Archive for December, 2001

Scaling the Castle Walls, How to Nurture Open Source Contributors

I have an interesting viewpoint that whytheluckystiff, Waldo, rasmus, raph, and lkcl have not yet raised (and I’ve brought this
up before).

There are certainly many more projects out there, increasing the “breadth” (acceptance) of the Open Source and Linux community, but as you have all mentioned, not really increasing the “depth” (killer app) of the Linux community. Hit Freshmeat and see how many new toolkits, bindings, php-based “forum” applications, web mangling tools, etc. show up daily. Dozens. This is how the “new and nimble” are penetrating into the Open Source and Linux communities. They may not be able to write a Mozilla replacement, but they can prove they understand code (in some cases), the licensing, their peers, and how to get their name out there.

The point that’s missing, is that back when we all got started in the early to mid 90’s with Linux, it was easy to know everyone that was doing it. You knew who Linus was. You knew who RMS was. You knew the key people responsible for making it happen. You could email them. They would respond. But more importantly, you could easily contribute to their projects. Patches and suggestions were implemented almost by design, rote.

Now however, the bar has been raised by quite a few notches. It’s much, much harder to get a patch accepted to the Linux kernel than it was 5 years ago.

Let’s look at the PHP project for example; when it was authored, it was successful. It filled a growing need (and still does today), and it was used by thousands of people. If that project were to have started this year, it would have been buried under the “noise” of the other thousands of “web mangling” applications out there. It would take much longer to grab hold of the market it
currently has. It may not have even been a successful project, certainly not like it is today.

The fallout of the “bar” being higher for acceptance, and that the older projects still move forward, is that new users don’t know where to contribute. And as lkcl said, maybe they don’t have the skills to take on the project or task they want to use or contribute to. New Open Source and Linux community members are actually afraid to contribute because they fear being shunned, ousted, or humiliated publically for their patches, code, suggestions. We need to nurture those new users, new contributors. As we age and elder, we have to begin connecting people who we believe can take the project(s) forward. Assign like people to like tasks, make sense of the noise, and act in a more “educational” role than a “physical” role. Once they get it, they’ll get it.

One of my own projects has recently fallen under this spell. I have found some skills that I lack, and have been trying to make a call out to those who I believe can help, both in code and in testing. Some have responded, some have hinted that they can help, and the majority of others have indicated they just don’t know where to begin, but they would if they had that answer.

I’ve been taking steps to clean up my codebase, documentation, and even the way I respond to people on related mailing lists, so that the “vision” behind that particular project remains clear and focused, and that there are enough little compartmentalized sections that people who wish to contribute are not being asked to eat the elephant. The people who are here and know what I’m talking about know, because I’ve been plugging person A into person B, on task C, and so on. When I see a need, I find a person that I believe can fill it, or at least guide another person into that hole. It’s worked well.

That’s just my 0.02c, but I’ve seen the frustration from users, developers, and people who have contributed and now refuse to, as well as people who want to contribute, but can’t find a way to “scale the castle walls”. The skills are out there, we were all not unique, but there’s just more people than there were before. It’s both a good and a bad thing. More forks, more fractures, more “distractions”, but it’s also more eyes, hands, testers, and contributors.

Nurture. If the new contributors think the bar is too high, let’s give them a boost to help them climb that wall.

My current plate is… full

Two weeks!

  • on the cusp of a new release of pilot-link (0.10.1, the “Oat-n-Honey” release)
  • negotiating with coast-to-coast movers
  • packing packing packing
  • apartment relocation
  • dealing with my truck
  • corporate cable internet service
  • relocating my company from one coast to the other
  • moving a production server (and having zero downtime)
  • and a new home on the other coast

Everything has to be in place before I hit the ground. Timing is very tight here.

Too much going on. Oh, and there’s this holiday coming up next week they tell me… Christmas or something. I should consider shopping for some of my friends. Not much left over in the piggy bank now that I’m unemployed.

Update (Thu Dec 20 00:19:29 PST 2001)

rasmus, this is more a case of getting out of the current lease obligation than it is to get out of the state. No worries there. All my plans have wrenches in them,
that tends to be the problem.

December 16, 2001

Rasmus, did you try using xev?

Kerry Lauder Band Christmas Release

My friend Kerry and her band just released their third album on Amazon. It’s Christmas time, pick up a copy. You will not be disappointed.

