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 merging?

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

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 community!

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