Apache Con – Hackathon days

Apache Con – Hackathon days #

This year on Halloween I left for a trip to Atlanta/GA. Apache Con US was supposed to take place there featuring two presentations on Apache Mahout – one by Grant Ingersoll explaining how to use Mahout to provide better search features in Solr, one by myself with a general introduction to what features Mahout provides, giving a bit more detailed information on how to use Mahout for classificaiton.

I spent most of Monday in Sally Khudairi’s media training. In the morning session she explained the Ins and Outs of successfully marketing your open source project: One of the most important questions is to be able to provide a dense but still accessible explanation of what your project is all about and how it differentiates from other projects potentially in the same space. As a first exercise attendees would meet in pairs interviewing each other about their respective project. When summarising the information I had gotten, Sally quickly pointed out additional pieces of valuable information I had totally forgotten to ask about:

  • First of all the full name of the interviewee, including the sur-name.
  • Second the background of the person with respect to the project. It seemed all to natural that someone you meet at Apache Con in a Media Training almost certainly is either founder or core-committer to the project. Still it is interesting to know more on how long he has been contributing, whether he maybe even co-founded the project.

After that first exercise we would go into detail on various publication formats. When releasing project information the first format that comes to mind are press releases. For software projects at the ASF these are created in a semi-standardised format containing

  • Background on the foundation itself.
  • Some general background on the project.
  • A few paragraphs on the news to be published on the project in an easily digestible format.
  • Contact information for more details.

Some of these parts can be re-used across different publications and occasions. It does make sense to keep these building blocks as a set of boilerplates ready to use when needed.

After lunch Michael Coté from redmonk visited us. Michael has a development background, currently he works as business analyst for redmonk. It is fairly simple to explain technical projects to fellow developers. To get some experience in explaining our project also to non-technical people Sally invited Michael to interview us. By the end of the interview Michael asked each whether they had any question for him. As understanding what machine learning can do for your average Joe programmer is not all to trivial I simply asked him for strategies for better explaining or show-casing our project. One option that came to his mind was to come up with one – or a few – example show cases where Mahout is applied to freely available datasets. Currently most data analysis systems are rather simple or based only on a very limited set of data. Showing on a few selected use cases what can be done with Mahout should be a good way to get quite some media attention for the project.

During the remaining time of the afternoon I started working a short explanation of Mahout and our latest release. The text was reviewed by the Mahout community. The text was published by Sally on the blog of the Apache Software foundation. I also used it as a basis for an article on heise open that got published that same day.

The second day was reserved for a mixture of attending the Barcamp session and hacking away at the Hackathon. Ross had talked me into giving an overview of various Hadoop use cases as that was requested by one of the attendees. However it turned out the guy wasn’t really interested in specific use cases: The discussion quickly turned into the more fundamental question of how far the ASF should go in promoting its projects. Should there be a budget for case studies? Should there even be some marketing department. Well, clearly that is out of scope for the foundation. And in addition would run contrary to it being a neutral ground for vendors to collaborate towards common goals while still separately making money providing consulting services, selling case studies etc.

During the Hackathon I was turned into a Mentor for Stanbol, a new project entering incubation just now. In addition I spent some time to finally catch up with the Mahout mailing list.