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Technology / Software

Meet the Apache Software Foundation’s Top 5 Code Committers

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) — which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary is the meritocratic heart of arguably the world’s most vibrant open source community.  The non-profit organisation watches over 350 projects, from the well-known (Hadoop, Kafka) through to more niche “podlings” in the Apache incubator.

With 200+ million lines of code under its stewardship, the foundation’s success rests on the shoulders of an open source army of contributors; some volunteers, others paid to maintain code bases used in mission-critical applications. (Apache projects are used by blue chips ranging from Cisco to Bloomberg, Netflix to Goldman Sachs).

Among the organisation’s 7,032 committers (developers who have earned write access to a given project’s code repository) five stood out for their contributions in 2018.

Committed to Commits: The Apache Top 5 

Between them, Andrea Cosentino, Jean-Baptiste Onofré, Duo Zhang, Mark Thomas and Tilman Hausherr amended a colossal 2,516,983 lines of code in just 12 months, generating a combined 10,121 commits across a range of Apache projects.

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Computer Business Review tracked them down to hear more about how they got involved in open source, the projects they are working on and the snacks that fuel their marathon coding sessions. We got back more than we bargained for, including cat pictures, football loyalties, links to bug fixes and explanations of repeated toilet breaks.

#1: Andrea Cosentino (2,508 Commits)

Open source “addict” Andrea Cosentino is a Senior Software Engineer at Red Hat, where he works in the Red Hat Fuse Team, focussing on integration. 

Andrea Cosentino
What was your first experience with open source? 

“In my old job I started working on a project involving Apache Camel. [Ed: an open source Java framework that focuses on making integration easier and more accessible to developers]. I noticed some bugs, enhancements and little things to add and I started contributing to the project. I was already involved in little projects on GitHub but I’d say the real starting experience [of open source development] was with Apache Camel’s development…

How did you get involved with the ASF?

We noticed a problem on Camel while upgrading from a really old version to a newer one (we had problem with properties placeholders): I tried to fix the new behavior, but originally my fix was wrong and the project lead (Claus Ibsen) helped me to understand why it was wrong and what I should do. That was the first experience with ASF I’d say.

What keeps you contributing? And do you feel the OSS community has changed much over the years? 

I strongly believe in ASF and the idea behind the foundation: that’s the main reason why I keep contributing. The OSS community is changing in a positive direction: more and more people are involved in the process and Open Source is the way.

How do you find time?

My daily activities are based on the project. I work on it during the week and avoid touching the keyboard during the weekend (sometimes).

Your focus?

I’m focusing on Apache Camel. I love Apache Camel because of its community: it’s super easy to help/contribute and get involved and we really love contributions! It’s a real friendly environment to work in. I contribute also to Apache Karaf (where Jean-Baptiste Onofrè is the project lead) and Apache Servicemix.

Tell us something not everyone knows about you?

I’m a big AS Roma fan!

Favoured coding snack?

I’m addicted to coffee and chocolate while coding.

#2: Jean-Baptiste Onofré (2,098 Commits) 

JB is Fellow at Apache Talend. He is Apache Software Foundation member and also PMC member for about 20 Apache projects, from container and integration (Karaf, ServiceMix, Aries, Archiva, ActiveMQ, Camel, …) to big data (Beam, CarbonData…)

Jean-Baptiste Onofré
What was your first experience with open source? 

When I was in my engineering school, I worked for a lab. It’s where I started open source on the system side: I started to work on the Linux Kernel and Unix tools generally speaking. In the meantime, I started to work in the Java space.

How did you first get involved with the ASF?

During the lab time, I started to contribute on Apache Jakarta, httpd (mod_jk, mod_proxy, …) and Cocoon. That was my first steps with Apache projects.

Then, I moved forward on my contribution and, instead following, I wanted to “create” something. That’s why I started to contribute on projects related to application runtime and applications integrations: ServiceMix, Camel, ActiveMQ, Karaf and others.

Thanks to those projects, I jump to other projects related or using them. Some years ago, I thought big data ecosystem was interesting and I started to contribute on this ecosystem (Beam, Livy, Falcon, Lens, …).

What keeps you contributing? And do you feel the OSS community has changed much over the years? 

It’s great to be part of a community. Discussing, helping, moving forward with others is really awesome. That’s what keep me motivated and I’m still enjoying.

The OSS community changed a lot for sure. More and more people and companies are interested, and there’s now business around. If I think it’s a good move, it also introduced some “pressure” on some projects and sometime some kind of “fights” between companies behind projects.

That’s why the Apache Software Foundation is so important. The Apache members are really the warranty of “no company control” on projects. That’s why we are sure there’s no “company lock-in” in Apache projects.>

How do you find time? 

When I started contribution on OpenSource, it was during my spare time (during nights). Now, I’m actually paid to work on the Apache/OpenSource projects, so I’m working during nights AND days now 😉

Your focus?

At Talend, I’m working on Apache projects used in our products. It’s key for Talend as we exactly know the release schedule, what it’s included (in term of new features or fixes).

Tell us something few people know about you…

Hmmm, good question. I would say I like spending time with my family and friends, playing rugby and biking. I like sports car as well 😉

Favoured coding snack?

I’m a chocolate addict 😉 It’s not good for me, but I have to eat strong dark chocolate while coding 😉

#3: Duo Zhang (1956 Commits)

Software Engineer at Xiaomi, committer and PMC member of Apache HBase.

Duo Zhang
What was your first experience with open source?

