Behind the scenes at Apache: Corporate Org Chart

You probably use contribute to several Apache projects.  But do you know what goes on behind the scenes at the ASF?  Besides all the work of the 200+ project communities, the ASF has an annual budget of about one $million USD to fund the services our projects use.  How we manage providing these services – and governing the corporation behind the projects – continues to change and improve.

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Who’s Who at Apache: Roles and Responsibilities

There’s a huge amount of volunteer energy that flows around Apache’s Annual Member Meeting every year.  Old members and new alike come together and brainstorm all sorts of new ideas, both organizational and technical – and we have plenty of online… discussions, let us say.  There is an amazing amount of energy from a lot of very smart people, and when we focus  this energy, we make real improvements to the Foundation and sometimes in some of our projects.

As we’ve grown, keeping a full shared understanding of all the details of membership and corporate operations has become much harder.  We have some documentation, but we also still have a lot of tribal knowledge and decisions hidden in our mailing list archives.  To understand the same things, we need to be able to see what rules or policies we’ve actually decided on – or at least written down.

So here is an overview of all the different roles that people can have with the ASF as either a Foundation or with specific Apache projects.  In particular, I’m focusing on the specific agreements we make with individuals, or the explicitly posted policies that we expect people to abide by.  For more information on how Apache works, see /dev, /governance, and Community.

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Shane’s Apache Director Position Statement, 2016

The ASF is holding it’s annual Member’s Meeting this week to elect a new board and a number of new Members to the ASF.  I’m honored to have been nominated to stand for the board election, and I’m continuing my tradition of publicly posting my vision for Apache each year.

We are lucky to have both a large involved membership, as well as another excellent slate of candidates including a couple of great new faces. No matter how Apache STeVe ends up computing the results, Apache will have a great board for the year to come.

Please read on for my take on what’s important for the ASF’s future…

Continue reading Shane’s Apache Director Position Statement, 2016

Congratulations to the 2015 Apache Board of Directors

The ASF recently held it’s Annual Member’s Meeting where all Members of the Foundation cast ballots in the annual election for the Board. We are lucky to have had a number of excellent candidates for the board as always.

The new board comprises:

  • Rich Bowen
  • Shane Curcuru
  • Bertrand Delacretaz
  • Jim Jagielski
  • Chris Mattmann
  • David Nalley
  • Brett Porter (chairman)
  • Sam Ruby
  • Greg Stein

I also keep a graphical history of the ASF board.  The graphic there is a great way to see the slow but steady progress of electing new faces to the board over time.  Thanks to all the active Members who voted in the elections!

As the ASF grows in projects, communities, and Members, we’re looking forward to continuing to support our now 165+ top level Apache projects going forward!

Note that a number of new Apache Member nominees were also elected; however we don’t share their names until they’ve all been contacted and have accepted the invitation.  Stay tuned in a month for that announcement from @TheASF.

Shane’s Apache Director Position Statement 2015

The ASF is holding it’s annual Member’s Meeting this week to elect a new board and a number of new Members to the ASF.  I’m honored to have been nominated to stand for the board election, and I’m continuing my tradition of publicly posting my vision for Apache.

We are lucky to have a large roster of excellent director candidates, so no matter how the election turns out we’ll have a stellar board. Given the wide variety of opinions in our candidates, I urge all Apache members to set aside the time this week to carefully consider all the board candidates, as well as all the great new Member nominees.  Please vote – and if you’re not free this week, be sure to assign your proxy for the meeting attendance: I and several other Members are happy to proxy for you.

Please read on for my take on what’s important for the ASF’s future…

Continue reading Shane’s Apache Director Position Statement 2015

Congratulations to the 2014 Apache Board of Directors

The ASF recently held it’s Annual Member’s Meeting where all Members of the Foundation cast ballots in the annual election for the Board. We are lucky to have had a number of excellent candidates for the board as always.

