The Apache Quill series: We’ve always done it that way

Why change is hard for any open source community

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A lightning talk recap about how the Apache Foundation has always done things a certain way at ApacheCon Budapest by Rich Bowen.

As you know, the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has a number of open mottos that we like to use. Like, "Community Over Code," and "No Jerks Allowed." Another popular motto recently has been "We’ve Always Done It That Way."

As you no doubt know, the ASF is an organization deeply rooted in tradition, which means that we never, ever change the way that we do anything. Those of you who have been around the ASF for a long time can verify this.

Here’s a few of the things that have been the same at the ASF for all time.

Version control

We have always required that every project have their code in CVS for revision control. Um...I mean SVN. As far back as we’ve been around. We’ve always done it that way.

Well, except for … you know … unless your code is in Git. But we definitely don't let you use GitHub for collaboration.

… actually …

You Infrastructure guys ruin everything.

Organizing ApacheCon

Since the beginning of time, ApacheCon has been organized and produced by a committee of members. We gather before the event, with all of the talk proposals printed out. We sort them into piles and argue over which ones will be scheduled. Third-party producers really don't understand us, and so it's important that we control every aspect of how ApacheCon is put together.

We’ve always done it that way. And so we’d never try anything else.

We have never had any paid staff, and would never consider having any.

How we code

All ASF projects are written in C, and always have been.

Also, all projects at the ASF are server projects of some kind. Desktop-type software projects are completely outside of what we do – what we’ve always done.

Wikis are the spawn of Satan, as we determined on long, heated, vitriolic mailing list threads, and we'll never allow any project to have a wiki. At least, not one running on ASF hardware. Ever.

The sands of time

Except … these things have all changed.

Principle 13 in the Toyota Way says that one should make decisions slowly, by consensus, thoroughly considering all options, and then implement those decisions rapidly. We believe a similar thing at the ASF. So to people who have only been around for a short time, it looks like we never change anything. But the truth is that we change things slowly, because what we're doing works, and we need to be sure that change is warranted, and is a good idea.

There is one thing, though, that I’m sure won't ever change. Here at the ASF, we believe in collaborative, community-centric development.

We’ve always done it that way.

Originally posted on the Notes in the Margin blog. Reposted under Creative Commons.

Apache
Quill

This article is part of the Apache Quill column coordinated by Jason Hibbets. Share your success stories and open source updates within projects at Apache Software Foundation by contacting us at open@opensource.com.

About the author

Rich Bowen - Rich works at Red Hat as the Community Liaison for the RDO project, which is a packaging of OpenStack for CentOS/Fedora/RHEL. He's also the Executive Vice President of the Apache Software Foundation, Open Source enthusiast, and Geocacher.