Forum OpenACS Q&A: OpenACS situation -- IMPORTANT

Posted by Ben Adida on
It has come to my attention, through various personal emails,
that the escalation of the situation with respect to the
organization of OpenACS is much graver than I expected.
Common conflict resolution would lead me to attempt to calm
the situation down, but I don't think this is possible any longer.
We are at the point that certain key developers have threatened
to quit the project over this never-ending conflict.

I am told that there is a certain non-negligible contingent of
people who strongly believe that current "management" is
inadequate, inefficient, or rude. And I'm not talking about Don's
comments to Jerry. I've been told that many consider other
gatekeepers' attitudes (namely mine) to be rude or too
controlling in some way.

And so it is time for action. If you care about the OpenACS
project, I'm asking you to send me personal email. I hope that
I've made it clear that I'm always approachable in this way, and
I'm sorry to hear that some believe this not to be the case. Your
personal email should include your thoughts on the OpenACS
management and direction, good and/or bad. If you think I've
done a horrible job, please write anyways, I need to hear this if
any sensible decision is to be made about this situation.

Please note that I expect to receive hopefully dozens of emails: if
you don't write to me, I won't be able to take your opinion into
account! Please write if you care about the future of OpenACS.

I won't promise a personal response to every email: this is more
a private way for you to say exactly what you think. I will *not* pick
on you for anything you say. I am only trying to better gauge the
community's feelings.

Posted by Ben Adida on
Posted by Lachlan Myers on
Rude? Schmude. A few leaders with skills and vision have [impressively] got us this far. Let them lead.
Posted by Jonathan Ellis on
"I've been told that many consider other gatekeepers' attitudes (namely mine) to be rude or too controlling in some way."

Is there any real reason to believe this?  Seriously, it's pretty easy to say, "A lot of people think you guys suck" in an attempt to bolster one's position.

I think you, Don, et. al. have done and are doing a great job leading the project.  Obviously I think some improvements could be made but let's not confuse that with thinking wholesale changes are needed.  That's called throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Posted by Jerry Asher on
This is a difficult letter to write. Not because of the other stuff that's going on simultaneously, but mainly because it deals with the human side of relationships, development, project management, and teamwork, which I fear is often devalued amongst us developers.

Ben is being very courageous in this posting, and he deserves a serious, honest reply. I'd like to emphasize this. This is an open forum that anyone can read, significant others, friends, employers, partners, etc. Ben is being exceptionally courageous and open. I know that I would think twice, three times, or more before posting his request.

I've been in contact with Ben through email trying to work through the stuff of this project the past few days. I don't know Ben very well, but I tried to explain to him my perspective of how I have tried to contact him and work with him on a variety of projects, from OpenACS to OpenNSD. Along the way, I tried to document some of the contacts I have made with him, and the timelines of his responses, suggesting that I have experienced delays and non-responses often enough to lead me to believe that he has been overloaded, and has led me to believe that working with Ben has at times been difficult. (My intent, of course, was to demonstrate to Ben my belief that I have tried to work, to the best of my ability within his preferred frameworks, to be a team player, and to keep project and community first.)

Now I know that my perception of this difficulty is just not the perception I get from listening to Ben, nor is it the perception I have of him in seeing the majority of his actions in the community. This is a perception I have of Ben from working with him via email. Discussing issues, asking for actions that he is the one with responsibility to take, and so on.

I know two more things. One, this is not the perception he has of himself, and two, belonging to several email lists that concern themselves with issues that Ben is involved with, I have been the recipients of emails from others that suggest that others have experienced similar delays and non responses, and just may have also developed the perception that Ben has been overloaded, or is sometimes difficult to work with due to time lags of responses.

I believe that my correspondences with Ben has led to this posting of Ben's, because this is what I wrote to Ben a day or two ago:

Today I read:
When I managed OpenACS 3.x, I repeatedly ignored the first email I received from new potential contributors. I would wait until the second reminder email, and then add them to SourceForge and respond with instructions
I never knew until now. Boy do I feel dumb for just thinking you it was oversight or overload. Now I understand you were being rude and that was by design, and I needed to write once more.

Gosh, it's been frustrating the number of times I've emailed you and had the message vanish into the ozone


Do consider changing your policy with respect to not answering emails. I perceive it as rude, and a poor management technique, and I suspect it's cost you and the OpenACS some valuable contributions and goodwill.

