Battle of the Blogs

ASF and WANdisco Clash Over Subversion

Jessica Thornsby

‘WANDisco is attempting to portray themselves as leading the Subversion community.’

The Apache Software Foundation have issued a statement clarifying that WANdisco “participates in Subversion development under the same terms as any other organization” after the company posted a string of blogs in which they make various claims about their involvement with Subversion.

In their statement, the ASF complain about the wording of several blogs by WANdisco, warning that they might lead the casual reader to the mistaken belief that WANdisco created Subversion. Some WANdisco statements are potentially misleading, for example: “the initial goal of our project was, basically, to create a better mouse-trap than CVS” and “today we announced the radical step to overhaul the Subversion project.” However, towards the end of each blog, WANdisco do include sentences that make it clear they are not the creators of Subversion: “…..that’s really why we decided to get involved (in Subversion) on the scale that we did.” Subversion was actually created by CollabNET, Inc. in 2000, with WANdisco joining the project much later on, in 2008.

The ASF also complain about the way WANdisco portrays some planned updates to Subversion. These include the tracking of renames to eliminate tree conflicts during merges, and enhancing merge base ancestry calculation. In the blogs, WANdisco frames these as radical steps, all the while hinting at unidentified opposition. The ASF argue that this is not the case: the Subversion development team are already quietly working towards these objectives. The ASF are concerned that this idea of WANdisco forcing through an unpopular technical decision implies that WANdisco is the corporate leader of the project, which is untrue.

But, the ASF aren’t the only one with grievances. In the blogs, WANdisco complain that “certain unscrupulous committers” are guilty of committing small changes to Subversion in large files, to get their own stats up. The ASF deny this is the case, and on a public mailing list Johan Corveleyn asked WANdisco to provide evidence, to which WANdisco CEO David Richards replied that he was “not going to go into that here.” In the same exchange, Corveleyn picked fault with a WANdisco blog in which they acknowledge that the Subversion community have announced a roadmap “but that’s pretty much all that happened.” ” I’m subscribed to the dev-list and the commits-list for that last year and a half, and I’ve seen a *ton* of work being done,” Corveleyn argued. “Yes, it can always be more/better/faster or more predictable, but it’s not that nothing has been done.” He also warned Richards about demotivating the volunteers working on Subversion with negative comments.

Overall, the ASF are pragmatic in their response to WANdisco, concluding that “we reiterate that we welcome WANdisco’s involvement in Subversion……We simply felt it necessary to clarify WANdisco’s role in Apache Subversion, for the benefit of our users and potential contributors.” However, Mark Phippard, a member of the board of directors at Subversion Corporation, was not so measured in his response. “I was, and am, deeply offended by Dave Richards and WANDisco in general,” he writes “WANDisco is attempting to portray themselves as leading the Subversion community and as such that they are speaking for the community.”

At the time of writing, WANdisco had not issued a public response to the ASF.

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