Thursday, 28 February 2008

Patience is a Virtue

Sometimes people accuse me of being patient, to which I often reply "I believe you are mistaking persistence for patience." But I looked up Wikipedia's definition of patience which describes it as "the ability to endure waiting, delay, or provocation without becoming annoyed or upset, or to persevere calmly when faced with difficulties" so maybe folks were right. I must admit that I don't endure waiting or delay very well. I dive right in to make things happen quickly and I expect the same from others. Also, when it comes to dealing with provocation, I suppose I've gotten a lot better at overlooking that, but I'm still perhaps more inclined to slap the other's cheek as to turn my other cheek. I've learned from experience though that winning a battle is sometimes the best way to loose the war; oddly enough, most people don't like losing an argument and some people are vindictive. Some subjects are best left untouched.

When it comes to patience, it's really persevering in the face of difficulties that I do best, but not always calmly. Does that still count as patience? I'm getting a lot better at faking being calm, and I suppose the appearance of being calm is more important than actually being calm. I've learned that the pitch of my voice changes when I'm upset, i.e., I become shrill, so controlling my voice seems to be an effective way to control the underlying tension as well. It's pretty hard to get the ever-patient anemone excited, so I should learn to emulate that.

As an Eclipse board member, patience is an important virtue. That being said, just like diversity, patience also has dark side. When things need to get done, waiting patiently while nothing happens isn't going to generate positive feedback from the voters, nor should it. Patience ought not to be an excuse for lack of results. When I wanted to see solid statistics about strategic developer activity, i.e., whether each strategic developer really has eight full time active developers as required in their membership agreement, I didn't wait patiently for others to gather this data---thanks, by the way, to Doug and Scott for keeping this issue alive---I gathered the data myself. Well, actually, I delegated it to Nick. Nevertheless, it got done and now it's very easy for anyone to have a look at where we stand on this issue at any point in time; the data gathers itself. When Nick does something, he does it extremely well! This sea turtle waited patiently to be photographed, but unlike land turtles, sea turtles are capable of significant speed.

Darin had a great idea a while back to add pictures and a biography to the foundation's directors page. But we don't have control over that page so we must wait patiently for a great many months for it to happen. You'll recall I've blogged about this a few times already. I'm not feeling very patient anymore. I'm sure Nick would have done this in a few hours. Of course I fully understand that something like this is a minor detail and that there are likely a hundred things of higher priority, like Mike's excellent idea of a "meet the board members" booth at EclipseCon. I highly recommend you take the opportunity to chat with your board members; we're not as scary as we might look.

Climbing on my high horse for a moment, when it comes to addressing requests from people, I often find it's best to do the ones that take very little time first and the ones that take more time later. Everyone will notice when something that ought to take an hour takes weeks, but no one will notice when one more hour of delay is added to something that takes weeks. I believe this type of thinking, i.e., do small things first and big things later, is helping with the IP review turnaround. Clearly it helps improve perceptions as a general principle. I'll climb off of my seahorse now.

I waited patiently for a number of years for JDT to support external folders on the classpath; I just don't have the skills to solve such a problem myself. Well, patience has finally paid off! Kudos to the JDT team as a whole, and to Jerome in particular, for addressing 182537!! This will greatly simplify bootstrapping EMF from CVS. Chris is going to do the PDE part of the equation in time for M7. The quality of JDT and PDE is such an impressive thing. I have more confidence in JDT's compiler than I do in javac. If the two disagree on something, JDT typically turns out to have done it correctly as demonstrated in 219865 . And of course if there are problems in JDT, you know they will be fixed so fast your head spins. This angel fish is the most beautiful fish I photographed this year, so to me it represents the JDT team.

In closing, the lesson of the week from me is to be patient, but not too patient, especially when it comes to voting and registering for EclipseCon. For goodness sake, the clock is ticking!

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Eclipse Board Election 2008

This year's Eclipse board election promises to be by far the most interesting to date. I feel that the incumbents can claim significant credit for that being the case. As a group, we have helped increase awareness of the role and the value of participating in it. I had a quick look through the candidate vision statements, and have a few opinions about them, as well as some opinions about the performance of the incumbents during the current term.

Firstly, I think all the incumbents did quite a good job of representing the committer's interests. For the most part, each of us has avoided toeing our organizational party line. Of course our primary fiduciary responsibility is to act in the best interests of the foundation. In addition, as employees of a company, we are also expected to act in the best interests of that company. Interestingly, there isn't actually a legal obligation to act in the committer's best interests, though clearly there is a strong social obligation to do so.

