DWR Joins The Dojo Foundation, Joe Walker Joins SitePen

Dylan has the short-and-sweet writeup of what’s happening with DWR and the Dojo Foundation and Joe Walker has a bit more Q&A. I can’t really add much to the “news” bit of the news other than to say that I’m tremendously excited about it. The DWR community has been amazingly level-headed in its deliberations, and I can’t wait to work with them in the future.

I’ve been concerned a bit that it may appear as though Joe joining SitePen may carry with it the perception that the Dojo Foundation is an arm of SitePen in some way or that DWR will now need to become Dojo-centric. Luckily neither is the case, although reading assurances to that effect on this blog should be taken with a grain of salt. The Foundation has an open door for deserving projects which need a good legal umbrella and don’t want a lot of process or formality, and we’ve extended personal invitations to many non-Dojo-centric projects over the years to join (including direct competitors).

For anyone still worried about the DWR/DF arrangement, working it backwards from both perspectives should yield some comfort. It does very little good for Dojo to be shoved down someone’s throat by the choice of some orthogonal tool in the same way that it would be tremendously foolhardy for the Foundation to lose its independence in any way. Neither would be very meritocratic and in particular the independence of the Foundation and its track record of providing a level playing field is most of what it has going for it. To that end, putting DWR at the Foundation and not under the getahead legal entity should help to make the distinction between commercial interest and community development even clearer than it previously was.

An umbrella organization to help support projects in meeting their goals is the under-appreciated bit of what separates successful stand-alone projects from projects which can’t escape the yolk of either a closed development process or a sponsoring company that just can’t let go of assumed control or brand affinity. Having your work backed by a legal entity is essential if you’re not going to pick a GPL-ish license, but having that entity be a brand-neutral known quantity helps get projects adopted by organizations which have both lawyers and some experience with OSS. For component software like DWR, Cometd, and Dojo that’s nearly all of the users which an OSS license alone won’t convince. The independent nature of the Foundation also isolates users from the employment decisions of key contributors. Through the Foundation, Dojo’s licensing has survived wholly in-tact through changes in employment status of nearly all of its most prolific contributors.

Having “external” committers, a reasonable process for minting new ones, and a peaceful atmosphere where developers can build trust along with software isn’t rocket science but it does require some amount of prioritization of those concerns over personal and corporate directives. We’re not perfect at this at the Dojo Foundation, and we haven’t yet encountered the wrenching attempts at “brand drafting” which Apache deals with on a regular basis, but we’re committed to keeping the process as hands-off as we can and working to ensure that the umbrella doesn’t imply more than it really provides.

Our door is open. All that we require of new projects is that all committers on the project sign a CLA, that the lineage of the code be “clean” (within reason), that the project community is relatively healthy, and that you can convince the existing committers that yours is worthy of Foundation support. It has always been the intent of the Foundation to host projects that have nothing to do whatsoever with Dojo and it’s my sincere hope that the DWR announcement drives this home, but we’re not going to leave it to chance. More on this in a forthcoming post.

Until then, my congrats again to Joe and the entire DWR community. Thanks for giving the Foundation the opportunity to make good on the trust you’ve invested in us.