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From Stefano Mazzocchi <stef...@apache.org>
Subject [shameless plug] My BIO and more...
Date Sun, 25 Nov 2001 15:42:19 GMT
The Apache spirit is all about communities. 

But communities are hard to build, hard to maintain and hard to
recognize.

A short story: when I first entered the Apache world, I was scared to
death by the *mythical* flame-rate on "new-httpd" (the list where the
Apache HTTPD project was born and was developpped), so much so that I
*never* ever wrote a single email on that list.

It was Ed Korthof that was telling us how "safe and easy" was to live
into JServ-land, compared to new-httpd land.

But it was sad for Jon, Pier and I to see all the *recognized* people
taking a picture together at the first ApacheCON, holding the feather,
and we, working on the "sister-project" java.apache.org, just left
aside, ignored.

Oh, don't get me wrong: we didn't deserve to be on that picture.
Absolutely not! we *were* a simple sister project. JServ wasn't even a
released project at that time (1998), there was no java recognition for
servlets (the first JSDK was released in 1997), no J2EE, no .com
marketing stuff from Sun.

It it wasn't for Brian Behlendorf who was subscribed to the jserv mail
list (not even hosted on apache.org servers at that time!) and was
watching over us, I would not be here preaching to the converted.

Just like the original Apache tribes, "communication" between the
experienced and the unexperienced passes the *spirit* along.

I was afraid of new-httpd because I didn't know it. I didn't know the
people there, I just imagined they were gurus and I was a stupid
22-years-old geek trying to run a stupid servlet!

Why am I telling you this?

I have the sensation that some of you silent lurkers might want to say
something, stand up and share your sensations, but you are afraid of
doing so because you don't know us. You don't know how similar we are
with you all.

*we* can be used for "Apache Members" or "Cocoon Active Developers" or
"recognized open source people", up to you.

So, if these short BIO's might seem as a ego showoff, on the other hand
are a foundation, a *context* where you place the a name in order to
picture him/her closer to your world.

I met many people from the Apache world, but not so many from this list
and I find out that even *I* need these BIOs to get a better sense of
resonation with you guys.

In the past, I avoided giving information on myself to the public
because I found it shamefull to use this list as a way to show off, but
now I feel that it might be useful to remove the sense of *myth* and
fear that this lack of info surrounded me.

So you'll find my short BIO down below and I also propose to make this a
requirement: every active developer needs to be listed on the web, along
with his self-written BIO and a small (possibly funny!) picture of him.

This wants to remove the feeling of "guru-ness" that might surround us,
making it obvious that we are not that different from any of you and you
just need to volunteer some of your energy to be an active part of this
community.

What do you think?

Anyway, here we go:

                                - o -

 My not-so-short BIO
 -------------------

I was born on January 20, 1975 in Pavia, Italy, small town 35Km south of
Milano (northern part of italy).

I wrote my first computer program at the age of 7 on my first computer,
a Commodore VIC-20: it calculated the areas of simple poligons and the
volumes of simple solids. Unfortunately, there was no italian
translation of more in-depth books, so even if I knew what machine
language was, I never had the chance to use it on my commodore machines
(later I got a C-64, but still programming with BASIC only, so I moved
away).

I moved to Lego, which was more fun. I believe that I owe 40% of my
intellectual capabilities to those magic plastic pieces. In fact, I
still have all of them (and even bought new ones over the years! more on
this later)

Then my uncle bought a Amstrad 8086 with VGA. I learned DOS the hard
way: by typing each and every command (still didn't know english at that
time, having learned french in middle school). Typing HDFormat replied:
"this will erase all the content of the disk. Are you sure? [Y/N]".
After pressing Y I also had to learn how to install an operating system
in a few hours :)

Anyway, I moved to highschool and learned my first english and my first
Pascal. Both weren't really appreciated at first, but became important
later on. Again, having learned how to write thousands lines of basic
code on Commodore BASIC and Microsoft GWBasic (raster graphics, yes!),
GOTO was my second best friend. I cried its death a long time, but it
showed me something:

 "if a computer language doesn't change the way you think about 
  programming, it's not worth knowing"

This was my first email signature. Look up yourself who wrote it.

Italian high school was hard and not that interesting, so I decided to
shake my life a little: I signed up for the exchange-student program at
the age of 16 and happened to be choosen to attend my senior year at the
Siuslaw High School of I landed in Florence, Or, U.S.A. where I became
sort of a legend because I was student of the month *and* playing
varsity football *and* basketball.

That was a fun year: it changed my english skills a lot and opened my
mind a lot.

Also, got my first impact with C: the regular computer-science classes
were boring and incredibly easy (on Borland Turbo Pascal) so, with other
two kids, they created a special "advanced" computer-science class where
we could do whatever we wanted. In short: they gave us the computers to
play with.

It was 1991 and I wrote my first 3d game using Pascal and Borland BGI
(slow as hell, but still didn't know assembly!): you were a mouse and
you had to escape a maze. At the same time, ID Software was working on
Wolfenstein 3D.