So first, overall, I think Ben is doing a wonderful job. I believe he is a tremendous developer, leader and spokesman and responsible for all the success of the OpenACS today. In no way shape or form do I want to diminish his leadership role in this community. Second, I honestly don't believe the community is in crisis. I'm not trying to take over anything, and I don't know anyone who is. But I respect and acknowledge Ben's belief otherwise.

I would like Ben to get as accurate a portrait of himself as he would like.

I believe that Ben is looking for what others might refer to as a 360 degree evaluation. Or at least, he's being very open and looking to enlighten himself as to how others perceive him. Asking for feedback. That's incredibly courageous these days, so I urge you, if you any feedback that you feel may be valuable for Ben along these lines (or others), please do send it along to him. Anonymously if you prefer.

Ben assures me (and I believe him) that: "1. I don't bite, 2. I don't hold grudges (really, I don't), 3. the more information I have the more I can improve, [and] Without additional information and perspectives, I have no path for improvement."

Thank you,

Posted by Marc Spitzer on
I do not think ben was being rude, I call rude an action designed to be insulting. He was just busy and had a finite amount of time to spend and he set his priorites accordingly.  If a person was not serious enough to send a second email asking to help then they were probably not too serious.  An analog is the politican's filter on mail(not email) vs. phone calls, Letters require much more effort on the writers part then phoncalls so they give more weight to letters.

Remember recruting developers takes time that can be spent on coding.  And if they are not serious enough to send a second message how commited are they about the project?

I have come to the conclusion over the years that lots of people are more thin skined then is needed, or I could have much thicker skin then is normal.  I think the above remark(wait for second email) was just a statement of a practical method to seperate the wheat from the chaff.

Also the Idea that a person who I do not know sends me a email places any moral oblagation on me to respond is just not true.  If I choose to respond it is my choice.  If I choose to never respond that is my choice.  And finaly if I choose to apply some filter to decide if I am going to respond that is also my choice.  When dealing with email the people I know come first the people I do not know come next, if there is any time left for them.  This may offend some people, but that does not make it any less true IMO.

Posted by Mat Kovach on
Since my contributions to date have not been substational, I have held back posting my thoughts publically.  I have sent my thoughts and comments to Ben and I'll summarize them a bit here.  Hopefully everybody will accept the fact that I'm not out to tick off anybody, as that is not my intention.

As I see it because of serveral changes in the past few months, OpenACS has seen a large growth in the community itself.  That growth has pointed out a few areas that need to be improved or areas that previously had not been examined, that now are.  It is a good sign this is happening and despite, as I see it, that the current "gatekeepers" are handling it fairly well it is a situation where conflict is usually unavoidable.  The very nature of a project of this type is that conflicts will happen.  I think by accepting that and working to correct the problems show that the current powers that be are working in the right direction.

I make no assumtions on people's motivations other than everybody wants to work for the common good (naive, I know) and that people not working for that will be "flushed out".  Also some people just don't play well together (for whatever personal reasons) but if the community is strong those problems will auto-correct themselves.

I think the community may need to sit back and re-think its goals
(ie:  what are we trying to do).  Obviously this will always be a moving target and this may fall in and out of focus.  As I see it, OpenACS is now the sole contributor/development community behind ACS/TCL.  aD's recent changes has seem to brought quite a few people to the community that are from the ACS/TCL/Oralce fold (at least in
my view) as we may need to address that.  We may also choose to NOT address that.

While the website is an imporant issue and it nice to see people will to put time towards it, unless we have a good idea of what we are truly trying to do, I think there will be a problem in developing a website that reflects that.

I personally find if difficult to get information about patches, changes, etc.  This comes from my laziness as I don't like to look
all over the place for that information.  It would be nice to look
at centralizing that information.

Those are just my thoughts about the current state of affairs.


Mat Kovach

Posted by Nick Pavlica on
I have recently been introduced to the Open-ACS project, and look forward to watching this project mature. However, it is a little unsettling to hear that some of the core people would give up on such a great project. I have monitored other OpenSource communities, and they all have issues were the project leaders are flamed regularly. Despite the poor attitude of some, there are many people like me that are thankful for everything that the project leaders and contributors have done. I hope that the Major issues are resolved so that this project can continue to move forward, knowing that growing pains are un avoidable.

