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Re: Why are large code drops damaging to a community?


+1 on this civil discourse.

I would like to offer that sometimes large code drops are unavoidable and
necessary.  Jim's explanation of httpd contribution of type 1 is a good
example.

I think we would find that many projects started with a large code drop
(maybe more than one) - a sufficient amount of code - to get a project
started.  When projects are young it would be normal and expected for this
to happen. It quickly gets a community to a "thing" that can be added to.

It obviously depends on the kinds of components, tools, frameworks, etc
that are being developed. Game theory is quite apropos - you need a
sufficient incentive for *timely* collaboration, of hanging together.

Further, if your "thing" is going to be used directly in market (i.e. with
very little of a product wrapper ), then there is a strong *disincentive*
to share back the latest and greatest. The further from market immediacy
the easier it is to contribute. Both the Collaboration space and
Competitive space are clearly delineated, whereas in a close to market
immediacy situation you have too much overlap and therefore a built in
delay of code contribution to preserve market competitiveness.

So, combining the "sufficient code to attract contribution" metric with the
market-immediacy metric and you can predict engagement by outside vendors
(or their contributors) in a project. In such a situation, it is better, in
my view, to accept any and all branched code even if it is dev'd off-list.
This allows for inspection/ code examination and further exploration - at a
minimum.  Accepting on a branch is neither the same as accepting for
release, nor merging to master branch.

Now, the assumption that the code is better than what the community has
developed has to be challenged.  It could be that the branched code should
be judged only on the merits of the code (is it better and more complete),
or it could be judged on the basis that it "breaks the current build".
There can be a culture of a project to accept such code drops with the
caveat that if the merges cannot be done by the submitting group, then the
project will have a resistance to such submissions (you break it, you fix
it), or alternatively that there will be a small group of people that are
sourced from such delayed-contribution types - that work on doing the
merges.  The key seems to be to create the incentive to share code before
others do, to avoid being the one that breaks the build.

~jdailey67




On Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 6:10 AM Jim Jagielski <jim@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Large code drops are almost always damaging, since inherent in that
> process is the concept of "throwing the code over a wall". But sometimes it
> does work out, assuming that continuity and "good intentions" are followed.
>
> To show this, join me in the Wayback Machine as Sherman and I travel to
> the year 1995...
>
> This is right around the start of Apache, back when Apache meant the web
> server, and at the time, the project was basically what was left of the
> NCSA web server plus some patches and bug fixes... Around this time, one of
> the core group, Robert Thau, started independent work on a re-architecture
> of the server, which he code-named "Shambala". It was basically a single
> contributor effort (himself). One day he simply said to the group, "Here, I
> have this new design and architecture for Apache. It adds a lot of
> features." So much of what defines httpd today can find its origin right
> there: modular framework, pools, preforking (and, as such, the initial
> gleaming towards MPMs), extendable API, etc...
>
> In many ways, this was a large code drop. What made it different is that
> there was *support* by the author and the community to work on integrating
> it into the whole. It became, basically, a community effort.
>
> Now compare that with a different scenario... Once httpd had picked up
> steam, and making sure that it was ported to everyone's favorite *nix
> flavor was important, SGI had done work on a set of patches that ported
> httpd to their OS and provided these patches (a set of 10 very large
> patch-files, iirc) to the group. What was clear in those patches is that
> there was no consideration at all on how those patches affected or broke
> anyone else. They rewrote huge swaths of code, optimizing for SGI and
> totally destroying any sort of portability for anyone else. And when we
> responded by, asking for more information, help with chatting with their
> developers to try to figure things out, and basically trying to figure out
> how to use and merge this stuff, SGI was basically just silent. They sent
> it to us and that was the beginning and the end of their involvement as far
> as they were concerned.[1]
>
> Way, way too many large code drops are the latter. Hardly any are the
> former.
>
>
> 1. I have paraphrased both the Shambala and SGI events