Fun coding with Apache Whimsy

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve done non-open source blogging here! Most of my time is spent at Community Over Code or speaking at conferences, building a new consulting gig up (more on that soon), or continuing work on a variety of Apache work at the Foundation level.

But I have been coding!

Of course, I was a developer for years at $previous-employer (we don’t mention that name here), but unfortunately all the code I wrote was secret. And the only volunteer time I had for Apache was working on trademarks or board issues, not digging into code.

But not being employed gives you lots of extra free time, even after spending a lot of time with family! So I’ve started writing code, but now it’s on Github and under the Apache license!

The Apache Whimsy project builds a number of web tools that visualize internal data at the ASF, and automates a number of organizational tasks for Apache projects and members. Think managing new project graduations, changing PMC membership, and running board meetings efficiently. Now that Whimsy has attracted some development interest, there are a whole host of various tools that Apache committers rely on we’re improving and bringing into the current century!

In any case, while my coding work is on and off (there are lots of other things behind the scenes at the ASF), it’s finally something I can share on Github, along with my other website work there.

Congrats to these 8 new ASF Directors!

Along with many thanks to all past ASF directors and officers, let me congratulate these 8 people on being elected to the new board.

  • Doug Cutting
  • Justin Erenkrantz
  • Roy T. Fielding
  • Jim Jagielski
  • Geir Magnusson Jr
  • Brian McCallister
  • Brett Porter
  • Greg Stein

Oh, you noticed, huh? There are usually 9 names on the board. Hmmm.

Many thanks to every member at the ASF for this humbling experience! While it feels trite to type it, getting elected to the ASF board is a huge technical honor. There are few places this interesting to get elected by an independent body of your technical peers – and we have quite the strong and capable body of members.

Now to start scheduling all the board meetings, and get ready for my first official one next week.

What I believe: the ASF’s Mission Statement

What I believe

The mission statement of The Apache Software Foundation should be:

To provide high quality, open source software for the public good at no cost, and to showcase our meritocratic and community driven method of building sustainable software projects.

Note that this differs slightly from the original Certificate of Incorporation, both in some clarifying details, and the addition of the “showcase…” part. The original incorporation papers – over 10 years ago now – very broadly defined what the Foundation was going to do as:

… engage in any lawful act or activity …, including the creation and maintenance of “open source” software distributed by the Corporation to the public at no charge.


  • It’s clear that the core mission is to provide software for the public good. That’s both the key value we provide as a non-profit serving the public, is what we were founded to do, and what we’ve been very successful at.
  • I would argue we should add the “high quality” or a similar qualifier, because the greater public isn’t well served by projects that don’t work well or have major bugs. If we really want to serve the public good, our projects need to work for them mostly as-is to serve some useful function.

    Note that I don’t see any need to restrict the type or kinds of projects we engage in; I’d be happy to have an end-user browser come to the ASF, if the community aspect made sense.

  • I believe adding the “and to showcase…” section is important. Our success beyond the actual software products we’ve provided for the public is astounding, in terms of our leadership position in the areas of software licensing, community development, and public and media awareness of open source issues. If our purpose is a public charity, then we should capitalize on what we’re good at.
  • “Meritocratic and community driven” is another way of saying “The Apache Way”. Communities tend to build better software – in the long term – than individuals. And a healthy and diverse community is the best way for merit to surface and be recognized, typically within the ASF as being elected a committer. Note that diversity of community is important as a policy too, as our Incubator’s graduation policy shows.
  • “building sustainable software projects.” This is the rationale for the “showcase” addition. We’ve proven that not only can we build software, we also have a pretty good method for doing it – and keeping it going. The sustainability is a key part of our value to the public: knowing that our projects will likely continue to support and improve our software is a huge benefit over short-term projects or ones that die out if key individual committers move on.
  • Besides the fact that I believe the public benefits from learning about our methods, the “showcase” part also has an indirect benefit for the public as well. Teaching other software developers (and others) about how we work and succeed will draw more individuals, organizations, and projects towards us. This enables us to provide even more software for the public good, and helps to ensure that people wanting to donate time or code to the ASF will be aware of our policies, and it will be easier for them to join us if they choose to.

I’m sure it can use some minor wordsmithing; I can’t quite express the merit and community ideas in the clearest (yet concise) way yet. But I believe we’re selling ourselves far too short if we don’t acknowledge and embrace the fact that our impact on the world stretches well beyond simply the code that we release.

Donate to the ASF, get a free feather button!

ASF Contributor ButtonYou may have seen the round “Contributor” buttons with the ASF feather at ApacheCon this year. To get one, all you need to do is make an individual donation (cash/check/Paypal) to the ASF, and let me know about it, and I’ll give you a button for free.

While we hope that we’ve recognized everyone’s contributions in code, community, and other content, it’s important to remember that the ASF has actual costs in terms of bandwidth, hardware, infrastructure and the like. Separately, our Foundation non-profit status requires us to show broad public support in our donations. That makes it doubly important that there are enough individual, personal, donors to the Foundation – any any level from a dollar or a euro and up.

None of this is meant to pass over the tremendous contributions that our committers and all of our community has given to the ASF over the years. It’s just a realization of the larger picture, and a reminder that there are more ways to contribute than just patches and helpful emails.

Note: If your organization or employer is interested in sponsoring the ASF at a larger level, with the attendant recognition, we’re happy to see that too. Jim has a great overview about Sponsoring the ASF at the Corporate and Individual Level that’s worth a look even if you’re not considering a contribution.

/shane: Sam Ruby turns down MS; declared non-person

In a stunning move of corporate hubris, a MS spokesperson has declared Sam Ruby is “not a real person“. Could this be retribution for Mr. Ruby’s refusal of their recent job offer, even though “it was generous financially“?

Or are consipracy theorists correct – Mr. Ruby is a fictional blogger who’s laconic and far-reaching blog links are merely generated by advanced text mining algorithms run on a discarded Deep Blue box in a secret skunkworks project?

Enquiring (human) minds want to know!

Congrats to Hadoop on NYT coverage – except…

It astounds me that there’s a lengthy NYT article on Hadoop – clearly with plenty of research, given the different companies and people involved – about an Apache project that never once mentions the ASF or includes the word “Apache” in it.

I sure wish the NYT technology writers would learn how to appropriately refer to ASF projects, just like any other company’s trademarked names, and call it “Apache Hadoop” at least once.

Sigh. Guess I’ll need to work with the PRC (and find time around ApacheCon) to finish writing and finalizing the ASF’s trademark attribution guidelines sooner rather than later.

Hey – congrats to Hadoop on scoring prime coverage. Did anyone check the logs to see if you got a lot of new downloads or server hits today? Oh, wait – the article doesn’t link to the project at all. Ooops!