Monktoberfest 2019 theme

Monktoberfest – the small but influential and highly curated single-track conference run by RedMonk and Steve O’Grady – always has a theme to the talks. I’ve been trying to quantify what I think the theme is all day, although there’s so much good content here it’s hard to quantify it clearly.

My default description of Monktoberfest talks is that it’s about how technology shapes society – and bring data. In the past, many of the speakers had done real research into their subjects and could provide rich and detailed source references behind the compelling and innovative narrative they spun. I have to say this year has been very light on the data side (so far; there are more talks tomorrow), but are the equal of any in the storytelling and concepts.

Steve begins each day with a brief presentation about the Monktoberfest community and how important it is – in those immortal words of Bill & Ted – to be excellent to each other. That’s always been an underlying theme to the whole experience, but each year Steve also curates a more specific theme. They’ve been moving away from the details of technology more and more into society and how people work together, not just through computers.

On one hand, this year is a continuation of that trajectory, speaking even more deeply about diversity, ethics, inclusion, and how both technology we build and the ways we work with other humans shapes both our society and even our own beings over time. But I know Steve has some specific messages underlying parts of all the talks he chooses.

My first thought was mentorship, in a wholistic way: Erik was explicit in his talk on “Mentorship, A tradition, a right and a duty”; but the opening talk of the day from Hadley on “Letter to a young maintainer” and others covered similar aspects of both traditional mentoring and the concept of training your new employees – and not just on code.

The “Letter” and Steph’s explainer of “Management Mistakes I’ve Made” both also explicitly called out many self-care parts of effective management and teamwork, so for a while I thought the theme might be that. Ensuring your own health and energy enables you to do… everything better; and extending that analogy to relationships and teams as well. Swarna’s “Achieving Your Career Goals Is Like Being A Spider Folk” brings similar themes, along with the lesson that careers are never straight lines.

But while self-care is important, it’s growth and interaction that make up society. Meg reminded us that information is not enough; knowledge (what the information means and it’s context and consequence) is what you need. That only comes from working with mentors or teachers and critical thinking, not just rote learning. That tells me the theme is more dynamic: it’s not just what you or I can do, it’s what we do together to improve.

While all the talks have discussed privilege and our diversity – in multiple aspects – we then have Kohsuke making us directly consider all the real world aspects of diversity and inclusion – both on a personal level and why they’re important business wise. In a related vein, Maureen’s talk on ethics and AI biases was really about diversity and how unconscious bias on so many levels in an AI/machine learning world can creep in. If it weren’t for diversity and inclusion already being a big part of the conference, I might have said that’s the theme. Heck, they had three sponsors for the program bringing in newcomers to the conference this year! But Steve thinks deeper than that.

Abby wrapped up the day giving a non-technical talk about “soft” skills and how we (think we) value them differently than coding or technical skills. This also is a common message at Redmonk and many other smart conferences: it’s not about the code – it’s about people, and how your code can get useful things done. Abby’s perspective goes deeper: it’s not about your skills and what you do with them, it’s how you are valued for your skills (or in some cases, not valued). I find this an obvious message, although I know many people still need to hear it. We know technology – especially open source projects – need marketing, project planning, documentation, and all those other non-code things, and we’re still figuring out how to value those contributors in many projects.

But I kept getting stuck on the individual themes from these talks – caring for yourself; mentorship and true knowledge learning; embracing inclusivity for so many reasons. Speaking with other attendees, we brainstormed a number of incremental improvements on these (some of which were great insights); but again, I know Steve thinks more deeply than the simple lessons here.

It ended up with Sophie reframing the question in a way that floored me briefly: the theme isn’t about the individual actions and bigger perspective within each of us. It’s about organizational change: how do we work with and within our many existing technical organizations to make our organizational thought itself better. The focus certainly is on considering diversity, equity, and ethics in how our companies organize themselves. But it’s also on helping to teach organizations as a whole how to do this, not just on the individual level, but the wholistic level.

Really, the theme of Monktoberfest this year is about making society a more just and equitable place.

How’d I do?

Diversity & Inclusion programs in FOSS

A few volunteers at the ASF have been working on some new educational materials around diversity and inclusion (D&I) , so I was inspired to keep working on my FOSS foundations and major projects listing, to see what FOSS organizations have formal (or informal, but visible) programs in this area.

While there are plenty of research and resources for D&I programs in traditional corporate settings, most of us working in major FOSS foundations and projects live in a very different world. While the concepts and ideas for programs are a great inspiration, putting them in language and re-useable pieces that are practical to implement in a distributed, all-volunteer group is much harder.

To get started, here’s a brief (and incomplete) list of D&I related homepages at some of the major FOSS foundations or projects I’ve found so far. Please – if you have better links or links to other notable FOSS projects, send them along.

