CEO Speaks About Recent Subversion Controversy

Interview WANdisco on Subversion

Jessica Thornsby

JAXenter speaks to WANdisco CEO David Richards on the recent controversy regarding Subversion.

WANdisco have been at the centre of some controversy recently,
after the company posted a
string of blogs regarding Subversion
, which elicited a reply
from the Apache Software Foundation. In this interview, speaks to David Richards on where WANdisco stand on
the situation…..

JAXenter: WANdisco have recently been at the
centre of some controversy surrounding blog posts on Subversion.
What is your stance on the reaction to your blogs? Do you feel your
comments have been taken out of context?

David Richards: Absolutely! The Blog Post
“Shaking-up Subversion by Listening to the User Community and then
Committing to do the Work.” was not about WANdisco making claims
that we own the project. It was about WANdisco increasing
participation in the project, hiring more people to work on
Subversion, listening to the user community and then actually doing
the work (i.e. writing source code). I didn’t even claim that
anything we are planning to do [improve / fix branching and
merging] are new requirements. Far from it.

In some cases these requirements have been publicly posted for
over 5 years and that is *the* point – they are requirements that
the user community really need and nobody has done. I do not
believe it’s because the committers are bad stewards or lazy or
anything like that. It’s more because a number of high profile
developers like Ben Collins-Sussman and Karl Fogel moved on (which
is very common in open source) and were not replaced. We are simply
saying that we aim to fill that gap, fix these underlying problems
and get Subversion moving again. With all due respect, what’s wrong
with that?

JAXenter: For those unfamiliar with your
company, how is WANdisco involved in Subversion?

David Richards: We have full time committers on
staff including Hyrum Wright (Subversion release manager and
President of the Subversion Corporation), Phillip Martin and Julian
Foad (also long time full committers on the project.) In addition
WANdisco (Wide-Area-Network-DIStributed-COmputing) has a series of
Enterprise Subversion project such as Subversion MultiSite that
scales Subversion to thousands of users and repositories and
millions of transactions per day. Hence we have a business that is
built around the success of Subversion.

JAXenter: What factors do you feel are
currently slowing down the development of Subversion?

David Richards: As I mentioned earlier some of
the high-profile originators of Subversion like Karl, Brian, Ben
and others have simply moved on. That is *not* a criticism of
today’s committers – they continue to do an unbelievable job. We
just need more.

JAXenter: What new functionality do you intend
to commit to Subversion, within the fields of branching and

David Richards: We actually did produce a
spec, that most of the critics conveniently failed to

The approach we are taking is to solve specific issues being
reported by the Subversion user community. For example, better
support for merging across renamed objects. This will result in
much faster, easier and intuitive merging without the need for
manual error-prone intervention. We are tackling several use cases
like this and are working with Subversion users who face these
challenges every day. In addition our product manager, Rob Budas,
will blog weekly progress. Now there’s true transparency and

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