The ASF is the Switzerland of Open Source

matterhorn-bahn.jpgBy popular demand (two people – that’s about 100% of my readership!), here’s an essay similar to my lightning talk of last week at ApacheCon: The Apache Software Foundation is the Switzerland of Open Source.

This is based on my rough notes and failing memory, so that won’t be exactly the same thing.

Did you know that I am an ASF analyst? I didn’t know either, found out last week at James Governor‘s great keynote. You had to be there ;-)

So, tongue firmly set in cheek, here we go!

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is a lot like Switzerland. Having been involved in the former for the last nine years, and in the latter for all of my life (which means…a few years), I can rightly consider myself an expert in comparing them.

There are lots of similarities, but Switzerland is a lot older, 708 years to be precise. Switzerland was founded by people from what we call the primitive cantons: Uri, Schwytz and Unterwald. City people often consider folks from those places as being old guys with obsolete ideas, and don’t really pay attention to them. The ASF has founders. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t say the comparison applies.

Switzerland is multilingual, and we don’t always understand each other well. It also has a solid Roeschtigraben that separates the german and french speaking parts. A wall of Roeschti…like between the C and Java camps of the ASF?

Switzerland comprises 26 cantons, each with their own laws. This sometimes creates funny contradictions and loopholes that people can take advantage of when moving between cantons, or when living in one and working in another (tax deals anyone?). The ASF comprises a number of PMCs, each with their own rules and regulations. This sometimes…well, you get the idea!

Switzerland has the fondue, a slimy mix of stuff that people try to share among themselves in a fair way. The ASF has a famous member’s discussion list, which is also a bit slimy at times.

Switzerland has beautiful, bright mountains that you can see from far away. The ASF has the HTTP server, Hadoop, and other world famous projects. Switzerland also has dark, remote, deep valleys where almost no one wants to go. The ASF…well, let’s not go there…

According to Wikipedia, the Swiss Alps constitute an extreme environment. Lots of places in the ASF are like that…and Wikipedia goes on to say that the climate varies a lot between localities in Switzerland. You probably see what I mean!

Switzerland is not part of the European Community. We are the best anyway, why should we care? Lots of parallels here.

Contrary to the ASF, Switzerland does not have an Incubator and does not accept new cantons. Swiss folks are not that crazy.

Some Swiss cantons still use the Landsgemeinde to vote. People gather on the village’s main square and vote by raising their hands. A raised hand means +1, and unraised hand means -1 (or something like that). The ASF’s voting rules are more precise here! It’s only relatively recently that women started having the right to vote in the Landsgemeinde, and people used to have to show their military sword to be accepted. Do you have an iCLA on file?

Switzerland does not have a real boss. The citizens are the boss, at least in theory, and to handle current affairs we have a federal council of 7 people. Some Swiss citizens think that those people just talk a lot and don’t do anything useful. I won’t make any parallels with the ASF’s board of directors, of course ;-)

12 Responses to The ASF is the Switzerland of Open Source

  1. christian sp says:

    hehe, you did miss a very recent one:
    swiss have been compared to indians by a german politican. now we know which tribe he meant… :)

  2. Greg Klebus says:

    > Contrary to the ASF, Switzerland does not have an Incubator and does not accept new cantons. Swiss folks are not that crazy.

    Not being an expert on either, I beg to differ here: Switzerland has grown from the three primitive cantons to today’s 26! The last one, Canton Jura, was actually accepted to the Confoederatio Helvetica not so long ago, in the late 1970s (actually, it was a spin-off of another project, err, canton).

    You’re right though, that we’re probably going to wait a good while for another canton to join ;-)

  3. bdelacretaz says:

    @Greg, you’re absolutely right, Switzerland *used to* have an Incubator. It’s dead now, I guess ;-)

  4. LOL! I wish I could attend the live talk…

    So as Greg shows, you do have an incubator. And do you have or plan to have an attic for retired cantons?

  5. bdelacretaz says:

    No, no, not an attic! My canton might be the first to go there ;-)

  6. I was waiting for the “ASF is neutral, compared to commercial open source vendors” argument…

  7. there is also project/canton forks, see Jura in 1979

  8. bdelacretaz says:

    @Rogier, the ASF is indeed an excellent neutral ground for people who might otherwise be “enemies” or at least competitors to cooperate.

    I should have mentioned that, but that might have made my lightning talk too serious to qualify ;-)

  9. @Rogier I totally agree – I’d been saying that the ASF is the Switzerland of open source for years, but hadn’t realized the meme had legs.

    It’s true, too: with our pragmatic license, we’re happy to work with anyone who wants to contribute, either code or documentation. We then ensure that the public at large is able to use it in whatever manner they see fit – privately or publicly, giving it away, or selling it for profit.

    This also shows in the programming for ApacheCon: we’re happy to have vendors present – as long as the presentations are about interesting technical problems. It’s actually refreshing to see this is widely recognized in our CFP process as well: we get high quality technical, or business overview talks, every time. People understand that ApacheCon is a place to learn about the technology and make connections.

    Hmmmm – now I wonder if we need to prod a few other people to post their Lightning Talks as well…

  10. niq says:

    Bertrand, the talk was even funnier, and was by far the best lightning talk at this year’s ApacheCon.

    Thank you!

  11. Lahiru says:

    I was there at lightning talk…!!! Excellent comparison ..

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