Subversion Politics

My last blog post [Shaking-up Subversion by Listening to the User Community and then Committing to do the Work] unfortunately polarized the Subversion community.

On one side we had:

@phillipmarsay This is incredibly exciting news for avid Subversion users… (like us!)

definitely like the passion you guys have, the big plans, and the intention to “take the bull by the horns” :-). I hope you can get the ball rolling, with an actively participating community, and make Subversion better…

I also think this is good news and look forward to seeing the WANDisco contributions to the project. And if I had any more knowledge of the svn internals I might be applying for one of those positions.

On the other side we had:

“I was, and am, deeply offended by Dave Richards and WANDisco in general. Their business model seems to be to issue press releases rather than actually doing stuff… As it stands, just as you did a year ago with the Obliterate feature, you are just setting your people up for failure. You have declared that you are going to implement new features that the Subversion committers that work for you already know cannot be solved in the near term.” [Mark Phippard, Collabnet]

“It’s clear that the WANdisco CEO — David Richards — is frustrated at the slow pace at which Subversion is improving. But the two posts are simply making outrageous claims, either directly or via insinuation… Unfortunately, in attempting to woo customers, he’s had the side-effect of making his company appear both clueless and antagonistic to the project…” [Ben Collins Sussman, Former Subversion Committer]

“Apache Subversion to WANdisco: +1 on the code contributions, -1 on the attitude. We welcome WANdisco’s involvement in Subversion, and failure on WANdisco’s part to address the above concerns will have no effect on the acceptance of technical work funded by WANdisco. We simply felt it necessary to clarify WANdisco’s role in Apache Subversion, for the benefit of our users and potential contributors.” [ASF]

Interestingly most of the approval for our announcements is from Subversion end-users…

I knew that this would open us up to criticism, as I said in my blog “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”

I actually regret the comment that  “certain unscrupulous committers decide to commit trivial changes in large files to simply get their stats up.” For me to substantiate this would require washing dirty laundry in public and that would help nothing – there are better ways to deal with matters such as this within the project itself.

Responses / Clarification:

  1. In my Blog post “Why we got so heavily involved in the Subversion project…” I used the phrase “The initial goal of our project was, basically, to create a better mouse-trap than CVS.” Just to be 100% clear the term ‘our’ [belonging to or connected with you and the group that you are a part of, when you are the person speaking or writing] is being used in the ‘connected with’ context like “Our Soccer Team Won Today” as I make VERY clear throughout the article [“We didn’t get involved to take the credit for creating Subversion. That credit goes to the guys I mentioned earlier.”].
  2. The Comment “I am sure we will face cynicism from some factions of the Subversion project,” is NOT referring to any individual or group of committers.
  3. I never claimed that any of the proposed enhancements were anything new. On the contrary, and again I quote “The requirements that we are committing to build, namely merging and branching, are not new.  Many of these have been in the mainstream and documented since 2007.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and I don’t take any offense to any of the comments. Most of what we said was relaying what we are hearing from Subversion users. Could these things have been said with a little less venom? Yes, probably. But the bottom line is that WE CARE because we have a deep vested interest in this Subversion stuff.


I should also point out that we do a hell of a lot for the community. Like Free Training (“Hidden Subversion” has almost 1,000 registered attendees for next weeks class) and Free Binaries for Windows, RedHat, CentOS, Ubuntu, SuSE, Debian, Solaris).

You might also be interested in attending one of our “Subversion Live” events in San Francisco (Silicon Valley), Boston (MA) or London (UK).


