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!).

Continue reading How Apache Directors Run ASF Board Meetings

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!).

Continue reading Where Is The ASF Going? Director Q&A

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

What Apache Needs In Foundation Members

As the ASF’s Annual Member’s Meeting approaches this month, the Membership has an opportunity to vote in new individual Members to the Foundation. I’ve written about how member meetings work and have proposed some process improvements.

But the bigger question is: how can the membership better help the ASF succeed? What a Member can do at the ASF is documented, but what should Members consider doing? Where does the ASF need Members to help out, and how?

Continue reading What Apache Needs In Foundation Members

FAQ of FAQs about Apache Software Everything

Curious about anything at the ASF or about Apache projects? Can’t find the best place to ask? Here are a few meta-FAQs about FAQs on Apache, the ASF, and Apache projects and communities.

How can I get involved at Apache?

Just get started by emailing your ideas or questions to an Apache project you’re interested in.It’s up to you to start – the best projects to work on are ones you are already interested in. The Community Development project is here to help point you in the right direction.

How can I become an Apache committer?

Firstfind a project you are interested in. The best way to get involved is to use an Apache software product that you have a reason to use (even if just curiosity), and then ask questions or submit code patches to that project’s mailing lists.

It’s all up to you – Apache projects run on merit, which means people who do more work on that project – as measured by the community – get more of a say.

How many Apache projects are there?

There are over 190+ Apache software projects and there are over 50 Apache Incubator podlings that are working to become official Apache projects.

How do mailing lists work at Apache? Where should I email to ask questions?

Everything at Apache happens on archived mailing lists.
Find the right list to use. Technical questions always go to that project’s dev@ list – every project is independent and separate. Reading the Apache mail archives is a great way to see what other people are asking.

How is Apache software licensed? Is it free to use?

Apache software uses the Apache License, version 2.0. Questions? Contact the Legal Affairs Committee. Apache PMCs with specific questions: open a LEGAL Jira. All Apache software products are always free (no charge) to download and use.

Does Apache hold any trademarks or brands?

The ASF owns Apache trademarks, which include all Apache project and software product names and logos. Read useful trademark resources.

Where can I find press releases or analyst briefings?

Our Media and Analyst relations team runs @TheASF on Twitter and writes an official Foundation Blog.

Who does what at Apache?

See the ASF Org Chart of officers, find committers in the Apache people directory, read Planet Apache blogs.

How is the ASF organized? Is it a corporation?

The ASF is a 501C3 non-profit public charity. Members elect a Board of Directors that appoints Officers. Read about our governance and org chart.

How do I ask Infrastructure for help?

The crack Apache Infrastructure team runs everything, and protects our servers from rogue gnomes; you can contact Infra here. Remember: all questions about Apache software products should go to that project’s mailing list.

How do Apache projects work? What’s this Apache Way I’ve heard about?

Learn about The Apache Way, our community-led consensus behaviors that make Apache projects so efficient and long-lived, or view presentations about the ApacheWay.

Are donations to the ASF needed? Can I deduct them from my taxes?

Our non-profit relies on individual Donors and annual Sponsors for ourfunding and budgets. Donate today! (Often tax-deductible in the US!)

How do I get source code?

All code at Apache is freely downloadable from our Subversion or Git repositories. Learn how to Setup SVN or Git access.

Where else can I ask any questions about the ASF?

Apache Community Development (ComDev) volunteers are here to answer any other questions you have about how Apache communities work. You can read all the past questions on the ComDev mailing list.

My question wasn’t answered here!

Add your comments below if there are other questions that need answers – or ask the ComDev project for help!

November Goals: #NaBlWriMo

It’s important to have useful goals that you can measure, but more important that help you focus your work.  It’s doubly important to have goals when you work for yourself and are trying to start your own business!  Getting Punderthings off the ground can go in so many ways, and focus is important.

November is National Novel Writing Month – which is a great motivator, although I’m no novelist myself.  My stories are either short and goofy, possibly with some science fiction thrown in – or are about open source projects, people, and brands, and those are more about teaching.  So instead of attempting a novel, I’ll be blogging or otherwise writing essays each day this month.

I was thinking that writing is (often) more useful than reading. Reading something can be an escape, can be inspirational, or can teach you something. But when you write something (and share it, of course) then not only can you learn something, but others might be able to learn (or be entertained, or inspired) along the way.  I often forget how important sharing our stories and organizing thoughts into more than 140 characters can be.

To keep myself motivated, I’m planning to write some sort of content every day in November – mostly on open source topics either here or at Choose A FoundationThe Apache Way, or some other websites I run, but some topics will be about local life.

I hope to improve on my goals as well – mostly by writing and publishing something earlier in the day than bedtime!  See you tomorrow morning on the internet!

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. ― Marie Curie

 

FAQ for Facebook React.js BSD + PATENTS License issue with the Apache Software Foundation

(Today we’re interviewing Shane Curcuru about the recent issues reported with Facebook’s React.js software’s BSD + PATENTS file license, and what the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has to do with it all. Shane serves in a leadership position at the ASF, but he wants you to know he’s speaking only as an individual here; this does not represent an official position of the ASF.)

UPDATE: Facebook has relicensed React.js as well as some other software under the MIT license, without the FB+PATENTS file. That’s good news, in general!

Hello and welcome to our interview about the recent licensing kerfuffle around Facebook’s React.js software, and the custom license including a custom PATENTS file that Facebook uses for the software.

Continue reading FAQ for Facebook React.js BSD + PATENTS License issue with the Apache Software Foundation

Three React-ions to the Facebook PATENTS License

There are really three aspects to your project’s decision (to use React.js or not based on the BSD+Patents license), and it’s important to consider each of them. You really need to consider which aspects are important to your project’s success — and which ones don’t really matter to you.
(See the updated FAQ about the PATENTS issue on Medium!)

  • Legal — both details of the license and PATENTS file that Facebook offers React.js under, and some realistic situations where the patent clauses might actually come into play (which is certainly rare in court, but it’s the chilling effect of uncertainty that’s the issue)
  • Technology — are other libraries sufficiently functional to provide the features your project needs? Does a project have the capacity to make a change, if they decided to?
  • Community — how does the rest of the open source community-of-communities see the issue, and care about your choices? This includes both future buyers of a startup, as well as future partners, as well as future talent (employees) or contributors (open source developers).

Continue reading Three React-ions to the Facebook PATENTS License

Improving the Apache Member’s Meeting Experience, Part 2

Our annual Member’s Meeting for the ASF went well, resulting in some new members getting elected as well as two new directors being elected to the board. While we wait for a bit of paperwork to get filed, let’s document what needs to happen after a Member’s Meeting at Apache.

Continue reading Improving the Apache Member’s Meeting Experience, Part 2