopplr. Certainly worth keeping up with.

  • Twitter: I’ve written about twitter before – and this has turned out to be a real surprise to me. It is surely tedious in a lot of instances – but I’ve found it the most useful of all. One use is as a group SMS tool – when you need to meet up with people it’s easier to hit them all at once – and I’ve used it this way a few times. When I’m away from the computer, it has the good and the bad (it’s hard to switch off) of keeping you close to what your network is up to. When you work in a distributed office, it’s always nice to make the world a smaller place.

    I did think this would get old very quickly – and it goes through ups and downs – but I  find you can get through a lot of content with a low commitment, and you get a lot of information (whether of practical value or just for fun) that you’d otherwise miss.

Along the way, sites like flickr and del.icio.us – if not intrinsically built for social networking – have utilised some of these aspects and general social interaction to build something more compelling. As useful as del.icio.us is – I’ve never really used other peoples tags as much as it has been a bookmark repository. flickr has been great for sharing photos with friends, following comments and so on – though I now find myself wanting flickr’s photo and tagging capabilities along with facebook’s social tagging of photos.

This seems to be the sweet spot – increasing available metadata for your content, and making it relevant to your social network. There is a new use for this every day, and something that will be interesting to follow.

Would I need any more social networks or apps? There are obviously a massive number I’m not using already, and the above are just the regular ones, but there are still opportunities  to do new things out there, particularly to reapply the concepts of a social network to existing static research problems.

It seems many new ideas will turn to using the facebook platform to leverage the existing network. Even Dopplr could likely be delivered solely as a facebook application now – however there is also something refreshing about having something that is not constrained by it either.

But it seems the things that make a good site are clear:

  • easy to build a network and giving the opportunity to interact simply with others
  • control over the amount of noise you receive
  • provide regular, useful information – sending useful notifications at timely intervals
  • practical functionality beyond the coolness factory
  • combining metadata and content with collaboration

Now, time to go back to biting chumps.