About David Richards

David is CEO, President and co-founder of WANdisco and has quickly established WANdisco as one of the world’s most promising technology companies. Since co-founding the company in Silicon Valley in 2005, David has led WANdisco on a course for rapid international expansion, opening offices in the UK, Japan and China. David spearheaded the acquisition of Altostor, which accelerated the development of WANdisco’s first products for the Big Data market. The majority of WANdisco’s core technology is now produced out of the company’s flourishing software development base in David’s hometown of Sheffield, England and in Belfast, Northern Ireland. David has become recognised as a champion of British technology and entrepreneurship. In 2012, he led WANdisco to a hugely successful listing on London Stock Exchange (WAND:LSE), raising over £24m to drive business growth. With over 15 years' executive experience in the software industry, David sits on a number of advisory and executive boards of Silicon Valley start-up ventures. A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he has established many successful start-up companies in Enterprise Software and is recognised as an industry leader in Enterprise Application Integration and its standards. David is a frequent commentator on a range of business and technology issues, appearing regularly on Bloomberg and CNBC. Profiles of David have appeared in a range of leading publications including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Specialties:IPO's, Startups, Entrepreneurship, CEO, Visionary, Investor, ceo, board member, advisor, venture capital, offshore development, financing, M&A

8 Responses to “Subversion Politics”

  • “For me to substantiate this would require washing dirty laundry in public”

    Come on, do it. Otherwise, it just seems as if you are making things up.

    And just out of curiosity, who, more specifically, is counting commit stats anyway?

  • “Interestingly most of the approval for our announcements is from Subversion end-users…”

    No, it’s obvious. When you offer more features and complain about the developers the end users will like the features and the developers will get offended.

    “For me to substantiate this would require washing dirty laundry in public and that would help nothing”

    Then what was the purpose of the original statement? Making claims you will not back up does not leave a good impression of you.

  • Ass covering at it’s finest, you claim to have evidence, but then say it’s best not to “wash dirty laundry in public” while the commit logs are entirely public already. If you had any evidence, it would already be public, your argument is circular and therefore a logical fallacy.

    As for end users being on your side, that really makes no difference, it’d be different if you had developers on your side. However, any developer reply I have seen has been critical of your press releases to say the least. To put it another way, people love TVs, and they like big, cheap TVs with a sharp picture. But the users of the TV rarely know the requirements to build, design or develop such a TV. So if you say you’re going to make TVs that are sharper, bigger and cheaper than any others, of course you’ll receive enthusiasm. The sad fact is however, that most end users never have and never will participate in the development process. So their support is essentially hallow, as are your press releases.

    Lastly the wording you chose in the press releases were divisive to those in the development community and intentionally misleading to those who are unfamiliar with the internals of the project (end users).

    You did a great discredit to your company and to the open source community as a whole.

  • This exchange has recently attained a much wider audience. For many their first encounter with WANdisco is this.

    So, ladies and gentlegeeks, please follow the “About WANdisco” link towards the top of the sidebar, scroll down to the products section and learn that Subversion does indeed form the core of their offerings.

  • Who should I believe in: cherry picked positive responses from end users or criticism from the people who actually created Subversion and from the Apache Software Foundation?

  • Ok, so you’re a CEO and thus not used to actually doing stuff ( 🙂 ) but here’s an option for you and your guys – do something. Go ahead and implement the obliterate functionality everyone has wanted for ages. Once you’ve done that, move on to do something else.

    Agree that you’ll look into doing it, agree with the rest of the core team that your design and approach is a good one and then deliver the code. No-one is going to argue about that, and it doesn’t require any number of press releases (though you can happily say how you’re enhancing/contributing all you like *after* you’ve done that).

  • Just push the “fork” button! Oh wait…. 😉

    Honestly I used subversion for a very long time! However after using it for a long period of time and having to deal with supporting servers that didn’t update their repositories to include subversion versions newer than 1.1…I switched mainly to mercurial. If subversion had improved at a quicker pace and had equivalent capabilities as mercurial then I may have stayed with it. One thing that I doubt will change that I really enjoy with mercurial is it’s distributed nature. I doubt that subversion will head in that direction though.

  • “For me to substantiate this would require washing dirty laundry in public and that would help nothing”

    Sure it would. If the project is suffering from what you state, then how could it help to not fix it?

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