Yesterday I attended FOSS Backstage in Berlin. FOSS Backstage is a "conference on everything governance, collaboration, legal & economics within the scope of FOSS". I went there to present my session, based on the Apache NetBeans experiences of the past two years or so, entitled 10 Tips for Moving Large Corporate Projects to Apache. I also went because I knew that several people from the Apache Software Foundation who have been instrumental in the transition of NetBeans to Apache would also be there and I thought it was time to put some faces to the many new names that we've been confronted with during the transition process!
The event began for me with a wonderful speakers dinner, where I met three of the absolute key Apache people involved in the Apache NetBeans project — Emmanuel Lecharny, Bertrand Delacretaz, and Mark Struberg. Here we are, literally about 5 minutes after meeting, discussing the current status of the transition process (click the image below to increase size):
Bertrand and Mark are two of the Apache NetBeans mentors, while Emmanuel was a mentor during the beginning phase of the transition. Both Bertrand and Emmanuel were involved really in the pre-start phase of the donation, with many thanks to Emmanuel Hugonnet who introduced us, after a very nice and long conversation some years ago in Athens!
During the event, I also met several others who I have seen on Apache mailing lists — Justin McLean, Shane Curcuru, and Jim Jagielski. Really amazing to meet all these names in person — and not to forget, I also met Mark Thomas, who is the Apache VP for Brand Management, i.e., who we need to work with for the brand/domain donation, and Malcolm Bain, a lawyer specialising in ICT law, based in Barcelona, with a special focus on Open Source Projects. I also spoke with Kevin A. McGrail, who is Apache VP Fundraising, who later sent me this very nice and welcome message: "Did I hear you correct and you wanted to talk about how I can help NetBeans with sponsorship?" Yes, you did, Kevin!
What really struck me is how positive everyone at Apache is about the Apache NetBeans project. Everyone mentioned how great and active the Apache NetBeans community is, i.e., active mailing lists, several discussion threads, voting in new PPMC members, and of course also doing releases already, with everyone positive and committed to the project. I realized, especially as I was doing my presentation, when I was talking about the history of NetBeans, that the reason why Apache NetBeans is going so well in many respects is because we've been working on our community from the very beginning. I.e., even while NetBeans was part of commercial entities (i.e., Sun and Oracle), we had an army of volunteers all over the world, organized in structures such as NetCAT (i.e., volunteer testers), and the NetBeans Dream Team (i.e., volunteer evangelists), while we've also been organizing NetBeans Days all over the world for several years, i.e., we've come to Apache with a ready-made community, whereas for the majority of other projects coming to Apache the reason that they're coming to Apache is because they don't yet have a community and are looking to Apache to provide the infrastructure for doing so.
Also, really crucially, we've spent years educating developers everywhere about the NetBeans APIs, the NetBeans source structure, etc. That's been massively impactful now that we're in Apache, since those who are most active right now are those that have been involved with NetBeans for around 20 years or so. In short, there are definitely advantages to being a large corporate project in terms of transitioning to Apache — just like NetBeans, you may take a long time to get all your code across (because the donating company needs to spend time auditing and cleaning the code etc), though on the other hand you'll potentially be bringing a massive amount of existing knowledge and a vibrant community along with you.
In short, it was great to be at FOSS Backstage and I am sure more and more Apache NetBeans community members will be submitting sessions to similar Apache events around the world and sharing their experiences, too.