It's clearly possible for the various interests to conflict. One example of a potential conflict is the seemingly universal desire to see the parallel IP process expanded as much as possible. Kudos to Jeff and last year's other representatives for having gotten us this far in the first place! Certainly the committers don't want to be bogged down by legal obstacles, but that has to be balanced against the foundation's legal risks of an IP free for all. It's been a tough struggle to make progress on this issue. I've personally taken a very active role by getting involved on the board's IP committee and of course I get to see IBM's internal struggles with this issue as well.

Being bound by the strict confidentiality constraints both as an IBM employee and a board member makes it a challenge to discuss the machinations openly, which is quite frustrating for someone as gabby as me. Suffice to say, lawyers want to avoid risk---obviously doing nothing is the least risk of all---while developers want to make rapid technical progress and typically have little awareness or understanding of the legal risk. It's been painful but eye opening for me to be sure. It's certainly made me feel useful to be able to bring the developer's perspective to the table.

Many of the candidates specifically mention improvements to the IP process as something they want to pursue so I fully expect to see continuing progress. Probably many people will have noticed how much the process has already improved, with much faster turn around and a better sense of time to completion. Of course Janet's team and Mike's management direction deserve the lion's share of the credit, but we committer representatives too worked hard to make this happen.

One thing that struck me reading the candidate positions is that some will likely be frustrated to discover the many limitations of a board which is often powerless to effect change because there is so little resource for it to actually direct. The board also tends to avoid controversial issues and prefers to act only where there is consensus. It's also very important to realize that the board's role is not to treat Mike as a puppet we exploit to vicariously control the day-to-day operations of the Eclipse Management Organization. Mike will give new board members a nice little book that helps make it much more clear what a board should and shouldn't do. Mike needs to be empowered to manage his own organization while the board needs to focus high level direction that avoids getting bogged down by the minutia. A significant amount of what some of the candidates are outlining isn't really the role of the board at all. Of course I avoided all this by outlining very little in my vision statement other than clarifying the principles I use to guide my thinking. Anyone will tell you that I've been very outspoken.

I think that Jeff and Darin have by far the strongest and most well-considered platforms. Since Jeff has been on the board the longest---experience is definitely huge asset---I hope that he wins a seat. He's the diversity candidate of choice, being an independent now. And, to belabor the point of my previous blog, his one vote for himself will have more impact than will the votes of any group of committers from any member organization. So take note that he's taking the public position of one committer one vote. For a number of reasons, Jeff ranks at the top of my list.

Darin is the only candidate actually running for reelection; he's always running some or other horribly long marathon This guy has stamina! He is soft spoken and unassuming, but he's done an awful lot to improve the visibility of the committer representatives and has proven to be very constructive on the board. I have the greatest of respect for him and he's definitely an asset.

Chris is kind of the poster boy of Eclipse and has personally done more for Eclipse's sense of community than anyone else I can think of. He always brings a fresh youthful perspective to the picture and that's very useful on board composed to a large extend of senior executive types. Many of the good things I've done in the past year are a result of following his example. I think many will agree that he's an excellent example to follow.

Kosta has been active with issues like a common components project and a common build infrastructure project. They're very difficult issues to tackle without significant support from many involved parties.

The new candidates are especially exciting to see. Mik is an amazing guy! The two Dougs are both passionate people who blog actively and have each done a lot to help grow the community, to foster its diversity, and to promote Eclipse as a whole. No matter who wins, it's going to end up being a great set of people; the committer community should feel proud to have fielded such an excellent set of candidates. Of course I'd really like to win a seat myself. I've gotten such a kick out of being involved in something I had always considered completely outside of my usual little box. It's nice to have grown as a person. It has truly been a honor.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

One Committer, One Vote?

I'm sure many folks will assume that all committers, if not created equal, are at least treated as if they were. It seems like one of those basic principles of fairness which we'd like to believe is one of Eclipse's corner stones. But, as a board member, I've learned to read rules very carefully so I can more easily subvert them, err, I mean so I can better follow them religiously. I've found it pays off to look closely at the details.

If all you keen voters out there did the same, you'd carefully read the rules governing Eclipse's Election Process. Following the various links, you'd eventually find this quote in the bylaws:
Committer Members who are employed by the same organization (including Affiliates thereof as defined in Section 6.2) shall have only one (1) collective vote with respect to election of the Committer Directors as well as any and all matters that come before the Membership At-Large, and such collective vote shall be determined by a simple majority of such Committer Members sharing the same employer as described above.
It clearly spells out that each of IBM's 200 active committers have 1/200 of a vote compared to each of the roughly 200 active individual committers (based on Nick's committer data). In other words, the individual committers have 4,000 times more influence over the outcome in the vote than does an one IBM committer. In fact, they will dominate the vote. Ouch!

To me, that hardly seems fair. Though granted, some individuals contribute a great deal and aren't even paid, so that evens the score a little. But clearly I won't be doing a lot of campaigning inside IBM! Their votes and mine are practically worthless. I'll definitely have to find green pastures, or is that bluer seas?

