Five years at the Apache Software Foundation


On March 27th 2009, I got an email from Stefan. He wrote something like this:

Hi Christian,

It is my pleasure to inform you that the Commons PMC has voted to elect you as a committer […]

Cheers and welcome!

I had been contributing for quite a while already to Apache Commons Compress when this email reached me. I do not remember how long it actually took, but I’m guessing many months of contributing. In ages of GitHub, people might shake their heads. Contributing that long with just sending in patches? Surely, GitHub makes contributing much easier today. Clone the repository, create a pull request, and off you go.

What people often forget is that at the ASF, everything is around community. You are not just sending a pull request. When contributing, you are growing into a community. And this simply takes a while.

When being a committer, you have full access to a repository. If you become a member of the project, and a member committee later, you have a binding vote. As part of a project you can block decisions, and you certainly have an impact. If a project decides to give somebody that power, you can be very sure that they trust the person.

Being at the Apache Software Foundation taught me a lot of things. At the moment there are almost 3,000 committers around. There is more than 100 top level projects, like Apache Hadoop or Apache CouchDB. I always felt that I had the opportunity to work with some of the best in their fields. This alone is exciting. I looked specifically at Apache Logging (known for Log4j), Apache Struts, the Apache Incubator, Apache Cordova, Apache OpenOffice, Apache Ripple… and some more. Sometimes I just looked at what these great people did, and sometimes I contributed a little. In every case, it was always rewarding and helped to make me a better programmer.

At the ASF, there is more than code. I learned a lot about how the ApacheCon organization happens. It’s tricky. I learned from a few great people a lot about trademarks. Recently I was looking more into the fundraising aspect, but I can’t tell anything about it.

I met tons of people. At the ApacheCon EU, I met some of the guys with whom I worked, and some became friends.

Sometimes it was just hard to stick with my work here. It’s fun, you learn a lot, you meet great people - but after all, it’s work. You think, you code. In my case, I wrote every email and every line of code in my spare time. Some of us can do that in their work time, but not me. Still, I am happy that I did it.

I wrote countless emails (some may consider this bad ;-)) and a svn search shows that I submitted almost 1,000 changes, not counting in commits to git repositories. Others are far more active than I am, but for a prime time Apache-guy, I am pretty much proud of this.

If you are wondering if you should dedicate your time to the ASF or any other open source organization, I recommend that you do it. It’s often rewarding; from not only a technical aspect, but also a social stand-point.

Tags: #Apache Software Foundation, ASF, Open Source, Committer