Everything else was fun

Nearly everything about last week’s ApacheCon was great fun: spending time with old friends, talking with new Apache folk, meeting a number of members in person for the first time, and especially having meals out with people. The technical content was great as well; people were excited about a number of projects, and we had a good array of other events that week.

Just one thing turned out to be “A hell of a time” in a bad way near the end of the conference – when one member, Noirin, of the Apache community was sexually assaulted that evening. Like a few other people, my first reaction was incredulity – not at all in the fact that I didn’t believe her (I do), but more to the point: I couldn’t believe someone in our community could do something like that.

In any case, within a few hours of her posting, there were dozens of comments and hundreds of tweets about it; by now there have been several online news articles about it as well as plenty of blogs – as well as tweets in a fairly wide variety of languages.

Among all the commentary are plenty of messages of support in various ways, which are great. There are also a fair number of uncomplimentary messages about the story or about Noirin, which I won’t bother to mention here. Several other Apache members are Disappointed, Angry, and Appalled, and those are just the ones who’ve had time to post publicly so far. But the set of messages that kind of puzzle me are the ones that call her honesty into question.

I suppose I’m biased in this case, since I happen to know Noirin and consider her a friend. Although I wasn’t at the pub that night, I did spend many hours last week helping to run ApacheCon alongside her, and also spent several hours the next night suggesting fixes for her her overloaded server once the deluge began after her blog was linked all over.

I suppose it’s true that the vast majority of the internet doesn’t know Noirin, and probably hasn’t even heard of her before. And I’m sure even fewer people have heard of me. That’s fine. But have people who are doubting her story actually seen who Noirin is? When you see what she’s done, did you think it through?

Along with her technical merits and many other conference speaking engagements, Noirin is both a Director of the ASF, is Apache’s Executive Vice President, and is the VP of the ApacheCon Conferences Committee. She was elected by a vote within the very selective communities that make up the organizational side of the ASF. Apache is about Community over Code, among other things, so successfully becoming a Director or EVP or VP is not just about technical merit, it’s also about social and community merit.

Let’s put it another way. I’d bet about half of the servers in the world run some sort of Apache software. Browsed the web lately? It’s a 50/50 chance the server was running httpd. Use any Java software? You’re almost certainly using a handful of Apache XML projects among others. Use Google or Yahoo! much? Then you’re certainly using Apache projects under the covers.

Many of the core people who’ve been writing Apache software over the last decade – and who are the Members who run the non-profit Foundation behind it – are the ones who elected Noirin as one of our Directors, and allowed her to become our EVP. And as VP, Conferences, she’s also responsible for organizing ApacheCon itself – a major public face of Apache to it’s users.

So you may not know Noirin, and you probably don’t know me. But if you’re in the software business, you’re most likely connected to one of the 300 or so Members of the ASF somehow. And we do know Noirin, and we trusted her enough to make her one of the 9 Directors on our Board.

So argue about the details or the naming or whatever else people on the internet will always argue about. But realize that if you’re seriously calling her integrity into question, then… well, all I can say is there’s a fair number of alpha geeks around the world who will simply pipe you to /dev/null.

Challenge: Blog your ApacheCon experience!

Seriously, folks, in ApacheCons of yore, we’d have a dozen posts a day just by old hands on Planet Apache alone, never mind all the great new voices who’ve joined recently. But this year? Where are the blogs?

OK, I’ve had a great time on the show floor, and especially at the Lightning Talks and Foodie dinner, but I’ll let a random selection of the great tweets speak for this year so far:

So? Anyone else still write something worth saying in more than 140 characters about ApacheCon?

Welcome to ApacheCon NA 2010!

ApacheCon started off with the annual State of the Feather plenary, from the President of the ASF, Jim Jagielski. Along with a brief overview of the health of the Foundation as a whole, we had some great news: IBM has come on board as a Gold Sponsor of the ASF!

Then the ZDNet journalist Dana Blankenhorn opened with a keynote about The Year Of Apache, talking about both how corporations play well (or not) with open source, and Apache’s place in the software and business world. It was funny hearing someone else talking about the value of having a globally unique name.

To see everything happening at ApacheCon this week, please read the Program Guide (PDF) online.

