The Apache Software Foundation Blog

Monday September 23, 2019

Success At Apache: "Mentor Your Mentor"

By Patricia Shanahan

After retiring, I wanted to continue programming but without the pressure and constraints of a job, so I started contributing to Apache. Open software development the Apache way is a great retirement hobby, offering social contacts, intellectual challenge, continuous learning, and the pleasant feeling of making a contribution.

I just got back from having a wonderful time at ApacheCon NA 2019 in Las Vegas. While there, I met relatively young people, and older people who had been involved in Apache for up to 20 years, but joining as a retiree seemed to be unusual. 

Encouraging retirees could benefit Apache in many ways. 

Often, a retiree has a range of experience and skills that take time to accumulate. I have worked, for several years each, on applications, operating systems, compilers, system performance, and architecture of servers with dozens of processors. People like me who were programming in the 1970's have experience surmounting memory limitations, a skill that may be useful again for Internet of Things projects. I can imagine several reasons for a lack of retiree recruits. The most basic is that the computing profession was relatively small when a 2019 retiree would have started their career. That is a good reason to develop ways of helping retirees join Apache, so we will benefit from increasing numbers over the next few decades.

Some retirees already have plans that will take all their time and energy, and have zero interest in another hobby. Among those who might choose Apache as a hobby, there are several possible blocks, such as just not thinking of it, lack of confidence in returning to doing after a period of managing, outdated skills, and skills that may have atrophied through disuse.

The concept behind "Mentor your Mentor" is that someone who is active in Apache should watch for opportunities to bring the idea of open source as a retirement hobby to the attention of a retiring colleague, even if the retiree has been their mentor, and no matter how senior the retiree.

If the retiree is interested, the Apache contributor can offer various forms of help and support such as:

• Introduction to how Apache operates
• Encouragement
• Help selecting a project
• Help identifying resources for technical learning and relearning

In summary, the Apache contributor would do for the retiree the things a good mentor would do for someone new to IT. 

If you are an Apache contributor reading this blog, ask yourself: who in your network has retired from the computing profession? Reach out to them! Apache projects are a great opportunity for retirees to reconnect with innovation in computing. If you are a retiree and do not have an Apache mentor, don't let that stop you. Begin at http://community.apache.org/newcomers/.


Patricia Shanahan worked from 1970 to 2002 in various programming and computer architecture roles for NCR, Celerity Computing, FPS, Cray Research, and Sun Microsystems. She then went to UCSD as a graduate student, receiving a PhD in computer science in 2009, after which she retired.

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"Success at Apache" is a monthly blog series that focuses on the processes behind why the ASF "just works" https://blogs.apache.org/foundation/category/SuccessAtApache

Saturday September 21, 2019

Success at Apache: Why you'd want to become an Apache Committer

by Dmitriy Pavlov

All newbies in Open Source communities may sometimes think that they’ll never be able to become Committers. Many treat this role as a prestigious one, granted only for special feats, and after having written a ton of code. But not all things are so simple, and I hope my story will help you. 


Election as Apache Committer

My journey with The Apache Software Foundation began relatively recently, in 2015. I was working for Openway Group, and was enthusiastic about in-memory computing. I got to know about Apache Ignite at a local developers conference. I implemented the POC of a backend system based on Apache Ignite. I was so impressed with the clear API and documentation, and it was also very convenient that I could start prototyping without passing through the approval process. I suggested using the Apache product instead of a source-available solution. I met Konstantin Boudnik (cos), who helped me to understand the difference between Apache projects and source-available/closely-governed products.


Luckily for me, GridGain, the company that initially donated Ignite to the Apache Incubator, has a development center in my city (Saint Petersburg, Russia). I joined the GridGain team in 2017.


As part of my day job, I provide patches to the product. I actively joined the dev.list discussions (some fellows sometimes say “too actively”). I’ve created a number of wiki pages - ‘Apache Ignite-Under the hood’ to help developers understand product internals. Also, I developed ‘Direct IO’ plugin. I was elected as a Committer.

In 2018 I was concerned about reviews of patches from members of the community not affiliated with GridGain. Since I had a commit-bit now, I’ve started to review patches and ask others to review them, too. I don’t know for sure, but I suppose - these social achievements in the community development were a basis for me being elected as Project Management Committee (PMC) member. 


I asked several questions about The Apache Way on the Community Development (“ComDev”) dev list. I was very impressed by how friendly and welcoming they are. I very much like such a positive atmosphere, and feel it influences the success of Apache projects. Now I’ve also joined Apache Training (incubating) community as Committer and PPMC (Podling Project Management Committee) member.


Quite funny for a software developer with 17 years of experience… being elected as a Committer, that is to say, because of the social aspects and documentation. 


Who is a typical Committer and where does his or her strength lie?

When creating an Open Source product, we always let the users explore it in action -- as well as allow them to modify it and distribute modified copies. But when such modified copies are replicated in an unsupervised manner, we don’t get contributions into the main codebase and the project stalls. It’s here where we need exactly such a person – the Committer – someone who is authorized to merge user contributions into the project.


Why should you become a Committer?

First of all, being assigned to a Committer role is extremely motivating. The professional community acknowledges you and your work, and you clearly see the results of your work in action.


How different is that from some enterprise project -- where you have no idea why you must continually keep shuffling various XML fields?


The second pure advantage of being a Committer is an opportunity to connect with top professionals and also pull some cool ideas from Open Source into your own project. But, if you aren’t one of the top professionals, certainly don’t be afraid to join -- the community has various tasks for different folks.


Besides, being a Committer is a jewel in your CV --and even a greater plus for junior programmers, because at interviews you are often asked to show code samples. If you know an Open Source project well, a company supporting or using it will be happy to hire you. There are some people who will tell you that great positions are unreachable without first committing in Open Source.


There are some bonus goodies, too! For example, Apache Committers get an IntelliJ Idea Ultimate license for free (albeit with some limitations).


How do you become a Committer?

You should be committed to the project --it’s just that simple. Development, writing tests and documentation, and simply answering questions on lists are also good ways to start working towards committership.

Yeah, the contributions of QA engineers and technical writers in the community are valued no less than the developers’ contributions.

If you think there are no tasks for you on some project, you are wrong. Just join the community you are interested in and start working on its tasks. 

The Apache Software Foundation has this dedicated page that lists what contributions are needed.  

Committer — to be or not to be?

Committer activity is a good and useful endeavor, but one shouldn’t strive to become a committer per se. This status can be granted not only for code and it doesn’t justify your proficiency. 


Find a project you may be interested in: it will probably be a project whose software you already use. Dive into its code and say hi to the community; offer help, improve docs, complete a newbie ticket or answer to a user. You may just be surprised how welcoming and open folks are there.


Strive to gain the expertise (knowledge and experience) while researching the project, tweaking it and helping others to solve their problems, and, hopefully, enjoying collaborative development in an Open Source project.


Getting started at http://community.apache.org/ will help you on your way.


Dmitriy Pavlov is a Java developer enthusiastic about Open Source and in-memory computing. He is interested in system performance, information security, and cryptography. He created and donated utility for monitoring tests for Apache Ignite, and is a former Community Manager for Apache Ignite at GridGain. Dmitriy represents the Apache Ignite Project Management Committee (PMC) at local meetups in Russia. He runs workshops and training for Apache Ignite developers and users, and is a frequent speaker at meetups and conferences.

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"Success at Apache" is a monthly blog series that focuses on the processes behind why the ASF "just works" https://blogs.apache.org/foundation/category/SuccessAtApache

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