Notes on inclusion (in list entries, so far): I’m primarily researching FOSS software non-profit foundations, or independent (non-incorporated) major FOSS projects that have well-defined and stable governance. Since D&I programs are reasonably new in the FOSS space, I included links above where there was an obvious landing page that both provided useful information (statement, resources, program office), and was explicitly welcoming and otherwise discussed D&I issues directly.

It’s great to see some passionate people with real progress and materials for their various organizations. But it’s making much slower progress than the speed at which the traditional high-tech corporate world has been rolling out programs in the past 2 years.

Note that I’m not making any evaluations of the efficiency or quality of any of these pages. For many organizations, it’s still a process of having a specific landing page, program office, or other focused and publicly visible effort to explicitly help with better inclusion for newcomers everywhere.

How Apache Runs Annual Member Meetings

As a Delaware non-stock membership corporation, the ASF’s bylaws specify that we hold an annual meeting of the membership. Since the ASF is also a distributed organization of volunteers, we hold our meetings a little differently than most companies – meeting on IRC over three days, and voting securely online.

Since we’re in the middle of our meeting this week, here are some answers to common questions. If these are valuable, we can add them to the ASF’s official member’s meeting process. I’ve also written a timeline of pre-meeting setup, as well as about the work after the meeting.

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Shane’s Director Position Statement 2019

The ASF is holding its annual Member’s Meeting next week to elect a new board and 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.

I’ll keep this short(er); if you want to know more, please read my past thoughts on how Apache works and where we’re going (see end of this post).


After 20 years of growth, the ASF is a successful open-source community providing software to the world and a community framework to dedicated volunteers. At this time in our community development, we need to focus on efficiently scaling our organization to keep up with growth in project communities who need services and mentoring. We also need to make it easier for Members (whose numbers are rapidly increasing!) to participate in ways that provide consistent and positive guidance to our projects and podlings.

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The board member experience at Apache

With the Apache Annual Member’s Meeting coming up soon, thoughts turn to our board and new member elections, and where the ASF is heading as a Foundation. The weeks around our meeting are often filled with great new ideas, as well as the traditional statements from our many excellent director candidates about how we can work together to make Apache better for all of our projects.

This year a fellow director came up with a great new set of questions for current directors about how the board actually works. This is a great counterpoint to some of the questions members have asked in the past about where directors see the ASF going in the 5-10 year timescale. The perspective on day-to-day work of being a director is timely since we have several great new candidates for our election!

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The Monktoberfest conference today and in history

This week is the Monktoberfest, the most interesting conference I’ve ever attended, and one of my must-attend events each year in October.  Not only are the talks thought-provoking and the attendees are awesome, but the location in Portland, ME and the food and events are top-notch. The ideas I get each year are a big inspiration, and it’s a long wait until next year each time.

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Apache How-To: Communicating Effectively

How can you be effective at asking questions or proposing changes at Apache or in an Apache project?  Besides making sure you use the right mailing list, and asking smart questions or following the several email etiquette guidelines and tips at Apache, what should you do to be effective at communicating your ideas?

There are plenty of times you’ve been polite and formulated a good question, but you either don’t get useful responses – or you get too many responses and tangents and complaints and and and…  What are some of the other factors to consider in being effective at communicating with Apache’s many communities?

Is this a question about one Apache project?

If your question or idea is just about a single Apache project, that’s pretty easy: write your thoughtful email to the dev@projectname mailing list; that’s where the primary community for most projects does their work.  Sometimes you may want to email the user@ mailing list if it’s a question about functionality, events, or user-based questions instead.

Make sure to understand that project’s expectations for discussions: do they use [SUBJECT-TAGS], or perhaps use JIRAs for organizing technical work?  Do they expect all proposals to be spelled out in your email, or do they often write up a proposal in their wiki, and then point to it from the email?  Following the project’s normal way of working is important to have maximum chance that other project volunteers will see and respond to your message.  Be sure to reply to any questions as well!

I can’t get a final decision on my question! What next?

The first thing is to be a little patient, and see if you can work out a good enough consensus.  That often takes time, because various other project participants may not see this as their urgent priority; you need to allow sufficient time for feedback.  You may need to adjust plans and make it clear that you’ve taken feedback and changed your proposal.

Sometimes, you need to call for a [VOTE].  The ASF has some very broad requirements around voting,  but really most of the details of votes are up to each individual PMC.  In most cases, a majority of +1 votes carries the day, unless -1 voters have a technically valid veto that can be shown to make the project worse (for a code modification).

Sometimes, if there is a larger issue at stake – where the dev@ list isn’t helping you at least get closure (even if it’s not necessarily agreement), you may want to escalate the issue to the PMC.  Every Apache project has a private@projectname mailing list – that’s privately archived – where the PMC discusses only issues that require privacy – typically security issues, voting in new committers, and rarely personnel issues or code of conduct type issues.

