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Meet an open source contributor: Hervé Boutemy

Editor's Note: We're celebrating February 3rd, the day the term "Open Source" was first coined, as World Open Source Day here at Sonatype by recognizing our incredible maintainers and contributors, and the open source projects they support. Read all about Hervé Boutemy's journey below.

What was the first open source contribution you ever made?

herve3In 2001, I dared to share a problem and a solution to Apache's Jakarta Ant community in the form of an email containing code updates (yes, sending patches against CVS was too hard for me at that time).

What is funny is that it is still visible nowadays (that’s why I could describe it precisely): near 21st anniversary!!!

What was your journey to becoming an open source maintainer?

A few years later, SourceForge availability was a key step to host my own project (taken from my work at a dead startup), discuss with users and contributors, and contribute to other small sized projects (Apache looked still a huge unreachable beast from a normal human like me).

When Maven 1 and later Maven 2 were created at Apache, I was ready to provide more structured fixes for issues that were hitting me in this new small project that was promising but full of shortcomings and basic bugs :)

This was the first time I was able to provide fixes to an Apache project, and the beginning of a long journey (each step took 1 to 3 years) from being a user with small contributions reviewed, then becoming a Maven developer with direct commit right, then joining the Maven Project Management Committee, then becoming Apache Software Foundation member, and even VP of Apache Maven for 2 years… I'm currently VP of Apache Attic.

What do you wish people understood about being a good contributor?

You need to start with very simple and focused small improvements: don't expect to start big. What is important is to stay for a long time, in a sustainable way and enjoy increasing contributions and associated recognition.

What non-code contributions are worth contributing?

A good report on a small issue, well described, with a demo to show the issue and the expected result is a very good start, even if there is not yet the code fix.

One huge contribution I'm looking for is someone with HTML/CSS skills to improve our Maven site: but it's hard to find a way to start simple…

What is one thing you wish you’d known before you started contributing to an open source?

Every project has a different culture: you need to adapt to project conventions, or you'll fail if you just use habits from one project to another one. And don't forget: there are people behind projects, with different situations and stories: it's useful to take time to understand what is the human story.

Open source is both a philosophy and a legal framework. Does the "spirit" of open source impact the way you code with your contributing community?

Yes: if I don't enjoy, I don't do. If the community just complains, I don't enjoy, I don't do.

Who's helped you on your open source journey? 

One key step in my journey is a French Open Source user group created in 2001 in Paris: OSSGTP "OSS Get Together in Paris."

This was a physical monthly meeting with people working on serious big OSS projects, in my own native language: they accepted me to join because my own little project put on SourceForge was de-facto OSS. This gave me the opportunity to meet many well known big OSS guys/projects, discover they were accessible people, respecting all sizes of contributions: I won't name people, but you can search Google for OSSGTP for a list of people. 

Picture of Sal Kimmich

Written by Sal Kimmich

Sal is a developer advocate for open source at Sonatype and passionate about helping engineers, ethical hackers and digital enthusiasts understand the complexity of modern software development. With over a decade of experience as a machine learning engineer in the healthcare and tech for good sectors, their work is now focused on filling the cracks in the open source software supply chain to build a better digital future for all of us.