Sharing Apache’s Goodness: How We Should be Telling Apache’s Story

ApacheCon Europe LogoThe Apache Software Foundation (ASF) gets many things right: its governance model for open source development has served hundreds of projects well. The Apache Software License (ASL) is one of the most successful open source licenses, well-liked by many contributors. But the ASF is not perfect, and it has a few areas where serious improvement is needed.

One of the areas is promoting the ASF and its Top-Level Projects (TlPs). The ASF has more than 150 TLPs, but the odds are most people in the tech industry have only heard of a few of them. The ASF itself is fairly conservative about telling its own story, and most of its TLPs are content to send out the occasional release announcement to their announce@ mailing list – with the barest of details, usually not even noting what the project does – and with no effort to reach out to the larger community via social media or by pitching press. (A wire release is not the same as actually pitching most tech press.)

Why It Matters

What’s the point in making software and then not telling anyone about it? It’s rare indeed for a project to be so mind-bogglingly good and relevant to users immediate needs that word-of-mouth alone can carry it to the full audience that would benefit from it. And, possibly, contribute to it.

It’s the contribute to it that really interests me. You see, Apache is voluunteers. Oh, sure, people get paid to work on Apache projects – but not by Apache. They get paid by IBM, Citrix, SUSE, Red Hat, Microsoft, and hundreds of other companies. Which means that when their $dayjob means not working on Apache software, they almost inevitably slow down contributions – if not stop entirely.

Volunteer contributions ebb and flow. The contributor who put in the most patches for the last release may not have time when she finishes her university studies and has to get a full-time job. The release manager for the current release is going to run out of time in a few weeks when he moves to a new job that doesn’t have anything to do with Apache software. The best contributor you’ve ever had hasn’t sent in a single patch yet, because she’s never heard of your project. You get the point – you need new users to become new contributors to become new committers to become PMC members, and eventually ASF members.

It also matters when it comes to finding donations for the foundation. Apache keeps growing, and the needs of its projects continue to grow. A few years ago a few mailing lists, a Subversion repository, and a Web site were enough to call it good. Now projects want Jenkins, code signing, git repositories (and migrations from Subversion), etc. Storage requirements grow every day. The number of commits grows every day. The number of tickets to Apache Infra – which is not entirely staffed by volunteers – will also increase.

It also matters because Apache does not only need to attract more contributors, but more diverse contributors. That’s a lot more than just publicity, but it’s an important consideration here.

Finally, we need to be promoting The Apache Way rather than becoming complacent. “Open source” (for certain values of “open source”) may have “won,” but The Apache Way certainly hasn’t. Throwing code over the wall on GitHub is no way to grow a community. There’s a lot more to it than that, which projects tend to find if they gather any sort of popularity and start hitting growing pains.

ASF Services

Apache provides quite a few services, including some press/marketing help – but we have one contractor for the ASF’s 150+ projects.

We need to think about how we assist projects in promoting themselves and the foundation.

Another problem: Right now, most of the ASF’s projects are silos. There’s damn little communication between projects, with some notable exceptions (e.g. the Hadoop family of projects). Sure, the ASF members from various projects communicate on some of the private lists, but there’s damn little collaboration between PMCs and committers.

We can do better, and we need to do better.

Marketing@Apache.org

One of the top things we need to do as a foundation is start focusing on publicity overall, and that means actually communicating. Right now, only three of the 150+ TLPs have a marketing list: CouchDB, CloudStack, OpenOffice. I’d wager than only a few actually recognize non-code contributions like marketing assistance as “merit” towards becoming a committern/PMC member.

A few weeks ago, I asked Infra to create a marketing@apache mailing list. There’s a press@ mailing list, but it’s private – only for folks working on marketing for the foundation, or members who’d like to join.

Press@ is needed for things that should be confidential, but there’s a whole host of conversations that can happen in the open. My hope is that folks interested in promoting Apache projects will join and start talking about how their projects can improve their promotional efforts and how projects can work together.

I also have a lot of ideas and suggestions how projects can improve their promotional efforts, but I’ll save that for another post later this week.

The slides from my talk at ApacheCon Europe are below. Have comments? Ping me on Twitter @jzb, or send me a note to my Apache.org email (also “jzb”).

Attending Linux.conf.au 2015

Really excited to note that I’m going to be attending Linux.conf.au 2015 and running the Cloud, Containers, and Orchestration mini-conf. Will be issuing the CfP for that shortly, but just wanted to give a shout (and create the category feed for LCA planet…) about heading to New Zealand next January. Extremely psyched to be going to LCA once again!

