Apachecon: raising the support issue?

A month ago I highlighted a support problem with Apache, in a deliberately-provocative article in ElReg. That provoked quite a lot of feedback. We have a problem.

At the root of the problem is inevitably-inadequate communication between some of the parties involved. So, could ApacheCon be a kick-start for building bridges, and finding solutions?

Idea: a panel-discussion on the issue. I’m thinking through how this might look, and participants will inevitably depend on who is going to be there and wants to take part, though I do have a few candidates in mind.

The format would be mini-presentations (5-10 mins), each followed by discussion of matters arising. Presentations and potentially-difficult questions to be circulated in advance; chairman to disallow any undisclosed hostile questions/ambushes.

Here are a few thoughts. Subject to extensive revision, etc, etc.

Dramatis Personae

0: Chairman: introduces the speakers; guides the debate, but doesn’t get involved in it.

1: Apache “Elder statesman” with a strong track record in support.

2: Debian (or Ubuntu) architect

3: Redhat Apache maintainer (or other mainstream commercial-company distributor of Apache)

4: Support Wiki/database developer/maintainer.

Scene: A conference platform 

Speaker 1: Introduces the problem

Speaker 2: Explains the Debian packaging and in particular its rationale.

Discussion: the merits of Debian’s approach. Is there mileage in them working more closely with Apache? What does it look like from another distro’s PoV?

Speaker 3: more briefly explain their packaging, but focus more on how their support works and doesn’t generally fall so heavily on #apache.

Discussion: What can we learn from that?

Speaker 4: introduce the Apache support wiki, summarise the experience.

Discussion: is this a good approach? How far can/should it go in closing the problem? What else should we be doing?

Speaker 1: summing up.

I’m blogging this primarily (at this stage) for folks on #apache-helpdesk, from whom speakers 1 and 4 in the above are likely to be drawn. Thoughts on the idea? Would you (each of you who’s going to be there) wish to be involved? Of course comments from others also welcome!

Posted on December 5, 2006, in apache. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. So far there has been too much antagonism, and not enough open-minded discussion. I think this is a great idea – to get the various distro package managers together to discuss what can be done with the default configuration file(s) to learn from what the distros have done, and vice versa, so that there isn’t quite such stark contrast between what different people call “default configuration”.

  2. I doubt the Red Hat Apache maintainer will be at ApacheCon EU this year since he is planning to become a first-time-father sometime shortly before.

    But let me play Devil’s advocate anyway, because I enjoy it so much:

    I find it entirely unsurprising that an IRC channel fails to develop a self-supporting community of users, which is what seems to be the “problem” in question. Why would it? Users will tune in then drop out, and whatever conversation took place is then forever lost. Don’t use distributors as a scapegoat for that failure.

    No, I am not going to hang around on IRC channels hoping for people to turn up with Fedora/Apache questions, which is maybe what you desire. I do however hang around on fedora-list@redhat.com and users@httpd.apache.org and bugs@httpd.apache.org and dev@httpd.apache.org and have been known to supports users via those fora from time to time.

  3. Joe,

    I disagree, the issue is not neccesarily that of a self-supporting community.
    I think it is more trying to bring each of distro’s, and the main HTTPd config files in-line with one another.

    For example the Debian package differ’s greatly from Gentoo, BSD, etc. It is these differences that often introduce ‘complications’ into the support process, as the method needed to achieve the same results again becomes the stumnbling block.

    I think you will find a lot of the ‘regulars’ in #apache are so bloody minded, to the point that they prefer the original config’s (as shipped when using the ASF source) for a variety of reasons. Often they are shared with others, and sometimes it comes down to personal preferences.

    For example:

    1) Gentoo makes heavy use of the directive. This widely considered to be a bad method of controlling the config.
    2) A few distro’s typically use AddType, as opposed to AddHandler for PHP.

    Yes, I know, these are nit picky points, bbut common points non the less.

  4. I’ve sent an email to our internal Goobuntu mailing list to see if any of them work with apache packaging or know anyone in debian or ubuntu involved with the apache packaging. Good Luck!

  5. Hi! Why I can’t fill my info in profile? Can somebody help me?
    My login is Kisakookoo!

  1. Pingback: The world according to pctony » ApacheCon EU 2007 :: The question of support rears it’s ugly head again

  2. Pingback: ApacheCon talks « niq’s soapbox

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