Good Luck!!

Nick Pavlica

Posted by Don Baccus on
<blockquote><i>So first, overall, I think Ben is doing a wonderful job. I believe he is a tremendous developer, leader and spokesman and responsible for all the success
    of the OpenACS today.</i></blockquote>
Gee, thanks, Jerry ... glad to hear that Ben did it all by himself.  I thought only Philip held that view.
<p>Maybe I *should* step down, sheesh ...
<blockquote><i>In no way shape or form do I want to diminish his leadership role in this community.</i></blockquote>
Really?  Yet earlier you said ...
It is almost certainly the case that having a more formal organization would involve asking you and Ben to have less control over certain OpenACS
I'm having some trouble reconciling these two statements, sorry.
<p>If Ben's big sin is the fact that he doesn't always answer e-mail promptly, I fail to see how a steering committee elected by the community would cause his e-mail to be answered more quickly.  The cure seems remarkably unrelated to the disease.
<p>Besides which, I *do* answer e-mail promptly, and you can always e-mail me if you don't get an answer from Ben ...
Posted by David Kuczek on
Come on Don,

I think that you let out enough steam by now. Some steam with reason, other without.

Let's have a happy family drink now 😊

This whole topic is getting a little bit too much attention IMHO.

Old German Saying: Things are not eaten as hot as they are cooked... (This translation sounds a bit weird, but I hope that people understand 😉

Posted by David Kuczek on
Oh Don,

who's Philip? 😉

The statistics on this bboard tell a little story about commitment:

The Top Ten:

Don Baccus (851)

Roberto Mello (438)

Ben Adida (317)

Dan Wickstrom (228)

David Kuczek (196)

Michael Feldstein (177)

Jonathan Ellis (109)

Dave Bauer (100)

Adam Farkas (96)

Bob OConnor (88)

And mine were mostly question, while yours answers...

Posted by Bob OConnor on

I really LOVE OpenACS! Our production system has been live almost a year (Aug 1, 2000) and we have had *almost* NO downtime
NO downtime due to Linux, Postgresql, AOLServer or OpenACS on an old 200Mhz system that has almost 10,000 users! More on this later in a separate thread. The Point is...

OpenACS Rocks !!!
and I want to SHOUT about it!
I want OpenACS to improve, evolve and continue. Discussion is good. I like to see all sides of an issue. It is mainly through conversation that we can evolve. The solutions are "out there" and it doesn't have to be personal.... I want to see the community of OpenACS developers grow and prosper. (Maybe even "live long" 😉

Maybe something is lost in the email and it would help to have a Telephone Conference Call. This would help us get to know one another and move toward friendship and thence partnership in the great OpenACS endevor.

I value Ben's contributions as well as others listed and not listed including Jerry. The bottom line question is what is in the best interest of OpenACS?



Posted by Simon Carstensen on
Don --

As a recent aD prize winner, using OpenACS software to build my web site, it's very hard for me to want to participate in a project where one leader abuses his position of authority to yell at people, and where other leaders do little but support the bad behavior.  Stop embarrassing yourself and the project, and apologize to Jerry and the community.

I think it's obvious from the posts that Jerry made his statements to support Talli, and to state concerns, not to take over anything.  I'm proud to know someone who will stick his neck out for others, or that will dare to tell the emperor he has no clothes.  That behavior is not "fomenting" or "stirring up trouble".

Posted by Roberto Mello on

You obviously haven't been around the project or the aD bboards for long.

Don is honest and straight-forward. Look at the aD bboards for some of his posts, and you'll see that some of those posts made a difference in how aD treated the community.

Everyone is free to not like anyone of course, but I've been working with Don for almost 2 years, so trust me when I say that he's not "abusing his authority" or "yelling at the community". He's just being himself. And he's not doing it with a bad intent in his heart, nor out of the blue.

It's also foolish of you to accuse others of "supporting the bad behaviour" when all you have is your opinion of what "bad behaviour" is. Do you really think we'd be supporting "bad behaviour" if it was indeed bad? We may have our faults, but we are not dumb or stupid. We've worked our butts off in this project, and we wouldn't support something if it was to harm it.

