Subversion Hackathon Berlin 2013 Wrap-up

The jetlag has worn off; the clothes have been unpacked from suitcases, washed, and restored to their proper places in my closet and drawers; the AC converters stuffed back into one of the many miscellaneous electronics bins in my office; and life has resumed for me on my typical side of the Atlantic Ocean.  After flying back from the Subversion Hackathon in Berlin, breezing through uncharacteristically fast Passport Control and Customs lines at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, arriving in my hometown of Harrisburg, NC, and enjoying a lovely Father’s Day weekend with my immediate and extended families, last Monday began a very atypical work week.

My head was still swimming with all the discussions we, the Subversion developers in attendance at the hackathon, had had regarding future features and releases near and far.  But there was another matter that needed to be settled first:  the release of Apache Subversion 1.8.0.  As planned, that release shipped and was announced first thing last Tuesday morning.  At that moment, I temporarily transformed into a Subversion release evangelist.  I had already worked with the Apache Software Foundation’s Marketing folks to help craft the official release announcement, but I also shared the news of the Subversion release here on this blog, and began finalizing the details of my presentation for a live webinar on the topic which I delivered Thursday.  And there’s still more to be done here.  More articles and blog posts to write.  More of the same to review, as my CollabNet colleagues share with our readership their own expertise in Subversion and in CollabNet’s recently updated Subversion Edge server package.  More webinar Q-n-A session questions to digest and respond to.

But for a minute, I want to look back to the hackathon in Berlin.

elego Software Solutions, Gmbh always hosts a great event.  This fourth installment of the annual hackathon was like its predecessors in its thoughtful organization, excellent facilities and food provisions, and an overall atmosphere conducive to productivity.  This year’s event lacked the parallel user conference that previous events had, but compensated for this by presenting web-delivered, live interviews and technical overviews from many of the developers for users to consume remotely.  And with around fifteen or so of Subversion’s active developers assembled in a single location, and just as many major topics on our group discussion wishlist for the week, you can be sure that there was no shortage of geekspeak information bouncing at breakneck pace around the room.

For myself, the event proved a good opportunity to reconnect with many folks that I generally only interact with electronically.  Nearly everyone present I’d met in person before, and our community has always been a good-natured and welcoming group, so there was really no time wasted on ice-breaking trivia.  Rather, we enjoyed a week of relatively free-form hacking.  A few minutes spent discussing a Subversion bug or feature here; some private coding there; trading stories about our kids one minute and fiercely debating the merits of a particular feature design approach the next.  You really can’t get that kind of bandwidth and efficiency out of online discussions, where threads diverge asynchronously and extra care must be put into syntax just to carry semantic details that are more efficiently relayed in gestures, tone, and the occasional certainly-Picasso-inspired whiteboard diagram.

So, in summary, it was a great week in Berlin for me and, I trust, for the rest of the developers who attended, too.  As I opined in my own live hackathon interview, if you work on a project where you don’t get to interact in meatspace with your peers, I would encourage you to remedy that if possible.  And, hey, if you’re looking for a friendly project with a pro-hackathon culture (that also happens to produce the world’s most popular and widely used open source version control system thankyouverymuch), I’ve got just the project for you.

C. Michael Pilato

C. Michael Pilato is a core Subversion developer, co-author of Version Control With Subversion (O'Reilly Media), and the primary maintainer of ViewVC. He works remotely from his home state of North Carolina as a software engineer for CollabNet, and has been an active open source developer since early 2001. Mike is a proud husband and father who loves traveling, soccer, spending quality time with his family, and any combination of those things. He also enjoys composing and performing music, and harbors not-so-secret fantasies of rock stardom. Mike has a degree in computer science and mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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