The Angel’s Game

A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.

– The Angel’s Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Geocaching in Vancover

Coming to the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver?

Like Geocaching?

It looks like there’s a lot of caches around the summit location. This map shows the 500 closest.

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I keep meaning to spend a little time at conferences walking around the area and geocaching. Perhaps if I have a few folks with me I’ll see more of it, and meet some interesting people as well.

If you’re interested in Geocaching in Vancover, let me know, and we’ll try to set something up. I’ll be there from Sunday night (May 17th) through Thursday night (May 21st), and although I know it’s an incredibly busy week, I expect we can find an hour or two free in there somewhere.

I’ll also bring my new CryptoCard travel bug to drop off somewhere, since all of my other travel bugs have long since vanished.

cryptoI’m also hoping that by the time Red Hat Summit rolls around, I have some special Red Hat community project geocoins to accompany our geocaching outing. If this works out, I’ll try to make it a regular feature of my conference trips. So, here’s hoping.

 

 

Twine

This week we did ApacheCon in Austin. I shipped the original Apache feather to the venue for 20th birthday of the Apache web server project, and it hung above the stage for the keynotes.

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It’s an item that we’re very proud of, and of some historical significance.

The conference producers treated it like it was the Declaration of Independence or something. They handled it carefully and reverently.

At the end of the event the guy in charge of A/V came to me with some twine.

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He said he had removed it from the hanging hooks on the feather in order to use black nylon that matched the stage dressing, and which would hang more securely. But he saved these scraps of twine because he knew how significant the item was to us.

Now, it’s not that the twine mattered – it was something I added years after the original was made. It’s that he cared enough, and respected our heritage enough to save it and track me down, that impressed me so very much. It really put a wonderful final touch on an almost-perfect event.

And this is why, among many other reasons, we love our conference production company, The Linux Foundation.

ApacheCon NA 2015, day 1

It’s only 8:30 local time, but I’m pretty wiped out. Day one has been amazing.

The morning started with the keynotes, which included the State of the Feather, with Ross Gardler, two sponsor keynotes by Mike Maxey (Pivotal), and Chip Childers (Cloud Foundry), and then the main opening keynote by Brian Behlendorf. Brian has long been someone that I’ve really looked up to, not just because he catalyzed the Apache web server project, but because of the deep thought that he’s given to issues around Open Source, community, and our role as responsible members of the human race. (Videos coming soon of all these keynotes.)

Right after the keynote, I moderated what I’ve been referring to as the “grey beard panel”, where several members of the original Apache Group (Jim Jagielski, Dirk-Willem  van Gulik, Randy Terbush, Brian Behlendorf, Roy Fielding, and Ken Coar) reminisced about how things were in the early days, what mistakes were made, what things they might have done differently (SSL was a big item on this list), and other related items.

I’ve long joked that I do ApacheCon so that I can travel to exciting places and hang out on stage with my heroes. This was definitely one of those moments.

In the afternoon I gave my “Write a Better FM” talk, which is a continually evolving thing. Rikki said some very encouraging things about it. In all, I think it went really well.

Then we had the reception at Old School, which was very nice, if a little loud. And now I’m back in the hotel room trying to decide whether to catch up on email, or go seek out some more social -ness. Probably go with the former and go to bed early.

 

What’s Insurance?

On Thursday, my daughter wrecked her car. She was very upset. Her car was her baby. When I picked her up at the site of the accident, I said, among other things, “this is why we have insurance.”

Last evening, I suddenly realized that she didn’t understand what insurance is, and thought that, having her chance at having a car, this was, literally, the end of the road until she got a job and earned enough to replace it. She was perfectly willing to do this, having been at fault in the accident and taking responsibility for that, but it was, understandably, very disheartening.

Once we explained to her how insurance works, the differences between liability insurance and comprehensive insurance, and how the process was going to work, she was much less despondent.

So, parents of new drivers, take a moment to explain to your kids how insurance works. There’s a lot of things that we might assume they understand, which they don’t, because they’ve never had to.

 

Back on the ASF board

Today I was re-elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Apache Software Foundation. This will be my third term on the board. I served the 2012 term, sat out the 2013 term, and then served the 2014 term.