The new board comprises:

  • Rich Bowen
  • Doug Cutting
  • Bertrand Delacretaz
  • Ross Gardler
  • Jim Jagielski
  • Chris Mattmann
  • Brett Porter (chairman)
  • Sam Ruby
  • Greg Stein

I also keep a graphical history of the ASF board.

As the ASF grows in projects, communities, and Members, we’re looking forward to continuing to support our now 151 top level Apache projects going forward!

Shane’s Apache Director Position Statement 2014

The ASF is holding it’s Annual Member’s Meeting next week, where the Membership elects a new board of directors along with other matters, like voting in new Member candidates. Director candidates write position statements about what their objectives for being a director are in preparation for the Apache board election process. One of the biggest issues for the smooth functioning of the ASF as a home for healthy projects is better explaining how Apache works – so here is my Director Position Statement. You can also read my statement last year and the previous year.

I’ve also written an Apache corporate governance overview as well as posted an ASF contributor timeplot and history of past boards.


Shane Curcuru (curcuru) Director Position Statement 2014

v1.0 statement

Over the past couple of years, the ASF has grown to a point where we can no longer efficiently continue to govern, manage, and execute the various operational aspects of the Foundation in support of our nearly 200 project & podling communities with only unpaid volunteers. We need a board that can maintain our fiercely vendor-neutral governance while also expanding and improving the services that we offer to all Apache projects, and this will require finding ways to increase our paid staff [1].

While the volunteer membership has been amazing throughout our history in helping with governance, mentoring, incubation, and all other aspects of operations, we simply don’t have enough members with time reliably available to provide this level of operational support. With 150+ separate Apache top level projects – each with its own technology, individual community history, and sometimes urgent pace of development — the overall cohesion that marked the earlier years of the Apache organization has been jeopardized. It’s clear from recent requests and issues that we are not providing the level of support – infra, brand/press, fundraising, and community mentoring – that many of our projects expect and require.

With the growth in key project technologies that affect the larger world, we also have a corresponding higher level of expectations from stakeholders outside of the ASF volunteer community. Our sponsors – when we do talk to them about their sponsorships – want us to be more visible in the open source space and show more support to our projects. The many vendors whose employees work on our projects similarly want to be more involved with donations, servers, events, or branding efforts around our projects. Ensuring that this external energy is focused on the Apache project in ways that maintain an independent project governance is critical to the success of both our projects and to the ASF itself.

We need to provide a better API between individual project communities and our service providers (infra, press, brand, legal, fundraising) at the Foundation level. We need to ensure that projects are aware of the services we can provide to support their operations, and make it simple for them to utilize those services. Clear expectations should be set for the level of services that the ASF will provide, as well as governance assistance for those projects that will continue to use external service providers (eg, various marketing@ efforts and many projects’ externally run build/CI/test farms).

To meet the current services needs, and to support increased quality in our governance and operations, the ASF will need to increase our number of paid staff [1]. We need motivated, experienced, and trusted individuals who have the paid time to address the ever-expanding needs of the Foundation, and who can dedicate themselves and their time at a level that is not possible for an unpaid volunteer.

It is also essential that we scale our management and oversight ability of these services and of staff without losing our soul: without compromising our historically independent and volunteer board and governance structures. I don’t know exactly what this path will be: that will be for the next board to decide. But I do believe we are underserving many of the projects at Apache today, and we have no end in sight of new podlings hoping to join us.

If you also believe we need to better provide for the many Apache project communities that trust us to be their home, I hope you’ll cast your first vote for me. Thanks!

About Shane

Committer since November 1999, Member since 2002, VP Brand Management since 2009.

I am employed by IBM in the HR division as an Applications Architect. My employment and income have been unrelated to my work at the ASF for many years, and I will always clearly separate volunteer work from employer-funded work.

My involvement in the ASF is driven by a belief in, and a love of, the ASF, and is not influenced by politics or finances. I live in Massachusetts with my wife, young daughter, and 2 cats. I view directorships and officer positions at the ASF as serious commitments.

I will attend every board meeting if re-elected.