What if I have a question about the ASF itself?

The Apache Community Development project – with its own PMC and everything – is here to help guide newcomers and guide unusual questions to the right place.  If you have a public question about where to find someting, or that crosses multiple projects, start on the dev@community.apache.org mailing list.

Apache has a handful of other cross-project mailing lists as well for conferences, infrastructure, and legal questions.  Note that those lists are also publicly archived unless they specifically state otherwise.  Any potential security vulnerabilities should go directly to the Security Team, which obviously uses private archives.

What if an Apache project is not responding to me? How do I escalate concerns?

The ASF is designed to give project PMCs maximum freedom in governing their own projects.  While the board does expect to see a certain set of behaviors – especially working by consensus and welcoming any newcomers with good work, regardless of employer – the board of the ASF rarely gets involved directly in project operations.

However, if there is a serious governance or community issue that a PMC is not addressing, you can work to contact the ASF Board of DirectorsPMCs report quarterly directly to the board, separately from other corporate operations (infra, legal, trademarks, accounting, etc.)

Vulnerability escalations go to the Security team; and legal issues or communications from counsel go to the Legal Affairs committee.

How do I ask about Foundation governance and corporate affairs?

Most corporate organization happens on privately archived mailing lists.  While project work is done in the open as much as possible, internal corporate work like paying the bills, signing legal documents, and the like are done either by volunteers or in a few cases by paid staff or contractors.  The Membership of the ASF has oversight and visibility to these processes, and it’s usually Members who are volunteering to help with the work.

For Members, the first thing to remember is to use the right list!  Each area of corporate operations has their own mailing lists: legal, trademarks@, infrastructure, treasurer, fundraising, or secretary.  There’s also an overall operations mailing list that’s a great place to ask where you should take your question since the operations volunteers there usually have helpful answers.

PMC Members and committers don’t have access to those list archives, but we certainly accept emails from them. Be sure to send in a clear question, so we know you’re waiting for an answer, and we’ll get back to you.  If your question is about a specific Apache project, it’s a best practice to always cc: private@projectname as well, so the whole PMC there is aware.

If your question doesn’t require privacy, then the best bet is to ask Community Development to point you in the right direction.

What else can I do to be effective at communicating at Apache?

Remember: Apache mailing lists often have hundreds of subscribers – so you’re sending email to a lot of people, all of whom are (for Apache purposes) part-time volunteers.  Knowing your audience is one of the key points when writing – and that’s doubly true when communicating with so many people from different backgrounds.

  • Write helpful and descriptive subject lines; make sure list readers understand if they need to read your email – or not.
  • Keep email threads on topic – preferably, a single topic per email thread.  If you need to add a new topic or feel the urge to hijack someone’s thread, please don’t – start a new thread, or at least change the Subject line.
  • Pause. Take your time. Most project decisions should not be made in a rush, and overwhelming the list with your posts in a short period often backfires when other community members get overwhelmed and stop participating.
  • Keep focused on the issues, and the value to the project or to the ASF as a whole. Even about code we can sometimes feel emotional; keep it based on facts and focused on the big picture.
  • For significant decisions, re-post a recap of the final consensus.  This is best done with a new email or at least a changed Subject.
  • For complex issues, lay out the big picture very clearly.  Sometimes it’s best to post “Hey, I/we are thinking of $big_change_like_X.  If anyone already knows they’ll want to veto it, let us know before we investigate!”  Then write up a detailed proposal, and send that to the list for discussion.  Similarly: start a [DISCUSS] thread with the expectation to gauge interest and possible consensus, before doing lots of coding or planning work and assuming the project will accept it.

Still wondering where to ask something?  See my FAQ of FAQs about everything Apache too!

How Apache Directors Run ASF Board Meetings

I was recently fortunate enough to be re-elected to the ASF’s Board of Directorsalong with 8 other excellent candidates. Since there were two new directors elected – Isabel and Roman – we plan to have returning directors work together to improve our documentation of how we run our board meetings so smoothly.

This is my personal timeline of how I volunteer as a director, in terms of our monthly board meetings (there are a lot of other things directors do too!).

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Where Is The ASF Going? Director Q&A

With Apache board elections coming up soon, an ASF Member came up with a great set of questions for all director candidates. With permission, I’m sharing those questions here, and providing my answers as well.

I’ve also posted my own Director Position Statement for this year (and past years!).

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Shane’s Director Position Statement 2018

The ASF is holding its annual Member’s Meeting next 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 – including my 2017 board statement.

Please read on for my take on what’s important for the ASF’s future – or see my Q&A about where Apache is heading.

Continue reading Shane’s Director Position Statement 2018