I wonder how the foundation reconciles the "simple majority" statement above with the single transferable voting approach? Inquiring minds want to know.

It would seem to me that single transferable voting is different from simple majority voting. I think the foundation's bylaws need review and updating.

To finish off my rant, I'd like to say something bad about each of the other candidates to ensure my own election victory. Unfortunately, I can only think of good things to say about all them. What fun is that? The best I can do is suggest you follow me. I'll make sure we end up somewhere very cool.

I just hope no one finds those embarrassing pictures of me and uses them to tarnish my reputation...

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Leadership and Teamwork

All good things must come to an end; unfortunately vacations can't just go on forever. I greatly enjoyed my sailing expedition visiting Guadaloupe, Îles des Saintes, and Dominica as a crew member of the Training Ship Pelican of London.

That rainbow just seemed to follow me around! There were many exciting things to see, such as a pod of several dozen dolphins riding the bow wave. Look at how they synchronize their swimming as if coordinating an Eclipse release train!

This world is definitely full of compelling and inspiring beauty, not to mention a diversity of flora and fauna that I'll save for blogs to come.

It was particularly cool to be considered a crew member and not just a passenger. It really made me feel like part of the team (and yielded in crew discounts in the duty free shops). One of the things that struck me about the ship was how well the team of long term crew functioned as a unit. Coordinated efforts are vitally important for maintaining smooth operations not to mention a safe environment. Of course, with my limited skills, reefing on the ropes to hoist the sails was the best I could manage.

What struck me most about the team was Captain John's leadership. I recall that on a previous cruise, Captain Fernando said "You know you're ready to be a captain when you can do the job of every person on the ship." Captain John not only knows how to do every job on the ship, he actually does ever job on the ship. Leading by example is his style. Here he is second from the right up in the rigging.

He could even be spotted helping do the dishes.

Obviously he was very well like and greatly respected by all the crew. It seems to me that in our industry the leaders are all too often out of touch from those they lead; not only are they often incapable of doing the jobs of those they lead, they actually consider it beneath them to do those kinds of jobs. I personally prefer to work with people as equals.

Just as Captain John felt comfortable leaving James as the helm

so too I felt comfortable that Dave and Marcelo would take good care of things while I was gone. Indeed they did. No EMF newsgroup question went unanswered. Teamwork is a beautiful thing in all its many forms.

I see the Eclipse Board election campaign is in full swing. Yawn. I guess I need to raise some controversial topics to stimulate discussion.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Merks Works

Merks Works was the campaign slogan my father used during his stint in politics in British Columbia quite some time back. Kind of catchy, eh? I thought I would revive it as part of my campaign for re-election to the Eclipse Foundation Board of Directors, whom I see are still faceless despite friendly reminders that faces and names go particularly well together. Speaking of which, if you are a modeling committer and are still rendered as an Eclipse logo, I'm going to track you down with a camera if I have to! But I digress. I've heard rumors that there will be a full slate of candidates for the four committer representative positions. Won't that be exciting? Especially if we can incite a poisonous smear campaign rife with scandals, mud slinging, and name calling! Just kidding, I suspect it will be a staid affair with low voter turnout.

Being serious for a moment, I must say that I am honored to be nominated as top ambassador for the Eclipse Community Awards and of course I would be greatly honored by the privilege of representing the committers on the board of directors for another term. Hey! I wonder if there is a rule against ambassadors getting involved in politics? Oh no, Chris already did that and I must say he did both jobs particularly well! It also clear that that Jeff guy is going to be stiff competition, what with those cut children he's been posing with and all. Oh well, at least if I'm a big loser I'll feel better that I lost to someone like him! He's almost like a god to me. If I wasn't so self serving, I'd probably vote for him..

Speaking of popularity, I see Wayne running a BoF popularity contest and that Mega Modeling Mania is doing well. Of course the whole Eclipse community is very awesome, but I must say that the modeling sub-community is particularly awesome. I might be biased though, but I don't care. That's the way I see it. So if you are a speaker and you are coming to MMM night, ask one of the other "authors" to add your name to the list; I'll be on vacation, so I can't help for a while. Even if you just plan to attend, please append a comment. Let's blow Wayne's measurements off the scale and rock his world! Of course this is a most excellent chance to meet and greet, not to listen to the "authors" yap some more. It's going to be great of fun!

Alas, time is running short. My bags are packed for vacation and I'm ready to set sail tomorrow for two weeks of fun in the sun. So while Merks Works is my new campaign slogan, don't expect much of it for the next two weeks. And help people on the newsgroups! Oh gosh, I have this bad feeling I'm going to be reaching for a refresh button and find there isn't one nearby for the next few days. Oh well, I'll have to settle for refreshments then!