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From Russell E Glaue <>
Subject Re: How contributors participate in this community?
Date Tue, 28 Feb 2012 20:57:19 GMT
I'd like to give an answer since I am not and IBM employee, and actually work at 
a University-based non-profit organization.

On 02/07/2012 11:01 PM, maxj07 wrote:
> Hi,
>    I am a phd student of Peking University. My interest is to
> investigate hybrid projects (open source and backed by companies), e.g,
> how it affects volunteers compared to the beginning open and free world.
> I studied Geronimo through its log files in SVN, issue reports in Issue
> Tracker, emailing-lists and information all over Internet, found some
> interesting results, also have a couple of questions, hope any of you
> wouldn't mind reading and answering.
> Geronimo seems to go through two periods since is was born in 2003
> a)Period1: 2003.08-2005.04, open source period
> b)Period2: 2005.08-2010.08, hybrid with IBM's support, IBM provide
> Expert Technical Support for Geronimo
> If I'm wrong, please correct me.

> 1) It seems that Geronimo gets less external developers after IBM's
> support -- I identified external developers through the committer list
> on Apache website
> (committers not from IBM are regarded as external developers. See
> Is that because a new protocol requires a long process to get commit
> privilege? Or, people just simply didn't like any commercial companies
> getting involved therefore ran away? E.g, Similar case in JBoss: "There
> had been rumors
> swirling about various people leaving JBoss after its acquisition by Red
> Hat, including Marc Fleury." (See

 From the outside, it looks like the internal and external developers who are 
committers have ongoing momentum in working towards specific milestones. It is 
difficult for non-committers to get onto the bandwagon for working on the same 

Those who are not paid by their employer to improve the general viability of 
Geronimo may only be able, or have time, to target specific items that prevent 
Geronimo from being usable for them or their employer.

Without an easy and widely-usable software application, the community will find 
it difficult to gain adoption from new users. Without new users, the community 
will end up having fewer people contributing - I believe this is a sensible 

The ones you term the IBM developers, are all working towards specific core 
goals at this time, like OSGI compatibility, which is definitely the way the 
industry needs to go. But, as of today, OSGI is not necessary to publish a 
general web application for general web user usage. Only us few hard-core geeks 
see the value and want to use it - though one day it will be necessary. Some, 
like me, will argue OSGI is long overdue for the industry.

Because the IBM developers are working on core goals, there are few magical 
touches and cosmetic lights (like the neon sign) that attract new users in the 
same way a bug light attracts bugs. And because the core goals are being worked 
towards, it is difficult to put the extra magic into the cosmetics until that is 
done. OSGI needs some cosmetics, for example, to make it "look" attractive to 
external users who may have no idea what it is.

The result is new potential contributors (non-IBM employees), which will have 
only limited time to contribute, understand less of what is under the hood, and 
as a result are not able to easily get involved.

Once us external non-committers get involved, we don't see any reason why IBM's 
resource investment would cause Geronimo to be less desirable as a product. 
Though, IBM's resources are probably focused towards specific advancement in 
Geronimo the company is interested in. But then again, this is the same for my 
employer which wants me to focus on one specific part of Geronimo to make it 
usable for it. So that seems like a normal happening. And they go together, for 
without one, the other may not happen. That is without IBM's continuing 
investment, my employer may not want to be involved.

> I also observed that JBoss showed the similar phenomena after RedHat
> stepped
> in. I suppose commercial involvement might hurt people in open source to
> some extent, I wonder what it is.

Geronimo and JBoss projects probably would benefit from evangelizers who can 
help gain broader adoption and show off value.

The corporate involvement in the OSS projects is to advance the functionality 
for the corporate entity's use. This benefits the project greatly, but there are 
no resources put into evangelizing what is created (a.k.a. Marketing).

I think this is the detachment.
Imagine taking the marketing department out of a typical software company, and 
ask the developers to promote their software project while also developing the 
software. For one, the developers are too busy developing.

My employer does not want to pay me to market Geronimo to outside interests.. 
they want me to develop Geronimo into a usable product for their immediate use.

> 2) However, I found Geronimo developers stay shorter after IBM supported
> it.
> I am very curious about two things:
> (i) Only 2 out of 20 developers left before IBM supporting, why are so
> few developers leave and so many developers stick to this Open Source
> project at that time? Did those developers come from the same company or
> work in the same location?

Probably at the beginning there was a lot of "marketing" for the project. And 
just like start-ups, a lot of people want to be a part of it.... for the 
short-term. Turn over in start-up companies is high.

People like me get started at the beginning, but later their employer moves them 
on to other more immediate issues. But I did come back!

> (ii) Whether most of the active contributers were recruited to support
> the community after IBM's support? So IBM would decide who is assigned
> to work on Geronimo and how long they would stay in the project?

This has to do with the start-up syndrome. IBM is committed to the development 
of Geronimo, so they invest their people into the project long-term. Other 
companies may not have the same level of commitment. And all the other 
independent individuals were a part of Geronimo during the initial start-up. 
Once Geronimo got off the ground, the hype fizzled.

Those individuals who are left, and which are not IBM employees like me, still 
have employers with some level of interest in using Geronimo for the long-term.

> 3) People always say one big advantage of OSS is to have a big amount of
> users reporting issues therefore help improve quality. During 2005 to
> 2008, right when IBM began to support Geronimo, there was an big
> increase of users(saying 5 to nearly 20 users per month) reporting
> issues. However, I found a decrease (dropped to around 10 user-reporters
> per month) since the end of 2007. So I wonder what happened to the
> community since then? Is there a new way faster to report issues? Or is
> that because IBM restrict the usage of JIRA so as to ensure the issue
> quality, such as it requires users to first ask in maillist then in

JIRA is not restricted.

Probably two factors.
(1) While Geronimo was still being developed, and working through its growth to 
super-stability, lots of issues could be reported. And this still is the case as 
we work from one milestone to the next.
(2) The committers can typically use jira issues to track modification to the 
code. Every subversion commit likely has an associated JIRA that documents the 
code change.

So the fluctuation you see is because of continued development being tracked in 
JIRAs, and an increase in stability of the base code.

I think it can be said that, for a typical user, if it works, they typically 
will not want to spend the effort entering a JIRA to address anything that is 
not a show-stopper for them.

> I also found developers are the majority of issue reporters, not only in
> Geronimo but also in JBoss nowdays. I was wondering, is that because
> JIRA is more for developers now (users are in maillist or forum or smth
> like this)? Or, developers are required to report before jumping into
> fixing/changing code?

The later. See previous.

> I believe what Geronimo is doing has great implications for software
> engineering, e.g, how to build a better community, what are the best
> practices to attract participators. I would greatly appreciate any
> comments you might have.

I think everyone in the community today has a personal interest in the 
advancement of Geronimo that goes beyond their employer. However, Geronimo is 
software used by technical people, and we contribute what we do best which is 
code and documentation.

If you know of how to get non-technical people (who may not have a clue what 
Geronimo is) involved who can donate their time to improve the community's 
general image, increase broader adoption, and increase Geronimo's marketing 
efforts, please share.

> Best Regards,
> Xiujuan Ma (马秀娟)
> Ph.D Candidate
> Institute of Software
> School of Electronics Engineering&  Computer Science
> Peking University
> Beijing, 100871, P.R.China
> Tel:010-62757801

Thanks for your interest.

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