This year, in addition to most of the sitting directors being returned to the board, Shane Curcuru and David Nalley will be on the board. Shane has been on the board before, but I’ve never been on the board with him at the same time. And this will be David’s first term on the board.

It’s a big honor, as well as a considerable responsibility, serving on the board. While we (intentionally) move slowly at the ASF, there are still big issues to be considered. And there’s the health of our 160+ projects to watch over, giving a nudge here and there when things start to go off the rails.

At today’s meeting, we also elected a large number of new members to the Foundation. I can’t tell you who they are, yet, as they need to accept their invitation first, and some folks don’t. But we’re excited to see such a great list of new members being invited, and anxious to hear their new ideas on where the Foundation will go in the years to come.

 

Spinning your straw into gold

Spinning your straw into gold
For E

Emerging from under the haystack
halo of straw around your head
the night under Claude Monet’s hayrick
and the dreams still
caught in your hair

You squirm like Rumpelstiltskin
stamping your feet and shouting
as we chase the rats back into their holes
tease out the tangles
find the treasure in the brambles
spin your straw into gold

Wheatstacks_(End_of_Summer),_1890-91_(190_Kb);_Oil_on_canvas,_60_x_100_cm_(23_5-8_x_39_3-8_in),_The_Art_Institute_of_Chicago

90-9-1

In a talk I attended earlier this year, Shaun McCance mentioned, as though it was established science (which it is) the 90-9-1 principle of community participation. I’ve thought of it frequently since then, to set expectations and to keep myself sane.

The idea is that in any community effort, 90% of the people are going to sit around saying that it’s a great idea, but not actually doing anything about it. 9% of the people are going to work casually on it in their spare time, as convenient, and between them will do a huge amount of the work. Then 1% of the people – usually one or two dedicated people – will pour themselves into it wholeheartedly, putting every spare moment into making it a success.

Note that it’s not the exact numbers that matter here, it’s the undeniable fact that you can’t expect everybody to work as hard as you do on everything. It’s all too easy, when doing anything on a volunteer basis, to look around and get frustrated, discouraged, even angry, at the 90%. Understanding that this is the normal, expected, even healthy way that communities operate, can help you refocus on what you can (and can’t) do in any given effort.

Sometimes (most of the time) it’s ok to be in that 90%, and you don’t need to feel that you’re not pulling your weight. However, if you’re in the 9% or the 1%, it’s not reasonable to get angry with the 90%. They have other things to do, and are likely the 1% on something that you’re not helping much with.

By the way, here’s a couple of resources about this notion:

This article claims that the concept is dead. Note that this article appears to be someone just making up new numbers to illustrate the same concept. What’s important here, folks, isn’t the exact numbers, but the general concept. Way to miss the point. (This article also appears on dozens of sites in various different forms.)

Wikipedia claims that it’s a feature of Internet culture.

Here’s an actual statistician doing scientific analysis, rather than me making up numbers.

ApacheCon Budapest 2014

15811606055_5637e3d709_zLast week, the Apache Software Foundation, with the help of the Linux Foundation event team, hosted ApacheCon Europe in lovely Budapest, Hungary at the gorgeous Corinthia hotel.

If my count is right, this was the 24th event to bear the name ‘ApacheCon’, and the 8th time we’ve done it in Europe. Also, we were celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Apache Software Foundation, which incorporated in June of 1999.

Every ApacheCon has its own set of memories, from Douglas Adams pacing the stage in London, to the ApacheCon Jam Sessions in Dublin, to the Segway tours in San Diego, to the funeral march in New Orleans. And Budapest was no different – a wonderful event with lots of great memories.

On Sunday night, I had dinner with the TAC’ers. The Apache Travel Assistance Committee is a program by which we get people to ApacheCon who could otherwise not afford to be there. This is critical to the mission of the ASF, because it builds the community in an inclusive way, rather than limiting it to people with the funds to travel. TAC recipients have to give back a little – they provide session chair services, introducing speaker and counting attendees. A large percentage of our former TAC recipients have become deeply involved in the ASF, more than paying off the investment we make in them.

