Year in Review

First off, apologies to various people I haven’t gotten back to recently, in particular M.G., M.M., and various ASF folks. I actually took vacation around the holidays, and spent several days not reading email at all (gasp!). First time in a long time, and then of course coming back to work is always hectic. Um, and of course setting up that that 360 with MW2 after the holiday hasn’t helped my free time any either. I hope to be more present this week.

  • Check out the new Community Development project at Apache – great stuff, and don’t worry, the Mentoring Programme will accept Americans as well as English speakers.
  • A shout out to the staff at Peet’s in Lexington, my favorite coffee shop.
  • A shout out to the cashier and bagger at Whole Foods in Medford, who were wicked nice last Friday afternoon.
  • Question: did I really miss anything important on Twitter over the past 3 weeks?
  • What am I forgetting to put into my Monoprice order? I’m stocking up on cheap HDMI cables and wall ports for when we upgrade to a wall-mounted medium size flatscreen tv.
  • Interesting read of a website: Letters of Note (via Writing Or Typing) Copies of just plain interesting letters from a variety of historical situations.
  • Big thank-you to D.R. and others for getting Facebook to sponsor Apache!
  • What Facebook-reading app do you use? I have just enough friends inside Facebook that I want to follow the witty conversations, but I’m really tired of the website. There must be better clients to watch the stream of interestingness go by.

What? You thought this was a year in review for last year? Sorry – just a cheap way to get all the little bits stuck in my head of this year so far cleared out so I can start the new year fresh.

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.

Strawman: attach more kudos to PMCs

Do we publicize the role of PMCs and PMC Chairs enough outside of the ASF?

We’re holding the annual member’s meeting of The Apache Software Foundation this week. One of the regular activities we do at member’s meetings is vote on electing any individuals who have been nominated for membership in the intervening months. Existing members nominate individuals who they believe have shown merit within the ASF, and then the body of members votes +1/-1 on admitting them.

ASF Members actually have very little direct power, other than the ability to vote for board members and nominate new members. Members are also allowed to read most of our private email lists, virtually all of which are organizational (i.e., not technical) in nature. In terms of the actual workings of our projects, it’s the PMCs that do it. Should it be important to us to better showcase the role of PMCs in the ASF, and show what an honor and kudos are deserving to PMC members, and especially PMC chairs?

I bring up this strawman idea for a couple of reasons – better showcasing our PMCs, and better managing growth.

PMCs do the work

As a leader in the open source arena, the ASF’s organizational models have been copied many times. One of the key structures we use is the PMC. PMCs are the actual groups that run our projects. They are both the formal body that approves software releases on behalf of the ASF itself, as well as the community/consensus model that is running the project for the long term. PMC members are elected, typically from within their committer communities, or are setup when a new project comes out of the incubator and becomes a TLP.

Given that PMC members are really performing the mission of the ASF – providing software for the public good – do we really showcase their role, and especially the role and honors that individuals serving there deserve? This is not at all to detract from all the good work that committers do, either through code donations, documentation, or helping on mailing lists. But PMC members have shown the merit and community spirit over a period of time to take it to the next level, and deserve broader public recognition for that.

The ASF is big

In thinking about the growth of the ASF – in this case, in terms of new members – I was also wondering about what makes a good member. There is a wide variety of opinion on this topic, and it’s hard to see where the “center of the consensus” lies. Some factors have broad agreement: individuals who have shown consistent merit over a period of time, and who can work well with communities, both key things for our success. But I wonder if the fairly flat structure of the ASF (members elect board, PMCs run themselves with oversight) is sometimes pushing us to nominate new members partly to honor their contributions – the kudos or honor associated with membership can be notable – and not always because they’ll be a strong resource in working on ASF-wide issues.

I think virtually all members agree on the first kind of criteria: Has an individual shown merit? But I’m pondering another criteria these days, as we attempt to scale: Would their membership be beneficial to the ASF? While I appreciate the work various committers (and non-committers) do, and definitely believe we need to honor that effort they’ve donated to the ASF, I wonder if there are other ways we can honor that, without the next and only step to elect them as a member. Hence the thought: do we showcase PMCs and their members enough, to ensure the world knows what they do?

Perhaps I’m being overly cautious. There is a wide variety of opinion; I think I fall somewhere between the middle and the grumpy old man view of electing new members, although this is a difficult topic to judge (votes on nominations are private). There are certainly some members who appear to rubber stamp virtually all nominations, or some, very respected members, who believe that anyone who’s contributed good work for long enough deserves to be elected in, period. But there are definitely growing pains associated with growth, both in terms of our internal size,

How I vote

  • Solid and reasoned support from multiple existing members.
  • Commitment over a significant period of time (year+, more is nice).
  • Productive participation, and playing nicely with others.
  • Demonstratively cares about the big picture (>1 project, more is really nice).

