This set of Frequently Asked Questions are intended to help newcomers to The Apache Software Foundation understand how we work.
Index of Questions
We are always looking for suggestions of better ways to help newcomers to the ASF find the information they're looking for. Please ask any new questions or give us suggestions on firstname.lastname@example.org (subscribe with email@example.com first).
There are over 140 separate projects hosted at The Apache Software Foundation. We have four classes, or types, of project (in terms of their community; not in terms of technology):
Apache projects all believe that if we look after the community then good code will emerge from that community. That is, when people with similar needs come together they will work out a way of solving their common problems. It is for this very reason that we created the Community Development project (where you are right now), the ASF has grown to be very large and, from the outside, can look too mature for newcomers and novices. However, these communities seek to be flat in structure. No single person in that community has more influence than the next, a newcomer with a good idea has just as much input and influence as the original creator of the project.
We do have a system that we call meritocracy that allows those who have demonstrated commitment and understanding to the community to earn certain privileges, such as being able to make changes directly to documentation and program code. However, these privileges simply streamline the process, they do not (in most cases) give additional powers over the project.
In summary, Apache Projects work because people like you participate constructively within them.
To learn more about "The Apache Way" see the foundations How It Works pages.
You should consider applying to the Apache Mentor Programme . We will help you find a mentor within the project of your choice. They will take you through a semi-formal mentoring programme that will ensure you quickly find your feet. There is no cost other than a promise to commit some of your time to the goals you agree with your mentor.
The Community Development Project is here for this very purpose. Check out the resources on this site first, if you don't find the answer send a mail to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org (subscribe first by sending a mail to mailto:email@example.com)
Everyone active in ASF projects is here as a volunteer, nobody is paid to provide support here. So the first thing to realize is that you need to be careful not to waste people's time, so do your homework. Generally, if people can see that you have tried to solve your problem they are more likely to help. So, before asking a question do the following:
If you don't find a solution send a concise, but detailed, request for support to the appropriate user mailing list (you will usually need to subscribe first). Indicate that you have read the appropriate documentation and explain what you have tried, what you expect to happen and what actually happens.
Be patient waiting for a response: give it at least three working days before you send a second message. People are busy, they will deal with your request when they can. If you need urgent help it is best not to rely on the community support channels and find an outside organization willing to support you for a fee. Remember that Apache committers are generally working as volunteers on Apache mailing lists.
It is worth noting that people are more willing to help those who contribute back to the project in some way. If you hit a problem that was not documented then it is likely others will too. A good idea is to send a patch to the project to improve its documentation. This means that those who follow in your footsteps get an answer in the first step above and you start to build merit in the community that will result in further help in the future.
A second way of contributing is to provide user support to others as your expertise grows. Again, earning merit in this way will help ensure you get the support you need in the future.
If you are visible within the community, the community will likely reach out for you whenever you need too.
The key to working on projects at Apache (and any open source for that matter) is to have a personal reason for being involved. You might be trying to solve a day job issue, you might be looking to learn a new technology or you might simply want to do something fun in your free time. The key is that you must want to get involved. It is also important that you have appropriate skills to be able to help the project.
Our projects page provides a useful index of projects which allows you to view projects alphabetically, by category or by language. When you view a projects detail page in this list you will find details of their mailing lists, issue tracker and other resources.
In the projects issue tracker you will find details of bugs and feature requests the project would like to work with, this should give you some inspiration about how you might be able to help the project community. If you see an issue you would like to tackle, it's time to join the projects mailing list and get started.
You can certainly improve your programming skills by watching the commit lists, receiving code reviews and participating in discussion. However this learning opportunity is a healthy side effect of open source activities rather than a goal in itself. Nobody in an Apache project is going to spend time teaching you programming 101, technical writing or testing (to pick just a few skills we need). You need to know the basics and be willing to research the rest.
Here at Apache projects are free to define their own code of conduct. However, it is common for new projects to learn from the lessons of the older projects. The Apache Incubator project has a wiki page for collecting common elements of Apache project Codes of Conduct .
The Incubator document has some really useful for both the newbie and the old hands (we all fall into bad habits occasionally). The section on ASF Mottos is especially useful as a reminder of the way things are in most ASF projects. This section includes such gems as:
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.
For more information see our mentoring page.
From the mentoring page you will see that you need to complete an application. This gives us enough background information to enable us to approach your chosen project community and for you to work with prospective mentors in defining your mentored activity.