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From Tim Larson <>
Subject Re: @author tags (WAS: RE: ASF Board Summary for February 18, 2004)
Date Fri, 27 Feb 2004 15:25:55 GMT
On Fri, Feb 27, 2004 at 11:33:32AM +0100, Dirk-Willem van Gulik wrote:
> On Feb 27, 2004, at 12:45 AM, Conal Tuohy wrote:
> >I don't think the ASF should discourage developers from keeping useful 
> >metadata about the code inside the source files. What better place to 
> >put the metadata than in the code? This makes it more likely to be 
> >used and kept up to date than if it was stored somewhere else, IMHO.
> One way to look at this is that @author tags are in a way factually 
> 'wrong'; in most cases it just signals which person wrote the  first 
> skeleton of that code; but subsequently it was fixes, peer-reviewed and 
> looked at by a whole community. Also do not forget the many people in 
> your community which help with QA, Documentation, user-feedback and so 
> on. To put  one person in the (hot) seat for what is essentially a 
> group effort is not quite right.
> Looking through the CVS logs of a few tomcat files: each block of 30 
> lines seems to have had commits of at least 5 persons; with a median of 
> 6 and an  average of 9. The average number of @author tags on those 
> arbitrary blocks is about 0.5. And that is not counting QA, docs, 
> suggestions of mailing lists, bug resolutions, user support. I.e. those 
> things which make tomcat such a great supported product.
> Secondly what we 'sell' as the ASF brand is a code base which is peer 
> reviewed, quality controlled and created by a sustainable group which 
> will survive the coming and going of volunteers. One where knowledge is 
> generally shared and not just depended on one single individual. This 
> is one of the key reasons why large companies, governments, etc have a 
> lot less qualms about using apache than using most other open source; 
> we mitigate  the worry that it depends on a single person, and can 
> implode or fork without warning, right from the get-go.
> Finally - a lot of developers do live in countries where you can get 
> sued. The ASF can provide a certain level of protection; but this is 
> based on the KEY premisse that there is oversight and peer review. That 
> what we ship is a community product; and that everything is backed by 
> the community and cannot be attributed to a single person. Every commit 
>  gets peer review; ever release requires +1s' and are backed by the 
> community as a whole. @author tags are by necessity incomplete and thus 
> portrait the situation inaccurately. Any hint or suggestion that parts 
> of the code are not a community product makes defence more complex and 
> expensive. We do not want to temp anyone - but rather present a clean 
> picture with no blemishes or easy go's.
> And to give this a positive slant; be -proud- of this culture; be proud 
> of being part of something larger of incredible  quality. Each of you 
> did not just write a few pesky lines of code surrounded by an @author 
> tag; but where instrumental in getting the -whole- thing work ! And if 
> you are ever trying to understand why cocoon made it this far, and 
> other commercial/open-source projects did not, then do look there; 
> quality and a sense of long term stability.
> Take Care, Have fun,
> Dw

Thank you for this email.  My +1 for removal of author tags is now
whole hearted.  Could we post something like this writeup in a
committer tips area as an explanation of the policy?

--Tim Larson

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