Happy 21st Birthday, Slackware – and Thanks, Patrick!

Slackware 9621 years ago today, Patrick J. Volkerding announced the 1.00 release of Slackware Linux to the comp.os.linux newsgroup. As Patrick wrote at the time, “This is a complete installation system designed for systems with a 3.5″ boot floppy. It has been tested extensively with a 386/IDE system.” Times, and technology, have changed quite a bit — but Slackware continues to stay true to Patrick’s original vision and provide users with “the most ‘UNIX-like’ Linux distribution out there” with simplicity and stability “while retaining a sense of tradition.”

Slackware had just turned five when I first discovered it and, by extension, Linux. It was the first Linux distribution that I’d ever used and it was a wonderful platform to learn on. Made even better by the fact that Patrick was quick to respond to emails asking for support, and provided gentle guidance to updating XFree86 so that I could actually use X on my blazing fast Pentium 133MHz machine with eight whopping megabytes of RAM.

Slackware wasn’t quite the first Linux distribution, but it outlived its predecessors as well as many Linux distributions that came after. Slackware has not only continued to provide new releases at steady intervals year after year, but it’s done so with a fairly small (but mighty!) core team of developers led by Patrick.

If you’re in the Linux or open source community, you should take a minute today to raise a glass to toast the Slackware distribution. I’ll be hoisting a beer (though a better one than PBR…) to Slackware, and its team. Thanks for introducing me to Linux, for staying true to your vision, and for providing so many users with so much goodness over the years. Here’s to Slackware, Patrick, and all the other folks who’ve made Slackware great over the years – and to many more releases and birthdays to come!

Link

Nice piece on “The Compositional Nature of Vim” over on Ismail Badawi’s blog:

There’s a combinatorial effect here. If I know about o operators, m motions and t text objects, I can do up to o * (m + t) different things. Every new operator I learn lets me do up to m + t new things, and every motion or text object I learn lets me do up to o new things. Once you internalize vim’s language for editing text, then not only does editing text efficiently become easier, but you also start learning at a much faster rate, as every new thing you learn interacts with all the things you already know.

If you’re still learning Vim (and despite using Vim for ~15 years, I count myself in that group), take a few minutes to read (or at least skim) this post.

The Compositional Nature of Vim »

Another 4K Update: Dell P2815Q 28″ Monitor

Some time ago, I bought a Seiki 39″ 4K monitor/TV for use with my Fedora 20 workstation/laptop. While the resolution was great, I just couldn’t get it set up where it wasn’t a pain in the neck. Literally.

But having a taste of the 4K good life, I was unhappy going back to the 2560×1440 resolution of the Cinema Display…

Right now, there’s not a ton of 4K monitors on the market – at least not affordable ones. But I happened to find a Dell P2815Q 28″ monitor at MicroCenter over the weekend, and decided to go ahead and pull the trigger.

Like the Seiki, the refresh rate at the top resolution (3840×2160) is much lower than you’d find with standard monitors. So if you’re looking for a gaming rig, pass this by for now.

But, the Dell has a few advantages beyond being a more manageable size for a desktop:

  • It has DisplayPort / MiniDisplayport inputs. The Seiki only has HDMI.
  • Adjustable height.
  • Rotation – though the video driver for Fedora 20 didn’t seem to like it when I tried to rotate the Dell to a portrait mode. Some more tinkering will ensue there before I figure out where the problem lies.
  • Three USB 3.0 ports (can plug into your desktop’s USB 3.0 slot).
  • Supports DisplayPort Multi-Stream Transport (i.e., you can plug in a second monitor for two displays). I haven’t tried this, yet.
  • Color seems better than the Seiki, though still a bit washed out. Not a lot, but not as crisp as the Cinema Display.

So far, no problems with the display, and I’m really happy to be back to a 4K desktop.

I’d only recommend getting a 4K display for early adopters, though. I suspect the prices will continue to plunge, while the quality and refresh rate will improve. But if you’re like me and spend way too much time at the computer, it’s worth considering.

Enigmail, and Not Signing by Default

5267337900_1156156de0_qA few weeks ago, I added Enigmail to Thunderbird for signing and encrypting mails. Most of the time, though, I don’t really feel a need to sign or encrypt mails (or have a need to decrypt or check signatures). For most folks, the GPG signature is just more noise — sort of like the footers that say “for the environment, please don’t print this message” or the useless legalese footers about “this email and any attachments to it may be confidential, blah blah blah.”

