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From Myrle Krantz <>
Subject Re: Why are large code drops damaging to a community?
Date Wed, 24 Oct 2018 14:17:34 GMT
Hey all,

I'd like to invite anyone with relevant positive or negative
experiences with off-list development or large code drops to share
those experiences.  The ASF policy of "no off-list development" is
implemented in a wide variety of ways in various communities, but
there are still may be some things that we can agree are absolute
no-goes.  I'd like to figure out what things we see as:

* You might get away with that once, but don't try it twice.  That's
damaging to the community.
* Avoid doing that unless you have a really good reason that the
community has accepted.
* That has a bit of a smell to it.  Have you discussed that with your community?
* That's fine.  You're helping your community.
* What a wonderful idea! Absolutely do that if you and your community want to!

I'm hoping to put together a diagnostic tool for offlist development
that can help communities help themselves.  Something similar to
Beck's Depression Inventory.  Because like mental health, community
health is complex, and sometimes it is not clearly 'good' or 'bad'.

In order to do that though, I'd like to read your stories.  Especially
from the people who've been around a few projects and seen a few
things.  The stories Malcolm, Chris, and Jim already shared are
exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for, so if y'all would like to
elaborate that'd be really cool too.

Best Regards,

On Sat, Oct 20, 2018 at 6:41 AM Myrle Krantz <> wrote:
> Hey Jim,
> I’d say they are a symptom *and* a problem. But putting that aside, can you unroll
what you mean please?
> What was that code drop from SGI a symptom of?
> What did Robert Thau do (or not do), before during or after to ensure the success of
> Best Regards,
> Myrle
> On Sat 20. Oct 2018 at 00:28 Jim Jagielski <> wrote:
>> I would say that, in general, large code drops are more a *symptom* of a problem,
rather than a problem, in and of itself...
>> > On Oct 19, 2018, at 5:12 PM, Alex Harui <> wrote:
>> >
>> > IMO, the issue isn't about large code drops.  Some will be ok.
>> >
>> > The issue is about significant collaboration off-list about anything, not just
>> >
>> > My 2 cents,
>> > -Alex
>> >
>> > On 10/19/18, 1:32 PM, "James Dailey" <> wrote:
>> >
>> >    +1 on this civil discourse.
>> >
>> >    I would like to offer that sometimes large code drops are unavoidable and
>> >    necessary.  Jim's explanation of httpd contribution of type 1 is a good
>> >    example.
>> >
>> >    I think we would find that many projects started with a large code drop
>> >    (maybe more than one) - a sufficient amount of code - to get a project
>> >    started.  When projects are young it would be normal and expected for this
>> >    to happen. It quickly gets a community to a "thing" that can be added to.
>> >
>> >    It obviously depends on the kinds of components, tools, frameworks, etc
>> >    that are being developed. Game theory is quite apropos - you need a
>> >    sufficient incentive for *timely* collaboration, of hanging together.
>> >
>> >    Further, if your "thing" is going to be used directly in market (i.e. with
>> >    very little of a product wrapper ), then there is a strong *disincentive*
>> >    to share back the latest and greatest. The further from market immediacy
>> >    the easier it is to contribute. Both the Collaboration space and
>> >    Competitive space are clearly delineated, whereas in a close to market
>> >    immediacy situation you have too much overlap and therefore a built in
>> >    delay of code contribution to preserve market competitiveness.
>> >
>> >    So, combining the "sufficient code to attract contribution" metric with the
>> >    market-immediacy metric and you can predict engagement by outside vendors
>> >    (or their contributors) in a project. In such a situation, it is better,
>> >    my view, to accept any and all branched code even if it is dev'd off-list.
>> >    This allows for inspection/ code examination and further exploration - at
>> >    minimum.  Accepting on a branch is neither the same as accepting for
>> >    release, nor merging to master branch.
>> >
>> >    Now, the assumption that the code is better than what the community has
>> >    developed has to be challenged.  It could be that the branched code should
>> >    be judged only on the merits of the code (is it better and more complete),
>> >    or it could be judged on the basis that it "breaks the current build".
>> >    There can be a culture of a project to accept such code drops with the
>> >    caveat that if the merges cannot be done by the submitting group, then the
>> >    project will have a resistance to such submissions (you break it, you fix
>> >    it), or alternatively that there will be a small group of people that are
>> >    sourced from such delayed-contribution types - that work on doing the
>> >    merges.  The key seems to be to create the incentive to share code before
>> >    others do, to avoid being the one that breaks the build.
>> >
>> >    ~jdailey67
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >    On Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 6:10 AM Jim Jagielski <> wrote:
>> >
>> >> Large code drops are almost always damaging, since inherent in that
>> >> process is the concept of "throwing the code over a wall". But sometimes
>> >> does work out, assuming that continuity and "good intentions" are followed.
>> >>
>> >> To show this, join me in the Wayback Machine as Sherman and I travel to
>> >> the year 1995...
>> >>
>> >> This is right around the start of Apache, back when Apache meant the web
>> >> server, and at the time, the project was basically what was left of the
>> >> NCSA web server plus some patches and bug fixes... Around this time, one
>> >> the core group, Robert Thau, started independent work on a re-architecture
>> >> of the server, which he code-named "Shambala". It was basically a single
>> >> contributor effort (himself). One day he simply said to the group, "Here,
>> >> have this new design and architecture for Apache. It adds a lot of
>> >> features." So much of what defines httpd today can find its origin right
>> >> there: modular framework, pools, preforking (and, as such, the initial
>> >> gleaming towards MPMs), extendable API, etc...
>> >>
>> >> In many ways, this was a large code drop. What made it different is that
>> >> there was *support* by the author and the community to work on integrating
>> >> it into the whole. It became, basically, a community effort.
>> >>
>> >> Now compare that with a different scenario... Once httpd had picked up
>> >> steam, and making sure that it was ported to everyone's favorite *nix
>> >> flavor was important, SGI had done work on a set of patches that ported
>> >> httpd to their OS and provided these patches (a set of 10 very large
>> >> patch-files, iirc) to the group. What was clear in those patches is that
>> >> there was no consideration at all on how those patches affected or broke
>> >> anyone else. They rewrote huge swaths of code, optimizing for SGI and
>> >> totally destroying any sort of portability for anyone else. And when we
>> >> responded by, asking for more information, help with chatting with their
>> >> developers to try to figure things out, and basically trying to figure out
>> >> how to use and merge this stuff, SGI was basically just silent. They sent
>> >> it to us and that was the beginning and the end of their involvement as
>> >> as they were concerned.[1]
>> >>
>> >> Way, way too many large code drops are the latter. Hardly any are the
>> >> former.
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> 1. I have paraphrased both the Shambala and SGI events
>> >
>> >
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