Navigating the ASF Incubator Process

Justin Mclean

Oct. 22nd - 24th


Who am I?

  • TODO Fill in your own your info here

What is the ASF?

  • World’s largest Open Source Foundation

  • A neutral space where independent projects can prosper

  • Creates open source software for the public good free of charge

  • Business friendly Apache License 2.0

  • 7126 committers, 765 members, 204 PMCs, 48 podlings

What is the Apache Incubator?

  • Where communities come to learn the Apache Way

  • Likes existing projects with a community around them

  • Main entry point for new projects


Why Come to Apache?

  • Open community development

  • Move away from vendor driven development

  • Grow your community

  • No one is the boss

Why Should you Incubate?

  • Learn the Apache Way

  • Learn ASF policies

  • To grow a community

  • To foster independence

  • To clarify licensing and intellectual property rights

Why we Have an incubating Process?

  • Podling follows the Apache Way

  • Ensure donations comply with the Apache 2.0 license

  • Podling follows the ASF structure of contributors, committers and PMC members

  • Podling grants more responsibility via meritocracy

  • Ensure that decision making is done in the open

  • People act as individuals, not the company they work for

The Apache Way

  • Charity - For the public good. Software costs nothing.

  • Pragmatic - Business friendly.

  • Community - Collaboration, consensus and diversity.

  • Merit - The more you do you more responsibility you have. Not just code contributions.

  • Open - Everything in the public view. Discussions occur on mailing lists. Everyone can participate.

  • Consensus - Work together to find ways forward.

The Apache Way - Charity

  • No charge for Apache software

  • We rely on donations to keep things running

  • Few paid staff, everyone is a volunteer

  • Not “pay to play”

The Apache Way - Pragmatic

  • Apache License 2.0 is business friendly

  • No obligation to give anything back

  • Diverse communities

  • Few hard rules, but have guidelines to help projects

  • Don’t need to work on it full time

The Apache Way - Community

  • Many people working together

  • More resources than a single company

  • Diversity of people, experience and ideas

  • Individuals not companies

  • Given responsibility via earning merit

  • Discussion on the mailing list

The Apache Way - Merit

  • Individuals gain merit by contributing to a project

  • Users become contributors become committers become PMC members

  • PMC appoints new PMC and committer members

  • Merit does not expire

  • Committers get access to the repository

  • PMC vote on releases

  • PMC decide the direction of the projects via consensus

The Apache Way - Open

  • Everything (mostly) is available to the public

  • What isn’t public is available to all members

  • Code is made publicly available

  • All discussions made in the open

  • Discussion are archived and searchable

  • Discussions are asynchronous

  • No face to face meetings

  • Everyone knows what is going on

The Apache Way - Consensus

  • Community works towards consensus on major decisions

  • Use lazy consensus for minor ones

  • Not 100% agreement, but all agree it is a way forward

Apache License

  • Permissive license - you can do what you want

  • Business friendly - can be used for commercial projects

  • Requires source headers, a LICENSE and (optionally) a NOTICE file

  • If not an ASF project:

    • You don’t need to publish the source

    • You don’t have to give back to the project

    • You don’t need to ask for permission to use

State of Play

  • 48 projects in the incubator

  • 306 IPMC members (but not all are active)

  • Projects usually stay 1 to 2 years in the incubator

  • A dozen or so successful releases a month

  • About 70% of releases pass an IPMC vote

How to Get Into the Incubator

  • Find a champion to help you through the proposal process

  • Draft a proposal with details why you think it’s suitable

  • Find (usually 3) mentors to help you guide you through the TLP process

  • May take a little while to go through these steps

  • Discuss on the incubator general mailing list (which may attract more potential committers)

  • IPMC Votes on the proposal - most are accepted

Acceptance Into the Incubator

  • The Champion’s role is over and they are more like a mentor from this point on

  • Mentors help with setup of the podling

  • Setup includes the mailing lists, version control, bug tracking and web site

  • Have initial committers sign ICLAs and add to podling roster

  • Bring initial code in via a software grant

What to do During Incubation

  • Create your website

  • Learn how to make software releases and refine your build process

  • Grow the community by adding new committers

  • Learn to communicate in the open

  • Scrub your code and perform IP clearance

  • May need to relicense 3rd party code

Build a Community

  • Open asynchronous communication on email lists

  • Decisions need to be made in the open

  • JIRA / git discussion also OK (mirrored to list)

  • Project independence with no company influence

  • Welcoming to new people

  • Answer user questions

  • Add new committers and PPMC members

How to Get Out

  • Become a Top Level Project

  • Retire

Source Releases

  • Must be cryptographically signed

  • Must have an incubating disclaimer

  • Have LICENSE and NOTICE file that follow Apache policy

  • Follow licensing terms of any 3rd party bundled software

  • 3rd party files are compatible with the Apache license

  • Source files have ASF headers

  • Contain source code and no compiled code

Release Vote Process

  • Podling creates a release candidate

  • Vote on dev mailing list until 3 +1 votes and more +1 than -1

  • If vote fails need to make a new release candidate

  • Vote on incubator general mailing list

  • Need 3 +1 and more +1 than -1 by IPMC members

  • If vote fails need to make a new release candidate

  • Can release once vote passes and 72 hours pass

Representative Voting


Why Your Release May Get a -1

  • Unexpected binary in the source release

  • Includes Category X licensed software (usually GPL)

  • Included Category B license software

  • LICENSE or NOTICE issue

  • Copyright issue

  • Missing license header or header issue

  • Contains encryption software

-1 is Not a Veto

  • Release votes need 3 +1 votes and more +1 than -1 votes to pass

  • Only IPMC votes are binding but good to take notice of other votes

  • People can change their minds and vote again

  • People put up conditional votes

  • That being said a -1 vote is often for a good reason so you should at least look into it

It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect

  • Incubating projects are not expected to get it right the first time

  • May not be familiar with policy at the start

  • Policy doesn’t cover all situations

  • Different projects may do things in different ways, policies are in most cases guidance

  • A release containing no surprises is a good thing

Developers vs Licensing

  • We’re not the only people who have difficulty or frustration with licensing

  • Apache projects tend to be on average a lot better!

  • External projects often:

    • Have Unclear licenses

    • Include code under a different (sometimes incompatible) licenses

    • If Apache 2.0 licensed are missing a NOTICE file

    • Try to have funny licenses

33 Copies of BSD

WTF Intel Lawyers

Only Dead People


Category A

  • Can bundle software and can depend on

  • Doesn’t add any restrictions above and beyond what the Apache License 2.0 does

  • Common licenses include Apache License 2.0, Apache License 1.1, 2 or 3 clause BSD (without advertising clause), MIT/X11, W3C, Unicode, CC copyright only

Category B

  • Probably can’t include in a source release

  • Contain some restriction of use

  • May be able to use the binary form to limit the chance of corruption

  • Common license include:
    Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), Eclipse Public License (EPL), Mozilla Public License (MPL), Creative Common Attribution (CC-A)

Category X

  • Can’t depend on

  • Can’t bundle software

  • A few exceptions for build tools and optional dependencies

  • Common Category X include:
    GPL, LGPL, CC non commercial, JSON, BSD 4 clause, Apache 1.0?

Binary Distributions

  • Not considered an official release

  • Need to comply the same way with policies as source distributions

  • LICENSE and NOTICE may be different as the content of the release is often different from the source release

What Been Covered

  • Apache Incubator

  • The Apache Way

  • Releases

  • Community

  • Licenses


Ask now, see me after the session, or email me, Justin Mclean at