Graduation. Back to italy. Another year to finish italian high school
(we have five years, not four). Another graduation. Then college.

I choose to remain at the university of Pavia because it was easier for
everybody and I took Electronic Engineering.

It was 1992. That year, another two guys arrived in Pavia to go to
college: Pierpaolo Fumagalli and Federico Barbieri. I met Federico
because one of my best friends introduced me to him as "the guy who
could prove the mythical prof. XYZ wrong in front of the class", but our
streets didn'c cross until next year.

1993. Virtual Reality is still the hype, doom is the game, I started
searching on 3D algorithms and designed a data-glove with force
feedback. Met Federico again and he told me he was designing a
data-glove with force feedback. It was instant resonance: since that
day, we spent almost two years doing stuff together.

Federico and Pier were living in the same building, so I met Pierpaolo
(who had moved into Milano's DSI that year) and met Linux for the first
time.

Along with another guy, Fabrizio (who might see in the future around
Apache since he's doing his thesis on AOP!), we started "Beta Version
Productions" and we started preparing a demo for finnish "Assembly", the
*best* show on the demo scene ever.

Federico and Pier introduced me into x86 assembly and together we wrote
a pure-assembly 3D engine on our 486 66Mhz. We impressed out friends
(and our girlfriends) with flying and rotating shaded objects and also
moving stereograms.

Also, Fabrizio and I also spent some 6 months implementing a
psycoacustic model for spatial sound rendering but found out it nearly
impossible to do a general model for everybody's ear.

It was around 1996 when the 3D hardware accelerators hit massmarket and
killed any serious effort in the demo scene: we were far from releasing
our demo, but knew we didn't have any hope to survive the hardware
capabilities of those graphic cards.

It was a disaster for us: everything we had invested was vanishing
quickly and we had to turn into something else. Pier suggested Linux. I
suggested Java.

In 1997, we got a contract with a friend of Pier's to build a small
commercial web application: we decided to use servlets. It turned out to
be a very bad choice for that particular project, but a great choice for
our future.

Federico was writing the servlets, Pier the graphics and installing the
system, I was doing the glue. And JServ 0.9.7 sucked. 

The rest is history: I started patching JServ in 1997, then got involved
in the community and proposed significant changes to the codebase that
made me release coordinator for JServ 1.0. Here, Brian invited me to
ApacheCON 98 and Pier followed me: we made two speeches.

In one of those speeches, I met Eric Prud'hommeaux (eric@w3.org) [sorry
for the probable mispelling of your last name, dude, but I can't look it
up right now since I'm offline] who introduced me into the fantastic
world of XML and RDF. It was October 1998. The real thing that shocked
me, back then, was the concept of "namespaces" they were yet to
formalize. But it was still nothing useful in my technological vision so
I placed it aside.

Before coming back, we joined Jon and Brian at Sun to talk about their
donation of the JSDK to Apache. It was the first metting between Apache
and Sun, the name of the meeting room was "jakarta" :)

On the way back, Pier and I had the concept of "mailets", then, back
home, proposed the creation of the JAMES project and proposed to the
servlet expert group (lead by James Davidson at that time) the extension
of the Servlet API into the mail world. They rejected the concept but
the JAMES project was started written by Federico with some help from
us.

But writing another java server, we understood that many things were
always the same and could be reused: we spent 6 months on our
whiteboards to come up with something that later became known as
"Avalon".

The year later, 1999, java.apache.org grew from being the home of JServ
to a full repository of many different projects. 

Jon, Pier and I were proposed for ASF membership for our work on
java.apache.org and accepted. 

Also, Jon and I wrote the scripts that generated the web site out of CVS
respositories automatically, but needed something better. I printed out
the XML and the XSL spec and when to the alps for XMas with my
girlfriend. I couldn't sleep and started reading those specs, then I got
the idea of server side pipelines of filtering components passing XML.
The TV was showing the movie Cocoon. 

If you are reading this, you probably know the rest so let's cut the
crap :)

Final words: I've spent 5 years of my life around Apache. It's about 20%
of my entire life. I didn't enjoy every minute of it, but I did enjoy
every new thing I learned and every person I met.

Software is the excuse for being here, but the real thing is learning
and having the chance to meet wonderful people that I could not find
down the road.

I owe everything I am to the friends that helped me during my Apache
journey: Federico Barbieri, Pierpaolo Fumagalli, Fabrizio Rovelli, Jon
Stevens, Brian Behlendorf, James Davidson, Donald Ball, Ricardo Rocha,
Giacomo Pati, Roy Fielding, Sam Ruby, and thousands of others.

Apache is recognized as the place where good software get written, but
it's much more: it's a place where a person gets helped to fix his/her
own problems by using software writing as an excuse.

I'm a better person than I used to be: this is all that matters and this
is what my "@apache.org" mail address means to me.

This is what the "Apache spirit" is. Don't let anything, not even
software, interfere with this.

Take care :)

-- 
Stefano Mazzocchi      One must still have chaos in oneself to be
                          able to give birth to a dancing star.
<stefano@apache.org>                             Friedrich Nietzsche
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