[1] NOTE: How we pay for staff is equally important: at this point in the ASF’s history, I imagine either independent contractors as infra operates currently, or using the services of our new accounting firm Virtual, Inc. for some sort of co-employment arrangement, to reduce risk to the ASF.

Congratulations to the 2013 Apache Board of Directors

The ASF recently held it’s Annual Member’s Meeting where all Members of the Foundation cast ballots in the annual election for the Board. I was lucky enough to be elected, so I will be returning to the board, along with new first time Director Chris Mattmann. Everyone also thanked our two outgoing Directors, Rich Bowen and Ross Gardler.

The new board comprises:

  • Shane Curcuru
  • Doug Cutting (chairman)
  • Bertrand Delacretaz
  • Roy T. Fielding
  • Jim Jagielski
  • Chris Mattmann
  • Brett Porter
  • Sam Ruby
  • Greg Stein

I also keep a graphical history of the Apache board.

Shane’s Apache Director Position Statement 2013

The ASF is holding it’s Annual Member’s Meeting this coming week, where the Membership elects a new board of directors along with other matters, like voting in new Member candidates. While I was nominated last year, I was not elected. I would have been sad about not getting a seat, except for the fact that such other fabulously good people got elected instead (including two new directors who got to serve their first terms, Rich and Ross, yay!).

Director candidates at the ASF write position statements about what their objectives for being a director are in preparation for the voting process. Since I write what I believe in, I also am posting my statement here, publicly. One of the biggest issues for the smooth functioning of the ASF as a home for healthy projects is doing a better job of explaining how we work – I hope this helps people understand us Apache types just a little bit better. You can also see what I wrote last year.

If you’re wondering how governance at Apache really works, I’ve written an Apache governance overview too.


Shane Curcuru (curcuru) Director Position Statement

v2.0 statement

As the ASF scales in people, projects, and impact on the world, we
need directors that can ensure our organization stays true to it’s
ideals; that can delegate appropriately and efficiently to officers
and PMCs; and especially that can communicate calmly, clearly,
and consistently in all of their communications.

As we surpass one million $ in assets, with thousands of committers, nearly a gross of projects, and an huge impact both on the software world with our technology, and on the larger world of computer users with our products, I believe it’s important to do an even better job of explaining what the ASF is about and how the Apache Way works.

While we don’t need more rules, we do need to do a much better job of explaining what our few hard requirements are, as well as showcasing the wealth of best practices that our projects have created. This is important both to let the world know who we are, and also to ensure that the many different communities of contributors can more easily understand how to work with our projects.

With the fast growing scale of our organization, it is critical that directors and corporate officers can communicate clearly, calmly, and professionally in all of their Apache related activities – whether or not they’re explicitly showing which hat they’re wearing at the moment. As our impact grows, so does the impact of our words, both inside our communities, attracting (or not) new members to our communities, and also on the larger world of corporations, universities, and other computer using peoples. Even if we as long-time denizens of members@ understand which hat a director or officer is wearing when they speak, most other human beings and most other contributors don’t necessarily see the distinction.

It has been a long time since we held in-person member’s meetings
where everyone knew each others personal style. As we grow,
we need to be sure that we’re making it easy for new members and
contributors to feel welcomed and understand how Apache works. We also need to ensure that we both can keep the sense of family and enjoyable, collaborative community that the membership and our projects have, and that we manage the affairs of the ASF and of our projects in a consistent, documented, and professional manner.

About Shane

I’ve been a committer since November 1999, a Member since 2002,
and VP, Brand Management since 2009.

I am employed by IBM in the HR division as an Applications Architect. My employment and income have been unrelated to my work at the ASF for many years, and I will always clearly separate volunteer work from employer-funded work.

My involvement in the ASF is driven by a belief in, and a love of,
the ASF, and is not influenced by politics or finances. I live in
Massachusetts with my wife, young daughter, and 2 cats. I view
directorships and officer positions at the ASF as serious commitments.

I will attend every board meeting if elected.