So, there’s my strawman idea: showcase PMCs more, to even out the perceived honors of doing the work of the ASF. Does anyone have a match? I know that @gstein is planning to bring one to the meeting…

Stuff I Need

  1. One Bridgestone Blizzak Revo 1 tire in size 185/65 R15. Just one, in good shape, to replace my lamented one.
  2. A current email address for Phelps Allis, a good friend from very long ago (married Sara Wolf, apparently).
  3. Salt & pepper packets, or mini shakers for my office. I need them about 5 times a year, but when I do, it’s really annoying to not have any.
  4. A fix for the WordPress 2.6.x plugin error Fatal error: amzlookup() [function.require]: Failed opening required ‘AmazonShowcase_Assets/IsterXmlSimpleXMLImpl.php’ (include_path=’.:/usr/lib/php’) in ~/blah/blog/wp-content/plugins/amazon-showcase-wordpress-widget/amazonshowcase.php on line 314 which affects another plugin (I suspect a 2.6.x issue with older plugins)
  5. Better time management skills, so I’m efficient at carving out chunks of time to get serious coding/writing tasks done, instead of fire fighting.
  6. Graphics-fu, to improve my ASF Swag tshirt shop.
  7. That magical Windows-based twitter/WordPress/blog/presence awareness/IM client that ties it all together. Twhirl is pretty and Trillan is useful, but…
  8. A serious yet compact espresso machine that actually fits under our counters.
  9. A way in Lotus Domino to display views with response hierarchies, but with only response and response to response documents: here, I need a categorized column that shows mid-level responses, and then a hierarchy of response-to-responses.
  10. A spare power plug (just the 3 wire cord from the wall to the power adapter) for a MacBook Pro.
  11. Maps, maps, maps. Preferably historical Boston. I already have Mapping Boston.
  12. A new roof. Sigh. Trying out 2Hat Design Build now.
  13. ApacheCon US 2008 attendees to fill out the survey I sent with thoughtful data, so we can better plan future conferences.
  14. A magic password manager that I trust has serious encryption, and is easy and flexible to use.
  15. Better and easier IMAP mail hosting. I’m not sure I want to go all GMail, but I’m sure getting sick of 1and1′s 20K message limit.
  16. A good pool in/near Arlington I can join. Special bonus points for salt water (instead of chlorine treated). My current exercise is too far away.
  17. To blog more. And another Vesper. Damn, they’re good. Please note, I’ve always loved gin.

In no particular order.

Wear the feather!

If you appreciate geek humor, and want to support the ASF, checkout ASF Swag, my new shop. It includes just a small selection (so far) of witty httpd error codes to amuse and astound your fellow geeks, all featuring the feather made famous by The Apache Software Foundation’s flagship project, httpd.

If you know what response code 100 is, you should keep reading (and drinking). If not, you can go ask #apache – it’s all already in the shop.

Use of the feather logo is licensed by the Public Relations Committee of the ASF. In exchange, a portion of all proceeds from feathered sales are donated to the ASF. There are just a handful of vendors who may sell products with the feather logo.

Special! 100% of all profits from sales between now and the end of ApacheCon US 2008 will be donated to the ASF. Also, if enough committers really like these shirts, I could arrange a bulk order (maybe with a “Committer” logo version, at cost!) for delivery at ApacheCon. Let me know!

ApacheCon US 2008 Keynote Speakers Announced

I’m very pleased to announce our keynote speakers for the upcoming ApacheCon US 2008, held in just over 3 short weeks in New Orleans! In date order, we’ll have:

  • Sam Ramji, a Senior Director at Microsoft. I’m really looking forward to meeting him, and hearing his ideas on how the big corporate world can work with open source communities.
  • David Recordon, working for Six Apart, and working with the Open Web Foundation. He’ll be talking about: Learning from Apache to create Open Specifications.
  • Shahani Markus Weerawarana, Ph.D., a former CTO in Sri Lanka. She’ll be flying in to talking about: Standing on the shoulders of giants.

I’m thrilled to have such an interesting lineup of speakers. I think they can all talk to something I’ve been thinking about lately: what are the impacts of the ASF on the larger world? There is plenty of data about the obvious ones: Apache project’s code runs in about half the world’s webservers, and various other projects run in countless servers, clients, and runtimes. Look under the hood of nearly any Java, and you’ll find Apache Xerces and Xalan.

The more interesting impacts are broader. How does the impact of how the ASF runs it’s projects affect others? How have our successes, either in the results or the continuing communities, gone on to influence others? We’ll have a microcosm right here in just our keynote speakers, never mind the broader attendees of ApacheCon.

I’m looking forward to it!

ApacheCon Early Bird expires; Keynotes!; blogging

Reminder: the early bird prices for ApacheCon US 2008 – for attendees and committers alike – expire at midnight tonight, eastern time. Note that we’ve also reduced (but not eliminated) the actual bump in price for committers to help people get to New Orleans this year.

In any case, you’ll want to make travel plans as soon as practical, especially if you’d like to stay in the conference hotel: the room block rate expires on October 13th. There are often people who are looking to room share as well; ask around if you’re interested in that option.

I’m very happy to announce that we now have 3 confirmed keynote speakers! It looks like a great lineup, and I’m excited to meet them all myself. Just as a teaser:

  • A very experienced speaker from a major software company, talking about how to get open source working inside corporate environments.
  • A young pioneer in social media technologies like OpenID, talking about how The Apache Way can help in the standards world as well as in the software world.
  • A relation to the Apache community, talking about how the software we build can be used in the governmental arena to have a positive impact on people.

Also, if you are speaking or training at ApacheCon, please be sure to blog about your sessions, and publicize them on your project website or in other appropriate communities. We have badges for your website; just ask!

Hey – many thanks to Grant and Erik who both submitted their ApacheCon EU 2009 submissions as soon as the CFP opened. Get yours in quick; it’s a short CFP!