The Apache Software Foundation Blog

Monday March 05, 2018

Success at Apache: Open Innovation from a Non-native English Country

by Von Gosling

When I saw the "Success at Apache" series, I thought about writing something about my, being from a non-native English country, Open Source experience these past few years. Last year, RocketMQ graduated from the Apache Incubator and became one of the Apache Top-Level Projects. As one of the original co-founders of RocketMQ, I was proud to see an Open Source community from Apache RocketMQ that has an ever-growing diversity. The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), one of the most famous and great technology brands, has thousands of companies’ software infrastructure based on their projects. This is proven from the worldwide download mirror activity in ASF statistics. As an early implementer/pioneer of Open Source in China, Apache HTTP Server, Apache Tomcat, Apache Struts 1.x, and Apache Maven are my favorite software stacks when I worked for building distributed and high-performance websites.

Last year, I wrote an article about the road to the Apache TLP, which is published in China’s InfoQ. Some people asked me how to be more ‘Apache’ and how to build a more diverse community. These are the questions that many people are concerned about. In this blog post, I will address how to be more collaborative around the world, especially in non-native English countries.

Open Communication
With more and more instant messaging apps coming up in Android and IOS world, the younger generation prefers to communicate using such way, which has spread to the daily coding life for the majority of people. But, it is not search engine friendly and in most cases it does not support multi-channel for multi-language. I have been involved in many such local technology groups, together we have discussed what went wrong, explored ideas about how to solve it, and come up with a good solution together. This method worked for all my past projects, but when we hope to be more involved in Open Source around the world, that method does not work well. I remember clearly when RocketMQ began to discuss the process for its proposal, some people complained about what we have to do in the local community. We learned much about from this discussion in the community, and thus, found an effective solution. Hence in the Apache RocketMQ community, we encourage users to ask the question using the user email list. In order to make the communication process effective, we answer the question in the same language of the question. With more and more committers coming from different countries, this solution will help to grow the more diverse community. But, as John Ament said in another "Success at Apache" post --open communication isn't for everything. We also allow private communication between the users and us as some questions might not be proper to discuss publicly. But that isn't a part of the decision making process. Likewise, anytime we're talking about individuals in either a positive or negative way should be conducted on the private list for a project.

Easy ways to be involved in the community
This is another top concern in the Open Source world. Some people may not know that in China there are many local communities about Apache Projects, such as Apache HTTP Server, Apache Tomcat, Apache Spark, and Apache Hadoop. Such Projects have corresponding Chinese documentations. On the other hand, we try our best to improve the English documents. We consider the messages behind every document page. If one finds a minor or big native narrative polish, one could leave a message, or send feedback to our dev or user email list. Besides documentation, we also hold programming marathons in the community irregularly to get more involved with the community. We could find more users who have more interest, especially cross-domain technology in such campaigns. Recently, we open sourced more tasks in the Google Summer of Code. Students will develop Open Source software full-time for three months. We will provide mentoring and project ideas, and in return have the chance to get new code developed and --most importantly-- to identify and bring in new committers. It is another chance to let PMC members know how to improve and let more students get involved in the community easily.

In China, Internet giants like Alibaba are devoting themselves into Open Source projects hence according to my personal experience, it made sense to help more excellent Chinese projects to come into the Incubator. Right before the Lunar New Year, another famous project from China, Dubbo, started its Apache journey. I am glad to be a local mentor and hope to continue to share what we have learned. Thanks to the ASF, more and more Open Source projects will benefit our daily coding. That is a great appeal around the world’s Open Source field.

Von Gosling is a senior technology manager working at Alibaba Group. He has extensive industry software development experience, especially in distributed tech., reliable Web architecture and performance tuning. He holds many patents in the distributed system, recommendation etc. he has been a frequent speaker at Open Source and architect conferences worldwide including ApacheCon and QCon. He has been the lead for messaging at Alibaba as well as the Tenth and Sixteenth CJK OSS Award recipient. He is the original Apache RocketMQ co-founder and Linux OpenMessaging Standard Initiator.

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"Success at Apache" is a monthly blog series that focuses on the processes behind why the ASF "just works". 1) Project Independence 2) All Carrot and No Stick 3) Asynchronous Decision Making 4) Rule of the Makers 5) JFDI --the unconditional love of contributors 6) Meritocracy and Me 7) Learning to Build a Stronger Community 8) Meritocracy. 9) Lowering Barriers to Open Innovation 10) Scratch your own itch. 11) What a Long Strange (and Great) Trip It's Been 12) A Newbie's Narrative 13) Contributing to Open Source even with a high-pressure job 14) Open Innovation from a Non-native English Country

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