Meritocracy and Hierarchy at Apache

Apache is actually governed in two ways: by the meritocracy of the Apache Way, and the hierarchy of the Apache Software Foundation. We strive to govern ourselves as much by meritocracy (and consensus) as possible, and as little by hierarchy as is practical for non-profit corporation. This has a number of both practical effects, as well as a number of social corollaries.

The ASF prides itself in running as a community-based meritocracy of peers. That is, within each project community, people participate as individuals and gain merit as measured by that community. The community recognizes your merit by voting people in as committers or PMC members. A new committer can vote on certain kinds of code changes, and can checkin their own code. PMC members vote on new committers and product releases.

In Apache projects the underlying cliché is correct: those who are doing the work get to make the decisions. A healthy community will seek consensus over the direction of the project, and typically only uses [VOTE]s to solve thorny technical issues that don’t come to a clear consensus. Similarly, PMC members each have one vote on elections for new committers or PMC members; decisions within projects are made by the community as a whole. Technical governance is always done by meritocracy.

Even within the Foundation – i.e. the Delaware registered non-profit corporation that makes the ASF a legal entity – we strive to govern by meritocracy as well. Nominating new members and electing the board of directors are the obvious rights of members, and these are discussed and judged based on individuals’ merit towards the various Apache projects and to the ASF as a whole.

Similarly while the board appoints individuals to serve as corporate officers with specific delegated powers, all Apache members are allowed to subscribe to any mailing lists and participate across various ASF activities. Various members step up to work on policy, corporate, legal, treasury, and many other tasks that are needed in any corporation, always working with the relevant officers. Again, those who do the work decide how it gets done.

In these organizational tasks, it’s not always as clear how to reach consensus on contentious issues. Social issues or corporate governance questions don’t often have as simple a metric to measure against as technical issues do. Code either works or it doesn’t; corporate policy often has a very different kind of judgement. Similarly, with an active membership (with many very passionate individuals!), finding consensus on non-technical questions amongst 100+ individuals is often difficult. Here, hierarchy steps in to govern.

In most cases this works smoothly. Either the relevant officer will make a policy decision and publish it, or the board will pass a resolution or clearly ask for a change. While the whole community – the membership, the various PMCs of Apache projects – may not have a consensus on the decision, it is still policy, and projects will generally work to make the change.

In some cases, this doesn’t. A key way that the board ensures there is sufficient oversight of all Apache projects is by requiring reporting: monthly for officers; quarterly for PMCs / projects. There have been cases where PMCs have not reported regularly, or have not provided sufficient details to the board’s satisfaction in their reports. In these cases, the board will require a new or updated report. This is not a question of merit, or getting a consensus: this is an order. Non-response to a board request or not following an officer’s policy will and does result in the board stepping in to force changes within the project. As they say in politics, officers serve at the pleasure of the board.

It seems that sometimes this switch from meritocracy – where everyone in the PMC has an equal say, and they reach consensus – to hierarchy – where the board says “jump” – sometimes catches people by surprise. Sometimes, it seems that some PMC members just never really thought about the fact that the ASF is a legal corporation, and must follow certain rules. Other times, this surprise is clearly exacerbated by poor communication in specific cases between the board and projects. While cases like this really aren’t a choice – the board can and will dissolve or reconstitute projects (always as a last resort!) – it is important to clearly explain the issues and why this kind of hierarchy is needed in some cases.

Has anyone else had this feeling? Of switching between meritocracy, and consensus among the community, to hierarchy, and the board simply making a decision? How can we improve the handling of future issues like this, to ensure we keep the maximum meritocratic freedom within our projects, while still ensuring the legal shield of the ASF is secure and can function for the long term?


I’ve been thinking about this lately since I recently drew up a new org chart here for the ASF as a whole. Note that the hierarchy part only comes in on organizational, legal, and similar matters – technical decisions are always in the meritocratic hands of the PMCs and projects. More reading can be found on some of these excellent slides about Apache and open source.