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From "Craig R. McClanahan" <>
Subject Re: Collaborative Development (not Cat and Dog)
Date Wed, 09 May 2001 19:00:30 GMT

On Wed, 9 May 2001, Paulo Gaspar wrote:

> > Besides developers and their own itches, there is another group whose
> > interests ought to be considered - USERS of Tomcat.  If you don't have
> > any, then it becomes a much less interesting project to work on.  And
> > we've done a pretty good job at confusing people about what the Tomcat
> > road map is.  If the user community were to abandon Tomcat, it wouldn't
> > matter much what we do on the development side.
> Why are USERS that different from developers in this case?

By USERS, I'm talking about the people that use Tomcat as a product, and
who don't usually even WANT to think about the Tomcat source code.  They
don't include folks who want to think about participating in Tomcat's
development -- they just want a cool servlet + JSP container.

For a sense of perspective on the Tomcat user community, consider the

Just off the main Apache web site, Tomcat binary downloads (in various
release and nightly build formats) run from 50,000 to 100,000 downloads
per month.  That doesn't count mirror sites (official and unofficial),
people who download Tomcat as part of other app servers, people who
download Tomcat as part of development tools packages, and people who
download the J2EE RI (which includes Tomcat as its web layer).

At the moment, there are 2,236 subscribers to the TOMCAT-USER list, which
is the largest Jakarta mailing list other than ANNOUNCEMENTS (~4,200).
TOMCAT-DEV has 1,125 - many of them subscribed because they want to
understand where Tomcat is going (a pretty smart way to figure that out,
IMHO), not because they are contributing.

(This trend is visible in other Jakarta projects as well -- lots and lots
of downloads, user mailing lists at least double the size of the developer
list, well-supported packages gaining users much faster than they gain
developers, ...)

If you want to understand why caring about users is important, go
subscribe to TOMCAT-USER and start answering all of the plaintive calls
for help.  These people don't give a rip about the internal architecture -
they are totally mystified by the absolutely horrible mess we've made of
configuration, most especially for web connectors.  We're talking about
lots of people who are new to servlets and JSP, and often new to Java --
and we are erecting a huge wall in front of them, before they can
productively use the software that we have been slaving over.

> This is Open Source. The developers are USERS trying to scratch their
> own itches.

Developers, in terms of the comments I was making, are often Users as well
-- but there's a whole bunch more Users than that.  It's definitely open
source, and we Developers are totally free to ignore the non-developer
Users if we want to.  And those Users are totally free to ignore our
software and flock to other products whose developers care about them.  
If we were to chase everyone away, it doesn't matter how cool our software
is any more -- it becomes irrelevant.

> For each USER that becomes a developer to scratch his own itch there are
> several other USERS with the same itches just waiting for the scratching
> solution to be ready. (*)
> One thing I had to learn while starting to use Open Source software (and
> that was recently - during 2000) was:
>  1) There is usually no fancy wrapped product with manual and you really
>     have to get involved, subscribe the mailing lists and dive into the
>     source code to understand some of the stuff you use;
>  2) You still have (much) faster answers for your problems, even having
>     the option of participating in their solution.
> Whomever is aware of 2) is motivated to do 1).
> Whomever does 1) here, understands the 4.x versus 3.3 pros and cons and
> is able to make the best choice for his own case.

No argument that developers can do what they want in an open source
project.  But, by MY definitions of the terms (since you're responding to
what I said :-), there are orders of magnitude more Tomcat users in the
world than there are Tomcat developers.  IMHO, we have an obligation to
care about them as well, and not selfishly focus on us.

> Corporations need to have a black on white clear statement, hiding or
> killing/loosing the advantages of Open Source's 'Software Darwinism'
> (which seems to me to have a good profits/cost balance). But this is
> not Sun's Tomcat Project, it is Apache's Jakarta Tomcat Project.

Corporations got that message a couple years ago :-)

By the way, I was an open source developer (see below) even before I
joined Sun ... they hired me (at least in part) because of that.

> The others will always be the (prey) customers of the more traditional
> commercial software or are better paying loads of money to have some
> consultant thinking for them. (And the consultant might still be an
> Open Source adept.)
> > There isn't any compelling benefit (to the user community) to have two
> > active development branches, once the "next generation" branch
> > matures.  The 4.0 container code is pretty stable (letting us focus now on
> > performance improvements and feature adds).
> You seem to imply that 4.0 is the final solution for everybody. But it
> sure is not for me and for many others. (Keep in mind that I do NOT
> think that 3.3 is the final solution for everybody either.)
> I am new here, but didn't Catalina start a bit against the flow?

Actually, it was the other way around if you look at the
history.  Catalina was originally created in Apache JServ days -- it would
have been Apache JServ 2.0, until Sun announced that they were
contributing Tomcat in June 1999.  If you go peruse the JServ CVS tree on
the JSERV1_1 branch, you'll see what is recognizably the same
architecture and implementation.

Catalina is actually going back to the roots of the Apache-based open
source servlet container project :-).

> > performance improvements and feature adds).  We could have had mod_jk
> > ported a long time ago if someone wanted to work on it then (as they are
> > apparently willing to now).
> Hey! Wasn't Tomcat 4.x betting on mod_webapp???
> You should be happy that a few 3.x USERS/Developers kept working on
> mod_jk.

At the time that "bet" was placed, there were zero people working on
mod_jk (and even less documentation :-) -- it wasn't an option that could
be considered.

It's still not clear to me that mod_jk will make it possible to create a
combined webserver+Tomcat implementation that conforms to the specs --
there's still a lot of work to be done there.

> Craig, I admire your work a lot. But I find it hard to understand why
> such a brilliant person chooses a confrontational tone at the moment
> he is collecting such benefits from cooperation.

You sparred with Jon and call *my* tone confrontational?  :-) :-) :-)

Paulo, you've made some interesting and useful comments.  However,
you're starting from a very different definition of USER than I am, and
therefore drawing incorrect conclusions about what I am saying.

I feel a personal, moral, obligation to the thousands and thousands of
people who download Tomcat in the hopes of having a servlet container that
works, and who want to have confidence in a solid support and future
growth path -- and we (develoeprs) have not yet provided an unambiguous
message to reassure them.

> Remember: most 3.3 people were not that motivated to work on Catalina,
> and because they worked (and keep working) on stuff for 3.3 that has
> common usefulness, 4.x now can benefit form it.
> If it was not for 3.3, maybe they were working on something else. Are
> you sure they would be converted to 4.x?
> And many USERS (like me) could be now investing on some other tool.
> Staying around because of 3.3, maybe they can be converted to 4.x
> AFTER 4.x proves its value.

Remember, by my definitions you're a DEVELOPER, not a USER :-).

> Have fun,
> Paulo Gaspar
> (*) - Most of them much more silent and even less participative than
>       myself.  =;o)


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