February 14th: "I love free software day"

2012-02-13 21:07
This year FSFE is once again running their I love free software campaign on February 14th: The goal they put up is to have more love reports, hugs and Thank You messages sent out than bug reports filed against projects.

They have put online a few ideas on what to do that day. I'd like to add one additional option: If you are using any free software and you feel the urgent need to file a bug report on that day, use the opportunity to submit a patch as well: Make sure to not only describe what is going wrong but add a patch that contains a test to show the issue and a code modification that fixes the issue, is compatible with the project's coding guidelines, doesn't break anything else in the project. Any other contribution (documentation, increasing test coverage, help to other users) welcome as well of course.

Talking people into submitting patches

2011-09-21 20:22
In November I am going to attend Apache Con NA. This year I decided to do a little experiment: I sumitted a talk on talking people into contributing to free software projects. The format of the talk is a bit unusual: Drawing from my - admittedly limited and very biased - experience explaining free software to others and talking people into contributing patches this talks tries to initiate a discussion on methods to get awesome developers to consider contributing their work back to free software projects.

As a precursor to the talk I have created a public Google docs document - it already contains the title of each slide I will use in my presentation. Of course the content does not get disclosed ahead of time.

If any of the readers of this blog post has experience with either explaining why they contribute, how to contribute, issues and questions new users have - please feel free to fill them into above document. I'll try to integrate as much feedback as possible into my final slides.

Apache Mahout Podcast

2010-12-13 21:21
During Apache Con ATL Michael Coté interviewed Grant Ingersoll on Apache Mahout. The interview is available online as podcast. The interview covers the goals and current use cases of the project, goes into some detail on the reasons for initially starting it. If you are wondering what Mahout is all about, what you can do with it and which direction development is heading, the interview is a great option to find out more.

Apache Lunch Devoxx

2010-12-11 21:30
On Twitter I suggested to host an Apache dinner during Devoxx. Matthias Wesendorf of Apache MyFaces was so kind to take up the discussion carrying it over to the Apache community mailing-list. It quickly turned out that there was quite some interest with several members and committers attending Devoxx. We scheduled the meetup for Friday after the conference during lunch time.
I pinged a few Apache related people I knew would attend the conference (being a speaker and a committer at some Apache project almost certainly resulted in getting a ping). Steven Noels kindly made a reservation at a restaurant close by and announced time and geo coordinates on party.apache.org. Although several speakers had left already that very same morning, we turned out to be eleven people – including Stephen Coleburn, Mathias Wessendorf, Steven Noels, Martijn Dashorst of the Apache Wicked project. Was great meeting all of you – and being able to put some faces to names :)

Devoxx Antwerp

2010-12-03 21:16
With 3000 attendees Devoxx is the largest Java Community conference world-wide. Each year in autumn it takes place in Antwerp/ Belgium, in recent years in the Metropolis cinema. The conference tickets were sold out long before doors were opened this year.
The focus of the presentations are mainly on enterprise Java featuring talks by famous Joshua Bloch, Mark Reihnhold and others on new features of the upcoming JDK release as well as intricacies of the Java programming language itself.
This year for the first time the scope was extended to include one whole track on NoSQL databases. The track was organised by Steven Noels. It featured fantastic presentations on HBase use cases, easily accessible introductions to the concepts and usage of Hadoop.
To me it was interesting to observe which talks people would go to. In contrast to many other conferences here the NoSQL/ cloud-computing presentations were less visited than I'd have expected. One reason might be the fact that especially on conference day two they had to compete with popular topics such as the Java puzzlers, Live Java posse and others. However when talking to other attendees their seemed to be a clear gap between the two communities caused probably by a mixture of

  • there being very different problems to be solved in the enterprise world vs. the free software, requirements and scalability driven NoSQL community. Although even comparably small companies (compared to the Googles and Yahoo!s of this world) in Germany are already facing scaling issues, these problems are not yet that pervasive in the Java community as a whole. To me this was rather important to learn, as coming from a Machine learning background, now working for a search provider and being involved with Mahout, Lucene and Hadoop scalability and a growth in data has always been one of the major drivers for any projects I have been working on so far.
  • Even when faced with growing amounts of data in the regular enterprise world developers seem to be faced with the problem of not being able to freely select the technologies to be used for implementing a project. In contrast to startups and lean software teams there still seem to be quite a few teams that are not only given what to implement but also how to implement the software unnecessarily restricting the tools to use to solve a given problem.

