A follow-up to my previous post on the Apache Incubation proposal to move OpenOffice.org over to Apache and continue the project there. In that post, I described how Apache projects are run via a meritocracy, that members gain additional rights and responsibilities based on the approval of their peers, etc. But I have received a variety of questions related to this, and I’ve done my best to track down some answers. So here are what I found out, in my words, paraphrasing the questions and giving answers, possibly with my mistakes, but I’ll correct them as they are identified.
Question: How do I sign up to be a project member?
Answer: For now, since we’re in the proposal stage, and the project has not officially started, we don’t have a website, mailing lists, a repository, etc. So there is no direct project work to do yet. However, anyone who wants to “get in on the ground floor” with Apache OpenOffice, can sign up by adding their name to the “Initial Committers” table at the proposal wiki. If you don’t have a login for the wiki (and you probably don’t) then you can quickly get one by clicking “log in” and then following the instructions to create a new account. If you have interest in this, I’d encourage you to sign up. Even though we can’t code yet, we can edit the proposal itself, and there are thin spots there that we could certainly use help filling in. If you want to contribute you should also sign up on the incubator general list. This is where the proposal is being discussed.
Question: This meritocracy sounds very programmer-oriented. But OpenOffice.org, as an end-user, mass-market application, involves a broader community of contributors, from test to translation to documentation to marketing, etc. Do they fit into this meritocracy at all? Is a marketing person or an event organizer or a build engineer a valued contributor?
Answer: Yes. Absolutely. Each Apache project determines the criteria used to identify those members whose sustained contributions to the project warranted recognition and advancement. I think that in the case of an end-user facing application like OpenOffice.org, contributions come in many flavors. It is not limited to coders, or even to those who check in “assets” like translations and test scripts. We’ll need a wide range of contributors with a diverse set of skills to take OpenOffice.org to the next level.
Question: Do I need to sign a copyright assignment to contribute to Apache? I heard a lot of bad things about the paperwork that Sun required from OpenOffice contributors.
Answer: In Sun’s case it was the JCA by which the copyright of all code contributions was assigned to Sun. Instead Apache has a “Contributor License Agreement” which they have in both individual and corporate forms. This agreement does not require copyright assignment to a single entity, not even to Apache. It does not aggregate copyright. But it does require that you agree to license the copyright to Apache as well as to anyone using the software. IANAL, but this sounds like a good thing. If you are comfortable with the Apache 2.0 license, I can’t see why you would have a problem with the Apache iCLA, since it pretty much restates those same terms.
Question: What kinds of contributors are you looking for? What roles and skills?
Answer: If you look at the range of skills and contributors that went into making OpenOffice.org, you will have a good idea of what is involved:
- C++ and Java programmers — same thing really, any programmer over 40 ;-)
- Testers, both manual as well as those able to help with test automation
- Translators — I’d especially like to see some OOo National Language Projects sign up.
- Documentation / technical writers
- Web admin /server admin — We’re going to take over the OpenOffice.org website, but we’ll need to migrate to our own server
- Build engineer / build management
- Community development
- Event organizing
- Marketing / brand development
- Education / training / certification
- Package and liaise with Linux distros
What we don’t need, at least not at the project level, are things that are more in the nature of foundation-defined roles, like fundraisers, board of director members, membership committees, press release authors, etc. In this sense Apache OpenOffice is different from the OOo under Sun/oracle or from LibreOffice. We’re imbedded in a very capable and well-respected open source foundation. Apache has governance already established. Certainly individuals can get involved in that if they wish, and more importantly if they have the support and votes of their peers to advance to that point, but this is not something we need to reinvent for the project. We can concentrate on the project work itself. 100% of the effort will be on improving OpenOffice.
In particular, I’d welcome existing contributors from the OpenOffice.org community, including those from Oracle Hamburg (check with HR first, of course), from the Symphony team and from other parts of IBM (send me a note if you have questions), from companies with desktop Linux distributions (you need a strong story for productivity applications to be viable in the enterprise), from those other companies with downstream business based on OpenOffice (consultants, trainers, authors, migration experts), and of course members of the large and vibrant LibreOffice community.
And remember, contributing to an Apache project is not an exclusive thing. You as the author of code, documentation, translations, etc., own the copyright to your original work. You may choose to license your work under Apache 2.0 and contribute it to Apache OpenOffice and then attach a different set of licenses and contribute it to LibreOffice. This is a good way to get your work out to the maximum number of users. And who knows? You might find out that you like Apache and decide to move your tent over there. That’s your choice. If you do that, you can contribute just to Apache and then have LO suck down the changes from the Apache project. This is because Apache 2.0 and GPLv3 are compatible in that direction. So you still can impact both projects by contributing code to one place, namely Apache. But it does not work in the other direction.