Tell your Atlanta area friends: our evening Meetups starting at 8pm tonight and Thursday night are free to all, and we’re looking forward to plenty of locals joining us. Learn about and talk with committers and users of:

  • Wednesday 8pm: Cassandra, QPid, Maven, Social Widgets and Portals
  • Thursday 8pm: Subversion, Tomcats, HTTP Server, DeltaCloud, and Felix & OSGi

Even though I didn’t get a cool black cap (I was too late coming over to the infra table to claim one), I’m still having a blast. Along with the people, one of the things I love about the community at ApacheCon is that it brings people from very different backgrounds together. There are plenty of competitors in the real world who collaborate on shared projects here at the ASF, and it’s great to be able to have good and friendly conversations here, where we might be competing against each other next week when we go home back to our $dayjobs.

Join the Apache History project!

OK, OK, so we don’t need a new PMC, but we do need some better history of the early years of the Foundation. To contribute your bit, we currently have a wiki page to try to capture key milestones, especially early on.

http://wiki.apache.org/general/History

So this is a great start, but given that we’re geeks, I figure there has got to be a better way to generate and store data about our history. I’d love to someday see a dataset that people can use to create mashups including our history with the global timeline. Anyone up for the challenge of:

  • Writing a board report parser to produce structured, dated data of board resolutions (isn’t there a lab for this)
  • Graphing the growth of committers, members, and PMCs over time (I can figure out members from meeting attendance data, and PMCs from the above board reports – but easiest way to graph committer growth?)
  • Showing lines of code over time, both within all code projects, as well as within infra/site/other repos
  • Graphing changes in the board over time, both of individuals and company affiliations (the last merely for curiosity’s sake)

Stay tuned for my own ApacheCon timeline, which I’ll post as soon as I have time to hack.

Why you should sponsor the ASF

I forgot how good Jim’s slides are as a high level overview of the ASF Sponsorship Program. (You can also read the 2008 version.) I think that often those of us who’ve been around for a while forget how important is for us – the ASF and all it’s communities – to be able to express to the outside world what we’re about, and how you might want to help. I’m really glad to see this lunchtime presentation – also being streamed live – so well attended!

While the subjects of sponsorships are doubly important given the economy these days, I think the metaphor of the ASF’s growing impact on the world of software is the more important message. As an all-volunteer and heavily developer organization, it’s sometimes hard to remember how important the other connections with the world: even if we’re sometimes uncomfortable as developers talking about funding and revenue, they are important things both to how our operations work, as well as how the world perceives us. As Jim so aptly points out, as a group of geeks, we often shy away from talking about the bigger picture, and just focus on our technology or our immediate community.

In other news, a big shout out to Jim Jag for mentioning the other ways you can show support for the ASF, including ASF Swag and other ASF licensed vendors, and the surprisingly successful car donation program. One of the ways to help out is to wear your Apache or ApacheCon tshirts and buttons at other events – and a portion of all profits from these vendors is sent as a donation to the ASF itself.

Are you blogging about ApacheCon yet?

If you’re not here, let us know how the live video streams were (the Linux Pro Magazine people definitely want feedback). And if you are here, blog about it! Yes, you!

Seriously: has anyone noticed a slowdown in blogging about ApacheCon? I remember a couple of years ago when Planet Apache would be covered with dozens of posts each day, both people’s overview of “what I did today” as well as specific posts about keynotes, interesting sessions, etc. But we seem to have slowed down a bit in the past year or two. What’s up with that? Are people just tweeting about it now, is it not as exciting as it used to be, or is it something else?

Also – if you attended one of the MeetUps or BarCampApache, please blog it up! Not only is it traditional to blog about your experiences at events like BarCamps, but I’d love to see more feedback about how the events went. We’d like to see a mix of both old hats (you know who you are) and new faces at these events – so we need to know how the events went, and what you thought of them.

In particular, I’d love to see specific thoughts about how we – Concom and Planners – can do a better job of supporting smaller, more focused events, either in conjunction with, or separately from ApacheCon as a whole. But the first step is getting better, more specific feedback. The next step after that of course is also finding more volunteers to help do the organizing… (Thanks Arje!)

Questions: Printing quick t-shirts?

I just had a couple of brainstorms for really witty t-shirts – where should I get them printed? I have my ASFSwag CafePress store, although they’re expensive and not good for bulk orders. When I have time – probably over ApacheCon – I’ll setup at least basic stores on Zazzle as well, to give people the option.

But for bulk orders – the occasional funny shirt or community message that I want to spread around – where I’m willing to front some money for shirts – where do people go? Whurley pointed me to the seemingly excellent Sanctuary Printshop, but being in Texas is not so good for quick delivery of a big box of 50 shirts. Anyplace local? (Where local is defined as inside of 495).

Oh, and I have a new blog: in case you don’t read me on the upgraded Planet Apache, you should go see Community Over Code as well for thoughts about community, and especially about ApacheCon Europe 2009.