One final factor that drives developers adopting NoSQL and cloud computing technologies is the observation for the need to optimise the system as a whole – to think outside the box of fixed APIs and module development units. To that end the DevOps movement was especially interesting to me as only by getting the knowledge largely hidden in operations teams into development and mixing that with the skill of software developers can lead to truly elastic and adaptable systems.

Christmas Scrumtisch

2010-11-29 22:59
Today the last Scrumtisch Berlin in 2010 took place in Friedrichshain. Thanks to Marion Eickmann and Andrea Tomasini for organising the Scrum user group regularly for the past years.

Though no presentation had been scheduled ahead of time the Scrumtisch was well attended by over twenty people, mostly from companies based in Berlin who are either using Scrum already or are currently in a transition phase.

We went straight into collecting and voting on topics for discussion. In total we ended up having eight potential topics listed, including but not limited to

  • Scrum and non-feature teams, does it work - and if, how?
  • Transitioning to Scrum - what are the stake holders that must be convinced first in a company?
  • Scrum with teams made of people buying into Scrum and those that don't - does that work?
  • Can Scrum be combined with people who want to telecommute?
  • Scrum and platform development - how does that get combined?
  • Scrum in systems engineering, embedded development - how to setup teams?

After voting we had the two clear winners discussing Scrum in teams that don't buy into the method completely as well as telecommuting with Scrum teams.

Scrum with broken teams

The situation described: The attendee proposing the topic has the problem of being Scrum master at a team that does not completely buy into Scrum. There are a few developers who like being self-organising, who love short feedback cycles. However there are a few others who would rather stick with their technological niche, get tasks assigned to them and avoid taking over tasks from others.

During discussion we found out that in this company Scrum had been introduced as a grass-roots movement little over a year ago. The introduction of the method led to success clearly visible in the company. In turn the method was tried on a larger team as well. However at the moment the team is at a point where it is about to break apart: Into developers happy with change, flexible enough to adapt to shift in technology and a second half that would rather continue developing the old way.

One very important point was raised by one of the attendees: With Scrum getting introduced so fast, compared to the length in time the company had been living before, it may well be time to slow down a bit. To sit down with the team in a relaxed environment and find out more on how everyone is assessing the current situation. Find out more on what people like about the new approach, and about what should be changed and still needs improvement. In the end it's not a process issue but a people problem - there is a need to get the team on-board.

Team-building activities might help as well - let the team experience what it means to be able to rely on each other. What does it mean to learn new things in short time, to co-operate to solve tasks so far untackled?

If team-members start ignoring the sprint backlog working on other tasks instead there is a question about whether there is enough trust in the product-owner's decisions. On the other hand with pressure resting on the team's shoulders there might be a need to stop the train, fix all open issues and continue only after the project is back in shape. However also this needs all team members working towards a common goal - with everyone willing to take up any open task.

Scrum and telecommuting

Basically the question was whether it works at all (clear yes from the audience) and if, which best practices to use. To be more precise: Does Scrum still work if some of the team members work from home a few days a week but are in the office all other time. The risk of course lies in loosing information, in the team building common knowledge. And thus becoming less productive.

There are technical tools that can help the process: electronic scrum boards (such as Greenhopper for JIRA or Agilo) as well as tele-conferencing systems, wikis, social networking tools, screen sharing for easier pair programming. All tools used must entail less overhead then the provide in benefit to the team however. Communication will become more costly - however if and to what extend this translates to a loss in productivity varies greatly.