Although I didn’t try the Tripe And Trotters on the buffet line, I did enjoy great conversation with old friends and new ones around the table.

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Monday morning, I opened the conference with the State Of The Feather keynote – our annual report on what the ASF has done with sponsor dollars and volunteer time over the last year, and some thoughts about where we’re going in the next 15 years. The latter is, of course, very difficult in an organization like the ASF, where projects, not the Foundation leadership, make all of the technical decisions. However, David Nalley, the VP of Infrastructure, had some pretty specific ideas of what we have to do in terms of Infrastructure investment to ensure that we’re still able to support those projects, which are being added at about 1.5 a month, for the next 15 years and beyond.

15820067232_75991115c0_zAfter the State of the Feather, I had the enormous privilege to stay on the stage with Hugh Howey to discuss the parallels between self publishing and open source software development. I’ve got another blog post in the works specifically about that, so stay tuned, and I’ll add a link here when it’s ready. Any day that starts with me hanging out on stage with a favorite author in front of 300 of my closest friend is a good day.

Once the sessions started, everyone went their separate ways, and I gave several talks about the Apache httpd project. httpd has been my main focus at Apache for 15 years, and although it’s faded into the background behind more exciting projects like Spark, Hadoop, CloudStack, Solr, and so on, it’s still the workhorse that powers more than half of the websites you’ll ever see, so there’s always a decent audience that turns out to these talks, which is very gratifying.

One of my talks was more focused on the business of doing documentation and “customer support” in the open source world. My “RTFM? Write a better FM!” talk discusses the RTFM attitude that exists in so many open source software communities, and how destructive it to the long term health of the projects. I’ve got another blog post in the works specifically about that, too, and I’ll add a link here when it’s ready.

Tuesday and Wednesday were a whirlwind of sessions, meetings – both formal and informal, and meals with friends, colleagues, and newly-met conference attendees. As a board member, I’d sometimes get pulled into project community discussions to offer the board’s perspective on things. As conference chair, there we numerous discussions about the upcoming event – Austin, Texas, April 13-17 – and the next Europe event – stay tuned, announcement coming soon!

Session highlights during the week include:

  • Shane Curcuru’s talks on trademarks, copyrights, and protecting the Apache brand.
  • Jesus Barahona’s talk about the statistical analysis work he’s done for Cloudstack, and other projects, and how it can be used to support and encourage community growth.
  • Pierre Smits’ case study talk about OFBiz and beer, which I missed because I was speaking at the time, but which I heard was amazing.
  • Joe Brockmeier’s talk about Docker, which was apparently the best-attended talk of the entire event.

Although we didn’t record the talks this year (if you’re interested in sponsoring that for next time, get in touch – rbowen@apache.org), you can see the slides for most of these talks on the conference website.

15816582111_4b19b886c5_zOn Monday night we had a birthday cake for the ASF, and I got all emotional about it. The ASF has been hugely influential in so many aspects of my life, from my amazing friends to my amazing job, and it’s such an honor to serve the Foundation in the capacity of conference chair. I look forward to the next 15 years and seeing where we go.

And then, so fast, it was Wednesday evening. David Nalley gave his keynote about the value of the Apache Software Foundation. While I was expecting a number – something like 3 trillion dollars or something – instead, he talked about the many ways that the ASF adds value to companies, to individuals, and to the world as a whole. A truly inspiring talk, and it made me incredibly proud to be associated with the ASF. Bror Salmelin then talked about the Open Innovation 2.0 project at the European Commission to close out the formal portion of our event.

The lightning talks were a big hit this time around, with a great mix of serious and lighthearted talks, all in five minutes or less, MC’ed by the inimitable Joe Brockmeier.

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On the whole, I was very pleased with this conference. If there’s anything that disappointed me about the conference, it’s only the number of old friends who couldn’t make it. I hope that everyone who couldn’t make it to Budapest is able to come to Austin to celebrate the 25th ApacheCon, and the 20th anniversary of the first release of the Apache HTTP Server!

 

[Note: Some of these photos are mine, and are on Flickr. Some of them are from the Linux Foundation, and are also on Flickr.]

The Margin Is Too Narrow