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From Dirk-Willem van Gulik <>
Subject Re: @author tags (WAS: RE: ASF Board Summary for February 18, 2004)
Date Fri, 27 Feb 2004 10:29:52 GMT

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,


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