[Numpy-discussion] What is consensus anyway

Charles R Harris charlesr.harris@gmail....
Wed Apr 25 00:02:55 CDT 2012

On Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 10:25 PM, Travis Oliphant <travis@continuum.io>wrote:

> On Apr 24, 2012, at 10:50 PM, Charles R Harris wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 9:28 PM, Fernando Perez <fperez.net@gmail.com>wrote:
>> On Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 8:02 PM, Charles R Harris
>> <charlesr.harris@gmail.com> wrote:
>> > Fernando, I'm not checking credentials, I'm curious.
>> Well, at least I think that an inquisitive query about someone's
>> background, phrased like that, can be very easily misread.  I can only
>> speak for myself, but I immediately had the impression that you were
>> indeed trying to validate his background as a proxy for the
>> discussion, and suggesting that others had the same curiosity...
>> Had the question been something more like "Hey Nathaniel, what other
>> projects do you think could inform our current view, maybe from stuff
>> you've done in the past or lists you've lurked on?", I would have a
>> very different reaction.  But this sentence:
>> """
>> I admit to a certain curiosity about your own involvement in FOSS
>> projects, and I know I'm not alone in this.
>> """
>> definitely reads to me with a rather dark and unpleasant angle. Upon
>> rereading it again now, I still don't like the tone.  I trust you when
>> you indicate that your intent was different; perhaps it's a matter of
>> phrasing, or the fact that English is not my native language and I may
>> miss subtleties of native speakers.
> Perhaps it was a bit colored, but even so, I'd like to know some specifics
> of his experience. Monotone was one of the projects that sprang up after
> Linus started using Bitkeeper as an open alternative, but that is actually
> fairly recent (2003 or so) and much of the discussion seems to have been
> carried on over IRC, rather than a mailing list. I'm guessing that some
> other projects could have taken place in the 90's, but things have changed
> so much since then that it is hard to know what was going on in that
> decade. There was certainly work on the C++ Template library, Linux,
> Python, and various utilities. But it is hard to know. In any case, I'd
> guess that Monotone was a fairly tight knit community, and about 2007 most
> of the developers left. I'd guess it was mostly a case of git and mercurial
> becoming dominant, and possibly they also lost interest in DVCS and moved
> on to other things.
> Numpy itself has gone through several of those transitions, and looking
> back, I think one of the problems was that when Travis left for Enthought
> he didn't officially hand off maintenance. The whole transition was a bit
> lucky, with David, Pauli, and myself unofficially continuing the work for
> the 1.3 and 1.4 releases. At that point I was hoping David could more or
> less take over, but he graduated, and Pauli would have been an excellent
> choice, but he took up his graduate studies. Turnover is a problem with
> open source, and no matter how much discussion there is, if people aren't
> doing the work the whole thing sort of peters out.
> Thanks for explaining yourself.    The tone you used could earlier have
> been mis-interpreted (though I would hope that people would look at your
> record of contribution and give you the benefit of the doubt).   Your last
> sentence is very true.   In this particular case, however, there is enough
> interest that the whole thing will not peter out, but there is a strong
> chance that there will be competing groups with divergent needs and
> interests vying for how the project should develop.
> There are many people who rely on NumPy and are concerned about its
> progress.   NumFocus was created to fight for resources to further the
> whole ecosystem and not just rely on volunteers that are available.   I
> fundamentally do not believe that model can scale.    There are, however,
> ways to keep things open source and allow people to work on NumPy as their
> day-job.  Several companies now exist that benefit from the NumPy code base
> and will be interested in seeing it grow.
> It is a mis-characterization to imply that I "left the project" without a
> "hand-off".   I never handed off the project because I never left it.   I
> was very busy at Enthought.  I will still be busy now.   But, NumPy is very
> important to me and has remained so.   I have spent a great deal of mental
> effort trying to figure out how to contribute to its growth.   Yes, I
> allowed other people to contribute significantly to the project and was
> very receptive to their pull requests (even when I didn't think it was the
> most urgent thing or something I actually disagreed with).

Well then, let's say you should have handed off, because you no longer had
the time to devote to it. You made the 1.2.1 release, and after that you
weren't really involved until recently. Now I'm sure that you didn't lose
interest, but you did lose the time, and I think it would have been better
if you had realized that fact up front. As it was, I suggested to David
that it was time for a 1.3 release, and we preceded without permission from
the usual suspects, yourself and Jarrod. I think it was pretty fortunate
that David was already producing the releases, and I'm very glad that when
he went later went to work he made sure to hand off that role. Ralph has
been a life saver. The timeline for people's involvement is pretty clear if
you look at the Ohloh graphs of developer
Numpy 1.2.1 came out at the end of Oct, 2008 and you can trace the number
of commits thereafter. Yours are pretty thin through 2009 and pretty much
peter out completely in 2010. That isn't an insult, it's just the facts,
and those are what we need to deal with. Now I'm glad that you are back,
and it would be nice if we could get Pauli and David back, but at the
moment Mark is the best new developer, and not only that, he attracted
other new developers when he was working on numpy. I hope he hangs around
for a while.

It's pretty interesting how personal events are suggested by the
statistics. If I were a writer they would all suggest stories.

> That should not be interpreted as having "left".   NumPy grew because it
> solved a useful problem and people were willing to tolerate its problems to
> make a difference by contributing.     None of us matter as much to NumPy
> as the problems it helps people solve.   To the degree it does that we are
> "lucky" to be able to contribute to the project.   I hope all NumPy
> developers continue to be "lucky" enough to have people actually care about
> the problems NumPy solves now and can solve in the future.
All true, but as Fernando confirms, actual people have to do the work.
After all, people can solve their problems using Matlab, and I suspect many

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