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From robert burrell donkin <>
Subject Re: [all] Author tags [was Line width and such minutiae]
Date Sun, 02 Apr 2006 12:19:47 GMT

> > Gary Gregory wrote:
> >  > Based on the February 18, 2004, Apache Software Foundation Board
> >  > of Directors Meeting Minutes, author tags are "discouraged".


> > Sandy McArthur wrote:
> > >I have searched some and the arguments don't hold water with me.
> > :-) Many things from lawyers and the board don't make sense ;-)

here's the only convincing argument i know of:

what worries the board (and other open source folks) is the effective
destruction of open source projects by targeting (with individual
lawsuits) the limited number of critical contributors who do crucial
things such as cutting releases. if these individuals are acting on
their own behalf, as a non-profit the ASF cannot help them. if they are
acting for the ASF then the ASF can defend them in court. 

so, the trick is setting up a structure which imposes as little friction
on development as possible but which allows developers to develop for
the ASF rather than on their own behalf. PMC'ers are part of the ASF
organisation by their membership of an ASF committee and can bind the
ASF to a particular course of action. they should therefore be protected
from disruptive litigation by the ASF legal umbrella. committers are
not. so, it's important for PMC's so recognise those who make important
contributions to the ASF in a reasonably prompt fashion.

the question of the policy on author tags is related to this. it was
felt that PMC'ers may be weakening the legal argument (that they acting
on behalf on the ASF) if they added author tags to the code. might look
to a lawyer as if they were working for themselves. that's why
recognition elsewhere is fine.

note that this argument is only valid for PMC'ers and is not relevant
for author tags for other developers. when committing patches from
developers who are not committers, it is important that the source of
the patch is noted in the commit (so that it can be tracked). 

> > >I'm proud of the code I've contributed and I think an @author tag is
> > >proper recognition.
> > I suppose that five years ago when I joined, I felt something similar.
> > At that time author tags were allowed, so it wasn't a problem. Over
> > time, that desire for such 'base' recognition has gone.
> You're probably right eventually. When I'm married and have kids I
> probably won't even remember this but until then I do care with
> respect to my own contributions.

the maven generated team list and commit emails are better indexed (and
analysed) than the source. so, as a form of recognition, these generally
work better. author tags also seem to attract the wrong kind of
recognition: spam from uneducated users (who should be posting their
questions to the user list). we've also had arguments in the past about
authors who no longer wished to be associated with particular classes.
life is usually easier without them. 

> I think the best "policy" is to stay true to yourself and be tolerant
> of people with different policies. In my mind that will work today,
> tomorrow, and up until the earth is swallowed by the sun.

that's pretty much my approach. i generally leave author tags alone. for
new classes, i add apache as the author. but my opinion is in the
minority and i can understand why components with classes with long
author lists prefer to insist on the maven team list.

- robert

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