Posted by Simon Carstensen on
You obviously haven't been around the project or the aD bboards for long.

Sure, I've been around for 2 years - you ougth to recognize my name 😟

Don (and you for that matter) have done a great job both at web/db and here. But that's not what I'm referring to at all! I'm just referring to the following threads and Don's reaction to them (which in my opinion are way out of proportions):

When it comes to it I think everyone are trying to make this thing work.

Posted by Steve Crossan on
altogether now ....

take a deep breath ....

cool wet grass cool wet grass cool wet grass


if there's a real issue here (a design decision that's been made wrong, a feature that's getting held up, anyone in the community with a real technical or business problem that's not being addressed or not being addressed fast enough) then please please let's talk about that. That's what I don't understand about this whole thread - what's the percieved business or technical problem with OpenACS and the community that's started this thing off? Anything else is, IMHO, completely irrelevent, although of course like everyone else I hope we can get on, go for a virtual beer together & slap each other on the back like old friends.

peace love and understanding

Posted by Tom Jackson on

Strangely, Don does not appear to have commented on those threads.

Posted by David Kuczek on
A wise old owl sat on an oak,

The more he saw the less he spoke;

The less he spoke the more he heard;

Why aren't we like that wise old bird?

(Edward H. Richards)

Posted by Simon Carstensen on
I'm referring to the comment above made by Don and also several others. Sorry about that. But those threads got the whole smear campaign against Jerry started.

Anyway, I'm with Steve! Why have we all of sudden turned into these mad mad programmers? Let's just forget about people trying to take things over etc. and get down to business.

What are we gonna do about it?

That's THE question! Let's get something organized instead of spending our precious programmer time throwing mud.

Posted by Roberto Mello on

Hmm. I'm really bad with names. So I apologize if you've been around and I didn't recognize you. But your statistics show your first post as of April 2001. And on aD as of April 2000.

"But those threads got the whole smear campaign against Jerry started. "

There is no campaign against Jerry. There never was.

"Let's get something organized instead of spending our precious programmer time throwing mud."

Great to know you think that way now. I've been suggesting this ever since this whole hubba hubba started. So please don't throw mud again.

Posted by Simon Carstensen on
"Hmm. I'm really bad with names. So I apologize if you've been around and I didn't recognize you. But your statistics show your first post as of April 2001. And on aD as of April 2000. "

Strange... Take a look again:

Posted by Roberto Mello on
That's where I looked. Like I said, your first bboard post is on April 2000. Yes, it says you're a community member since November 1999 (which I didn't notice before).
Posted by Simon Carstensen on
Oh! That way! Sure, been around since early '99, been around web/db since I registrated and posted for the first time on 29th of April 2000...
Posted by Ben Adida on
Alright, let's try to clear up a few things:

- the situation is being addressed. I'm in touch with Jerry personally
and I am going to do everything I can to quickly find an agreeable
path for the future. I'm still reading your feedback by email, feel
free to keep sending it. Simon, I didn't see a personal email from
you, I would love to hear more details about what you think.

- There is no "smear campaign," there is no conspiracy. My goodness,
Don and I
have better things to do with our time than organize some kind of
stealth operation to take down Jerry. Jerry is a concerned member of
the community, and although we have our many disagreements, we will
move forward and past this, together.

- When you post to the discussion forum, ask yourself two things: 1)
do I really need to have the last word in this discussion? 2) how
relevant is this to the community at large? If it's more appropriate
to continue the discussion in private, please do so.

Finally, in order to bring a close to this kind of discussion, I will
be putting up a plan of action on Monday, the 23rd at the very latest.
If you want your opinion to count in this plan of action, you should
email me. If you don't email me, then I cannot help you. And David,
thank you for that posting about the wise owl. We could all learn from
that one. Brought a smile to my face :)

Posted by Stephen . on
Will you read the first email Ben, or do we need to send it twice?  😊
Posted by Ben Adida on
touche. I will read the first email :)
Posted by Simon Carstensen on
Just wanted to tell you that I'm from Denmark and I may've used the expression "smear campaign" wrongly (taken your strong reaction to this expretion). I certainly wasn't trying to imply that you guys were concentrating on bringing Jerry down. Sorry about that...