The Apache Software Foundation

Meritocracy in Action.


Many projects in the ASF are able to provide mentors for newcomers. In fact, most projects are happy to assist newcomers to their projects as part of their normal operations. However, some people are looking for more structure. The Mentor Programme of the The Apache Software Foundation provides additional support and structure for people looking to make an initial contribution to an ASF project.

The mentoring programme is not here to teach you to write documentation or code. It is here to help you understand how to make a valuable contribution to an Apache project. You can expect to be guided through our contribution processes. You can also expect to get technical support with respect to your chosen project. You cannot expect your mentor to be a "teacher", they will provide enough information for you to progress within the project. You need to bring the confidence to take their guidance and discover the detail for yourself.

This page is a description of the Mentoring Programme. The program is open for business, but, like many other things at the Foundation, it under constant improvement and revision. Therefore, the description below is marked 'draft.'

Quick Definitions

The ASF believes that the best way for people (and, indeed, entire projects) to join the community is with the help of committed members of the community. A community member who makes a commitment to help a new contributor get started is a mentor. The new person, on the other hand, is a mentee. Believe it or not, that is the word in the dictionary for this role.

The Foundation is organized into a series of Top Level Projects, or TLPs. The document uses 'TLP' when it is referring to an ASF project. It uses the word 'project' to refer to a the work a mentee does under the Mentoring Programme.

Who can be a mentee?

The Mentor Programme is intended to assist people in becoming contributors to ASF projects. Thus, anyone interested in contributing effort to an ASF project is a potential mentee. You need to be a self starter, your mentor will not take responsibility for "managing" your work here. Everyone who contributes to an Apache project does so on a voluntary basis, there are no managers here - only helpful peers.

Mentoring is a significant volunteer effort, over and above what the mentor is already doing for the project. Therefore, the programme asks mentees to make a material commitment of time to the process. There are no legally binding commitments involved, but a mentee must, as described below, submit a plan for a significant effort and show ongoing progress.

It is important to reiterate that all work on ASF projects is on a volunteer basis. The Foundation does not pay anyone to mentor or contribute.

Applying for the Mentor Programme

There are two simple steps to apply:

  1. Review the content below to learn about the details of the requirements.
  2. Fill out the application form

If you are a student and wish to apply to the mentoring programme as part of your formal education there are some additional requirements that you must fulfill, along with your tutor.

Draft: The ASF Mentoring Programme

The Mentoring Programme is structured around mentee projects. Each mentee project is a coherent task contributing to one of the ASF's ongoing TLPs.

The Mentoring Programme does not work on a fixed calendar. Project start as mentees and mentors are matched. Typically a project will last around three months, but mentors and mentees are free to negotiate longer or shorter periods of work.

The work of a mentee project can be code or documentation, so long as it contributes to an existing Foundation project. Individual research or prototyping projects are not acceptable -- working with an ASF project community is an essential part of the process.

Setting up a Mentoring Project

The first step is for a potential mentee to make contact with the Mentoring Programme. Several of the following steps call for interactions with potential mentors and target projects, and the Mentoring Programme mailing list is the appropriate forum.

Next, a potential mentee should identify a Foundation TLP that he or she would like to contribute to, and seek out a suitable project. The mentee can propose an idea for a project, or ask the community for suggestions, or ask the mentors for suggestions.

Given a target project and a rough idea for a task, the proposed mentee must create a written proposal for the task, send it to the project's development list for review, to ask for a sponsoring mentor. The sponsoring mentor will be a member of the TLP.

This will lead to some negotiations with the project and a potential mentor. If these negotiations succeed, the mentor and mentee agree to a schedule and time commitment.

The plan must include a mid-project checkpoint as described below.

The mentor submits the agreed plan to the Programme, gets an acknowledgment from the Apache Mentoring Programme admin, and adds the project to the Mentoring Wiki as an "In Progress" Project.

The mentee sets up a wiki page for the project on the development Wiki, linked from the Mentoring page.

The mentee joins the development community of the TLP and sets to work.

Working on the Project

During the course of the project, the mentee is a member of the TLP community. This has implications for both the mentee and the TLP.

All Apache Software Foundation TLPs share some basic rules and conventions for their operations. Each TLP has its own specific conventions. The details of the ASF's conventions are beyond the scope of this document, but a few principles bear repeating:

During the course of the work, the mentor is responsible for helping the mentee navigate the process. If the mentee has questions, the mentor answers or helps extract an answer from the community. If the mentee has any problem in working with the community, the mentor is available via email for private consultation. On the other hand, The mentor is not intended to replace mentee background work. Mentees must still read code, read email archive, and do any other work needed.

Mentees have one additional responsibility over and above the usual work of a contributor to a TLP: to give back to the Mentor Programme. Mentees must document their work and experiences on the Mentor Programme wiki, to help the programme improve the process.

In particular, mentees should document their code changes for possible review. This can come in the form of subversion revision numbers or JIRAs. For projects that are set up with FishEye, the Mentor Programme may set up a JIRA project, and open a JIRA for each mentee. The mentee can then ask committers to include their JIRA in commit comments and thus set up automatic tracking.

The Mid-Project Review

The Mentoring Programme reviews all projects at the half-way point. The input to the programme review is a pair of reports: one from the mentor and from the mentee. These are public documents.

The mentor's report must summarize progress and make a recommendation for the disposition of the project: continue to completion, or stop. The report must also describe any changes to the project's scope.

Scope and Schedule Changes

Inevitably, ugly facts will conflict with plans and intentions. Mentors and mentees can agree to change the scope of a project and document the change on the wiki and, as appropriate, on reports. The programme does not encourage scope changes as a solution if the mentee is unwilling to put in the time and effort to carry out the project. In such a case, it is preferable to terminate the project. However, nothing is completely black and white.

Similiarly, the programme prefers that projects end on their original schedule, rather than drag out indefinitely. If a mentee has made good progress on a substantial project over several months, all while participating in the TLP community, it is very likely that they are ready to continue without the help of a mentor. Their Mentor Programme project can end in good order even though coding continues.

Finish up the Project

Every project ends, either when the work is done. or when the agree time period is over. At the end, the mentee updates the Wiki page with a final summary of their work.

The mentor submits a final progress report and determination of whether the project should be marked complete or incomplete. The admin acks the review and moves the project to completed or incomplete as appropriate on the Mentoring Wiki.

Relevant certification is issued to both the mentor and mentee by the admin team.

Roles and Expectations

Mentee

Mentor

Admin