The Apache Software Foundation Blog

Monday January 07, 2019

Success at Apache: Accidentally Finding Awesome

by Daniel Ruggeri

My involvement with the ASF started very simply. 

I was a server administrator who wanted to have a bug or two fixed and a feature or two added to the Apache HTTP Server (httpd). I spent some time learning the codebase a bit and submitted my first patch to the httpd dev list. I wasn't expecting much of a response, as my primary motivation was to avoid having to maintain the fixes locally, but I was willing to do it if I had to. Surprisingly enough, I got a quick response from "those developer folks" and was thanked for the contribution and given a bit of guidance on when it might hit the stable branch. Wow... cool: that was neat. 

Fast forward a few months and I found a few other bugs and even added a few features myself. Every time, "those folks" (who I certainly wasn't a part of because I just wasn't as brilliant) took the contribution and incorporated it into the code base or gave pointers on how to improve it. This was getting to be pretty cool, but I was convinced "they" were just happy for the free labor.

Around that time, I was hitting some serious career growth. Working with httpd so much at $dayjob, I got to the point where I knew the ins and outs of the proxy quite well. I was also challenged by a mentor to consider giving public talks. After mulling over it, I figured I'd give it a shot and since 98% of $dayjob revolved around the httpd proxy and cool things you could do with it, I submitted a talk to ApacheCon. Again, thinking "Maybe 'those folks' don't have a full schedule" and are seeking content.

Amazingly, "those folks" accepted the talk. I gave my first *real* public speech at ApacheCon. I remember it vividly: I was nervous as hell. I mean... could you believe it? The PRESIDENT/one of the founders of the ASF was in the audience. The guy that WROTE THE MANUAL AND BOOK about httpd was also sitting right there. Oh, by the way, the guy that WROTE THE BOOK about modules was across the aisle a few rows back. Not to mention the fact that I saw several name tags I recognized as 'heavy hitters' in the community. I couldn't believe it, but they actually took the time out of their day to hear what I had to say.

While I think the presentation was probably "OK" at best, I was still welcomed and even got to chat with "those folks" about the future of the project and where it might be taken. I also got to chat with folks from several other projects. I heard about this "Hadoop" thing from a newfound friend (didn't make much sense to me) and enjoyed some awesome meals with folks from other projects (I didn't even come close to understanding what they did, but wrote down the names for later research). I connected with a fellow server admin who had some cool ideas for httpd and spent some time brainstorming how to make our @dayjobs better. 

I learned so many things in that first year at ApacheCon. 

Not too long afterwards, I was invited to be a committer on the httpd project. This floored me because, for the first time, I realized that this wasn't about sucking up free patches from the outside world. I started to see that the project was interested in me being part of it.

So, off I went. I continued submitting ever-more-interesting patches here and there, going to ApacheCons and giving ever-more-refined versions of my proxy talk and spending ever-more-time with other folks in the community. I did this really cool "barcamp" thing where we talked about whatever we wanted and got to expand our minds. 

There was also something about making the terrible (wonderful?) mistake of buying the first round the last night of the ‘con once, too: shenanigans all around. 

After a while, I didn't feel like just an outsider trying to run a better server at $dayjob. I felt like I was part of this bigger thing that was going on. I was hanging out with people I genuinely consider friends as opposed to "those folks". I was loving it and I wanted to share it. So I did the unthinkable... in a moment of boldness or temporary insanity enhanced by a faulty governor that avoids embarrassment, I gave a completely ad-hoc lightning talk titled "I love this community." And at that point... the cat was out of the bag and I was effectively 'all in'.

The really cool thing is that I wasn't actively trying to join the community. Heck, I didn't even realize a community was there. Instead the community was actually pulling me toward it. I had no idea what the *depth* and *richness* of where things would go. I started as an outsider with zero expectation other than making my life a bit easier at work and stumbled upon one of the most rewarding things I've found outside of blood family.

... THIS is why I love this community and THIS is why I want to serve it. So, as it follows, this is where the pride comes from. With a family this welcoming, it makes it easy to become more involved. So… the only thought to leave you with is “How are YOU going to get move involved?”

Daniel Ruggeri is an Open Source evangelist and lover of tech. At work, he is responsible for setting the direction of the Web and Cloud space for Mastercard and he spends his time playing with infrastructure and the code that powers it both inside the firewall and outside. He is a member of The ASF and has contributed code to Open Source projects from simple pet projects to widely utilized servers. As a lover of Open Source, he even teaches courses about Open Source Software Development (and will share the curriculum with you!).

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

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