Back in January, I invited the Apache Software Foundation to attend the Windows Server 2008 Application Compatibility Labs, here on our campus in Redmond. In order to get as many developers as possible to attend, we even paid for flights and accommodations for some members.
The week that Apache was here, was so valuable for both groups--the product groups got to see and understand what some of the issues were that some of the Apache projects have run into, and the Apache folks were able to get their hands on the developers who built the system.
Myself and Bill Rowe had hammered out some details before I actually sent the invitation out. Along with posting it on some of the Apache Mailing Lists, I also posted the invitation on my own blog so that others could see what we're up to. And, as to be expected, there was a wide variety of comments posted--both positive, and ... less positive.
My favorite though, was:
"Microsoft should go to Apache developers and see if Windows Server 2008 works correctly with Apache, not the other way around."
In some ways, that would have been somewhat impractical--when the Apache folks visited us, they had the opportunity to meet with engineers and program managers from many different groups, in addition to getting access to the hardware in the lab and the expertise of the folks who run that. For us to pick up the 20 or so people from the product groups that they actually met with, and drag them all out to all the locations where Apache developers are--which is pretty much everywhere--would not have been possible.
Still, I felt it would be more than valuable for me to go ApacheCon, so that I had the opportunity to meet with Apache developers where they roam. When Bill was in Redmond, he invited me to the Apache Hackathon--the couple of days at the beginning of the conference that developers could hang out and code. So, a snappy 10hr flight later, here I am at ApacheCon in Amsterdam.
The Apache Foundation is an interesting community--or rather community of communities. It's not just one project (the http server is what most people think when they hear Apache), but literally dozens of top level projects, and a whole bunch more in the 'incubator' (where baby projects are cultivated until it is clear that it will have ongoing support and development). The hackathon is just a large room with tables where folks can come in, sit down open their laptops and start coding. It's actually a lot quieter than I imagined it would be. Naturally, the folks in communities tend to gravitate together and discuss their projects.
As I'm not really on any project, I've been bouncing around chatting up different groups, getting their perspective of their own little chunk of Apache. Most of the people I've talked to aren't surprised at all that I'm here--which is definitely a change from conferences a year ago--and are excited to hear about our efforts.
Now, for the funny thing. I booked my hotel a few weeks back, using the internal travel system here at Microsoft. The hotel that the conference is at was booked, so I looked for one nearby. Unfortunately, the tool doesn't let me search for hotels near another hotel, and I didn't know what else was close that I could search near (and my inability to read Dutch didn't help), so I used the tool to show me where the hotels were, I'd switch to http://local.live.com and see how close it was, and if it was close, I'd switch to the other tool to check out the availability, and there was not much available. ... I guess I was distracted while I was doing it, and I ended up booking a hotel right next to the airport, which is in no way close to the conference, and so I spent the night in that hotel--and called the wonderful travel support folks who found me a hotel where I needed to be, and I moved there the next morning. Lesson learned: next time I travel to the Netherlands, I'm asking Hank to find me a hotel.