Nimda.e Virus

I thought we were done with Nimda. It’s definately increasing in the number of attacking hosts. Time to rethink my DENY scripts and be more proactive in reporting attacking hosts upstream.

Perhaps more people are pirating Windows now, because they don’t want to use XP.

640 separate hosts blocked in three subnets, one of them almost entirely blocked.

When Friends are Slain

Tags: ,

Dear Diary:

It’s been awhile since my last entry, and a lot has happened.

An acquaintence and friend of mine was murdered yesterday. Rex, you will be missed. I was just in CT last week, and he was asking about me through another friend. I should have stopped by his place and talked to him. Maybe that would have been even harder to swallow if I had.

Talking to a friend of yours, and then hearing that he’s been slain two days later.

And then there were none…

    I have resigned my job at Linuxcare after 21 months working there. My future employment situation is uncertain. Sparing gory details, I was never tasked with doing what I was hired to do; develop, support, and promote Open Source software.

    As a result of having no spare time to myself, my own Open Source projects suffered and lagged behind.

Turkey Day

    I spent Thanksgiving with my girlfriend and her family in Buffalo,
    Very cozy.

    I don’t really have a family of my own, so this was a bit… new. I got to go to the Buffalo Zoo. I don’t ever recall being at a zoo before, so this was neat. There was a very active “rhino” there, chasing elk in
    her pen, some very intelligent monkeys, and lots of other neat things.

    I managed to surprise her with a new Alpine stereo when I borrowed her car. It made the 7-hour drive to Buffalo much more tolerable. Her stock Audi stereo was just not going to cut it with that cassette-to-cd-walkman contraption.

Security by Media Assertion

    Flying has gotten easier now since the September 11 tragedy. After being on 6 flights in less than 6 weeks, I have yet to stand in a line longer then a handful of people, and I’m in the airport and through the ticketing, check-in, and frisk-and-search procedures in under 30 minutes total. Quick and painless.

    I’m used to the routine anyway though. It’s funny, the “random” searches that they execute are anything but.. I’ve been talking to the security guards and staff, and it’s purely visual profiling. I have been searched on 6 consecutive flights without a single lapse. The computer will pick out people who are flying one-way or paying cash for tickets, but the rest are picked out of a crowd visually.

    Since the article on SourceForge drifting, I have received dozens of emails from people asking to relocate their projects from SourceForge to my public cvs respository instead. I should automate the signup soon. This is really getting interesting now.

Friends from a Forgotten Past

    I located someone online that I used to know about a decade ago, but cannot really recall details much. I am not sure if this is just flush() happening in my
    brain, or if it’s due to the long-term memory loss I’ve been dealing with since 1992. I met up with her brother when I was in CT several months ago in an electronics store, but he and I weren’t really good friends. Weird how things always circle around like that.

    I’ve been trying to piece together my life prior to 1992 slowly, and locating people I talked to, hung around with, or went to school with may help me put it all back together.

    Another odd soap opera event is that someone [1] who had a major crush on me in high-school, and whom I [2] rejected all advances from, is now dating the roomate [3] of a friend of mine [4], who also had a crush on me [4], a roommate [3] with whom she [4] had a torrid relationship with for months. It would make a great book. When she reads this, she’ll [4] hate me, but not for long.

Open Sores Projects

    pilot-link rewrite is coming along. We have USB working now, and HEAD in cvs contains (or will be weekend’s end) the full GNU/autoconf conversion, as well as the cleaned up getopt() mess, so we can get rid of the “rotten cake” that we’ve inherited with the previous codebase.

    Why does this fail?

Nimda Has Not Slowed Down

    I’m blocking about 20 new IP addresses a day now, Nimda definately has not slowed down. I think I have 612 hosts blocked total now with iptables. Nearly all of the
    63.x.x.x, 64.x.x.x, and 66.x.x.x subnets are blocked now. Lovely. Thank you Microsoft.

New Things

    Next on the plate is the public ssl-wrapped irc servers, some more cleanup of the web goop, and then marching into the other projects I’ve left open and stagnant, so I can clean them up. PerlMonks has helped considerably. Lots of talent hangs out on the ChatterBox.

    Now that I have more time to focus on the things that have been dormant, I can catch up with everything I need to, and start chopping my way through these books and cranking out some serious code (or trying to learn how to solve problems with code in different ways).

Lots to do.. lots to do.

Bad Behavior has blocked 1351 access attempts in the last 7 days.