Not wanting to inflict that on people unnecessarily, I looked high and low in the Enigmail preferences to find a setting to turn signing off unless wanted. No dice. I looked in the general preferences for Thunderbird. Also no dice.

Finally, this morning, I tried googling it (again) and found what I was looking for… it’s in the per-account settings (of course).

Under “OpenPGP Security” un-check the “Sign non-encrypted messages by default” and all’s well. You can still sign when needed (for instance, if you’re sending a message to a project’s announce list about something security related, folks might want a signed message…) but won’t clutter up your emails with the GPG signature otherwise.

(Icon credit to Flick user Live4Soccer(L4S).)

Upstream Podcast: Episode 6 – Interview with Marvin Humphrey at ApacheCon North America

Got a bit behind in editing, but here’s the latest Upstream podcast. This one features Marvin Humphrey of the Apache Software Foundation. Really enjoyed speaking with Marvin (on and off mic) and hope you enjoy listening to the podcast as much as I enjoyed speaking with him!

If you’d like to catch prior episodes, you can find all episodes listed on Red Hat’s community blog, or subscribe to the RSS / iTunes feed for Upstream:

Have thoughts on the podcast? Would love to hear them! Let me know who I should talk to, what kind of topics you’re interested in, and what’s good/bad about the ‘cast. Thanks!

Lo & Behold: It Just Works (with the Right Adapter…)

A while back, I bought a 4K monitor and set it up with a tower workstation because I had no luck getting it going with my main laptop, a ThinkPad T530.

I was not optimistic about the odds of getting the 4K monitor working with this laptop at all, especially not without the proprietary drivers. But, I had noticed some discussion about an “active” Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter working where others hadn’t. I had to pick a few things up at MicroCenter today, and managed to find one such adapter that was about $25. (The rest were about $10.)

Logged out of the desktop, unplugged the Cinema Display, and plugged in the 4K display. And, to borrow a phrase, “it just worked.”

Nice. Very, very nice. The adapter brand is Accell, by the way, if anybody else is looking to get a similar setup going.

Your GNOME Tips, Tricks, and Such: Tell Me Them

GNOME Logo Decided to mix things up a bit and start using GNOME on Fedora 20 as my main desktop, at least until such time I get bored with it, annoyed with it, or something else catches my attention.

Had been using KDE as my desktop, and that was working just fine: I just decided to change things up a bit when I reconfigured my system recently. (Added a second SSD so I’d have room for a CentOS partition.)

First thing I did was install GNOME Tweak Tools, because… no minimize button makes me crazy. Whether it’s “better” to have a minimize button or not, I’ll leave to UX/UI folks to debate. What I know is I’ve been using window managers of some type or another for more than 20 years that have a minimize button, and while this old dog isn’t too old to learn new tricks, I’m choosy about which tricks I’m willing to spend the time learning.

Added Guake because a drop-down terminal is a nice thing to have. Added Pidgin because I prefer that to Empathy.

I will note, I’m using GNOME on my work-issued ThinkPad T530 with a 27″ Cinema Display connected (when I’m home). (Nice of the Lenovo folks to have a Mini DisplayPort connector on these…) If I recall correctly, GNOME got dinged for poor multi-monitor support some releases ago. If that was actually a problem, it seems to be handled by now. Everything is working quite well in that regard.

What GNOME extensions would you recommend? Any tips, tricks, or hidden gems might I find in current GNOME that are worth looking for?

Looking Forward to ApacheCon, CentOS Dojo Denver, and CloudStack Collaboration Conference in April

In just a bit more than a month, the mile-high city is going to play host to a triple-feature of open source IT goodness:

Starting April 7th and running through the 11th, you’ll have a chance to connect with folks developing and deploying some of the most used infrastructure in the world. Apache Web server? Check. Apache Hadoop? Check. Lucene, Solr, Libcloud, Kafka, Cordova…? Check, check… well you get the idea. Also CentOS and Apache CloudStack.

The schedule for each of these events is outstanding. Oh, and I managed to sneak in a few talks as well. I’ll be doing a talk at each:

You really, really don’t want to miss this year’s ApacheCon, and stay for the Dojo and CloudStack Collab because they’re also going to be chock full of goodness. You can register for ApacheCon here, and register for the CentOS Dojo for just $50 through March 20 and add the CCC registration there as well. Or just register for the CentOS Dojo on April 10th separately if you can only make one day.

Have questions about any of the events? Drop me a note by email or hit me up on Twitter, happy to try to help or find the right person.  Hope to see you in Denver!