There must be a clear commitment from both sides - the telecommuter as well as the team on-site - to keep the remote person in the loop. Actually it is easier with teams that are completely remote. This experience is sort of familiar from any open source project: With people working in different time zones it comes naturally to take any decision on a mailing list. However with some people having the chance to communicate face-to-face suddenly decisions become way less transparent. At Apache we even go as far as telling people that any decision that is not taken on the mailing list, never really was taken at all. A good insight into how distributed teams at Apache work has been given earlier by Bertrand Delacrétaz.

For team building reasons it may make sense to start out with a co-located team and split off people interested in working from home later on. That way people have a chance to get to know each other face-to-face which makes later digital-only communication way easier.

Thanks again to Marion and Andrea for organising today's Scrumtisch. If you are using Scrum and happen to be in Berlin - send an e-mail to Marion to let her know you are interested in the event, or simply join us at the published date.


2010-11-22 23:17
Currently on my way back from a series of conferences in the past three weeks in the IC from Schiphol. After three weeks of conferences, lots of new input and lots of interesting projects I learned about it is finally time to head back and put the stuff I have learned to good use.

View Travelling in a larger map

As seems normal with open source conferences I got far more input on interesting projects than I can expect to ever get applied in on a daily basis. Still it is always inspiring to meet with other developers in the same field – or even quite different fields and learn more on what projects they are working on, how they solve various problems.

A huge Thank You goes to the DICODE EU research project for sponsoring the Apache Con and Devoxx trips, another Thanks to Sapo.pt for inviting me to Lisbon and covering travel expenses. A special thank you to the assistant at neofonie who made travel arrangements for Atlanta and Antwerp: It all worked without problems even up to me having a power outlet in the train that is finally taking me back.

Apache Mahout @ Devoxx Tools in Action Track

2010-11-01 09:32
This year's Devoxx will feature several presentations coming from the Apache Hadoop ecosystem including Tom White on the basics of Hadoop: HDFS, MapReduce, Hive and Pig as well as Michael Stack on HBase.

In addition there will be a brief Tools in Action presentation on Monday evening featuring Apache Mahout.

Please let me know if you are going to Devoxx - would be great to meet some more Apache people there, maybe have dinner at one of the conference days.

Apache Mahout @ Lisbon Codebits

2010-10-31 09:36
Second week of November I'll spend a few days in Lisbon - never would have thought that I'd return so quickly when I visited this beautiful city this summer during vacation. I'll be there for Codebits - thanks to Sapo for inviting me to be there.

Back in summer I learned only after I returned to Germany that there was someone form Portugal seeking to meet with other Apache people exactly when I was down there. I contacted the guy proposing to do an Apache Dinner to see how many other committers and friends could be reached. In addition Filipe asked me whether I could imagine flying down to Sapo to give a talk on Mahout as devs there would be interested in it. Well, I told him that if I got travel support, I'd be happy to be there. This 10min chat quickly turned into an invitation to a great conference in Lisbon. Looking forward to meet you there. (And looking forward to weather that compared to Germany is way warmer and more sunny right now. :) )

Apache Mahout at Apache Con NA

2010-10-15 20:39
The upcoming Apache Con NA to take place in Atlanta will feature several tracks relevant to users of Apache Mahout, Lucene and Hadoop: There will be a full track on Hadoop as well as one on NoSQL on Wednesday featuring talks on the framework itself, Pig and Hive as well as presentations from users on special use cases and on their way of getting the system to production.

The track on Mahout, Lucene and friends starts on Thursday afternoon, followed by another series of Lucene presentations on Friday.

Also don't miss the track on the community and business tracks for a glimpse behind the scenes. Of course there will also be tracks on well-known Apache Tomcat, httpd, OSGi and many, many more.

Looking forward to meeting you in Atlanta!