Rebecca Sutton Koeser bio photo

Rebecca Sutton Koeser

Lead Developer, The Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton University

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Thought-provoking talk from @jimjag this morning to open OR11. In keeping with this year’s OR theme of community & collaboration, he emphasized the community aspects of Open Source software. A PDF of his presentation is available.

Pretty cool that someone in his position (the president and one of the co-founders of the Apache Software Foundation sounds like a “bigwig” to me) still considers himself a developer – he pointed out that he was wearing the developer uniform of jeans and a black shirt, plus the beard.

He talked a bit about how the ASF works, and touched on some of the reasons OSS is so appealing to developers - including providing opportunities to tinker and tweak things, continually polish - as developers are wont to do (unless something interrupts or intervenes). Also talked up the idea that not only the code but also the community and the process needs to be “open source.”

He had a nice characterization of OSS licenses in three different groups - give me credit, give me fixes, give me everything.

Then he talked for a while about the process and community aspects of how ASF projects work - meritocracy, peer-based (all votes are equal– no BDFL like Linus or Guido); consensus-based decision making (he claims the new Google “+1” is taken from ASF); even their commit review process has this kind of review (3 +1s required and no -1s)– which sounds pretty cool. “Healthy communities create healthy code” - but poisonous people, even if they are super-coders, can kill a project.

He also talked about the OSS process being adapted from the scientific and academic communities - peer review, sharing research, building on what others have done - even the notion of “publish or perish” carries over in a way, since projects that aren’t releasing new code can be seen as (or may actually be) dead. The ending portion of his talk was looking at how this style of community-driven collaboration process (or parts of it) could be adopted for internal development.