It should be 2007 or 2008, when I was still a student. I wrote the ppc32 backend for an open source compiler called open64. But I didn’t have much sense on open source at that time, just had to finish the project so I could get my master degree.

How did you first get involved with the ASF?

It was 2014, I moved to a new company and chose HBase as the distributed database. I found a bug of HBase and pushed the fix back to the community…

What keeps you contributing? Do you feel the OSS community has changed much over the years?

I‘m the PMC [Ed: Project Management Committee] member of the HBase project now so contributing to HBase is my duty. For the ASF I do not think it changed much. And for the whole open source community in China, more and more people are involved. And the big companies [have] all started to contribute to open source projects.

How do you find time?

My company (Xiaomi) uses HBase a lot, and the big boss of my department is a fan of open source, so contributing to HBase is part of my job at the company. And I also spend a lot of my free time on the project.

Which Apache project do you contribute to most? What do you like about it/any other Apache projects stand out for you?

As said above, it’s HBase. I used to write an in-house clone of bigtable, and it was easy to beat HBase at the beginning, but it was hard to catch up with the new features and improvements of HBase because there are more people contributing to the open source project. So finally when I moved to a new company I chose to use HBase instead of cloning a new one again. I also contributed a bit to the Hadoop project.

Tell us something few people know about you…

If you see me go to the restroom again and again, it usually means that I face some difficulties on coding(or I ate MacDonald yesterday).

Favoured coding snack?

I do not eat anything while coding 🙂  I have to lose weight to keep healthy…

#4: Mark Thomas (1823 Commits)

Mark has been a Tomcat committer since 2003, a PMC member since 2005 and is currently the release manager for 8.5.x and 9.0.x. Mark is also an ASF member and contributes to various other ASF projects and to the ASF itself.

Mark Thomas
What was your first experience with open source?

JBoss. Around 2003 I was working on a proof of concept to get certificate authentication enabled on a Java EE application server. We started with the Sun One application server but were unable to get things working despite several weeks of effort. We switched to JBoss and got it working almost immediately.

How did you first get involved with the ASF?

A little further along on the same project, we wanted to configure which cipher suites were used. The configuration changes we made weren’t having any effect so we started to look through the Apache Tomcat source code. We found this comment, so I provided a patch.

At the time I was looking for a hobby. I enjoy problem solving and there were another 700 or so open Tomcat bugs that needed fixing. I started working my way through the open bugs, learning my way around Java and Tomcat as I went.

What keeps you contributing? 

I still enjoy fixing bugs 😉 It took the best part of a decade but the Tomcat bug backlog was eventually reduced to the point we are at today.

We perform releases on a roughly monthly schedule and every open, confirmed Tomcat bug is fixed before we tag each release. Along the way I have also had the opportunity to implement various chunks of new functionality in Tomcat including support for WebSocket and HTTP/2.

How do you find time?

My Tomcat contributions started as a hobby back in 2003 but in 2008 I was fortunate enough to be offered a paid role at SpringSource to do – essentially – the same thing.

While SpringSource was acquired by VMware and later became part of Pivotal, my job description has remained largely unchanged “Go and do what you think is best for Apache Tomcat (and provide 3rd line support for our customers using Tomcat or Tomcat based products)”. I am in the very fortunate position of being paid to do my hobby.

Which Apache project do you contribute to most? What do you like about it/any other Apache projects stand out for you?

The majority of my contributions at Apache have been to Apache Tomcat. I also volunteer in various other roles around the foundation.

What stands out for me is not any individual project but the breadth and depth of the projects and podlings at the ASF. The first 20 years of the ASF (the ASF celebrates its 20th anniversary in March this year) have been truly amazing and I am looking forward to seeing what the next 20 years and beyond will bring.

Tell us something few people know about you…

If my first choice of career didn’t work out, my backup plan was to be a sound engineer.

Favoured coding snack?

Chocolate. Ideally, a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk. The bigger the better.

#5: Tilman Hausherr (1736 Commits)

“An ordinary guy who has an ordinary job as a software developer in a company that offers software services to medium and large-sized clients.”

Tilman Hausherr’s cat…
What was your first experience with open source?

I think it was around 2010 and it was MediathekView, a tool to download media files from German television websites for offline viewing. I contributed scraping the website of three stations that didn’t work properly at that time.

How did you first get involved with the ASF?

I needed a tool at work to convert PDF files to images and found Apache PDFBox. It had many flaws but I also noticed it slightly improved with each release. Some day I downloaded the source code and I was able to make improvements. I proposed these improvements and some of them were accepted. After a major improvement (“Gouraud shading”) I was offered to become a committer which I accepted (2014).

What keeps you contributing? 

I like software development and I also like finding bugs and fixing them, refactoring and improving things. It is my profession and my hobby.

How do you find time?

Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I’m in the lucky position that I don’t have to do overtime, and my work is not too far away. I make commitments in my spare time.

Which Apache project do you contribute to most? What do you like about it/any other Apache projects stand out for you?

Apache PDFBox. It has a good codebase, our users are nice and some of them even contribute very helpful code back to us. My experience with this and other Apache projects (Tika, POI and Tomcat) has been positive, there is a professional and friendly interaction.

Tell us something few people know about you…

I don’t want to…

Favoured coding snack?

I don’t snack while coding. When coding during the day I get best results with Oolong tea. This gives a steady push unlike coffee which is more a kickass.

Oh, this might count as an answer to the previous question too…

See also: Apache Software Foundation: myNewt Flourishing, Check; Cloud Migration, Check; Audit Passed; Check; Five-Year Plan? Check…


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