Saturday, September 22, 2007

Predation, Parasitism, Commensalism, and Mutualism in the Garden and in the Community

Every fall death stalks my garden in the form of this beautiful but deadly predator, the Great Blue Heron. No frog or fish is safe and often one or two of the careless will disappear before I can dispatch Ruby to chase it away.

Predators come in many shapes and sizes, like this cute little toad:

Ruby had heard that toad licking was all the latest rage, but she tells me that no, licking a toad doesn't actually give you a good buzz.

The praying mantis is one of my favorite insect predators.

Predators serve a role, but they result in the death of the prey. Predators in the community are something we'd all like to live without, but predation is a fact of business life just as it is in our environment.

My garden is also full of parasites and of all these, the leech is the most disliked.

Parasites don't actually kill their victim, but they do cause harm. Apparently leeches have medicinal use because of the anti-clotting agents in their saliva but I'd still don't like them. Often a community will have a few parasites as well. There are always a few people who are just like leeches, i.e., they drain away your lifeblood until sated giving nothing in return but a scar.

But, in a community, commensalism is the norm. The users of open source software benefit and in doing so cause no harm. Just as this frog uses a lily as a convenient platform from which to ambush its prey without harming the flower.

What we'd like to achieve in a community is mutualism where both parties in the interaction benefit. This bee on a sunflower is a prime example, benefitting from the nectar and the pollen while ensuring the diversity of the sunflower gene pool by transporting the pollen from flower to flower:

A thriving community is driven by mutually beneficial behaviors. Users help test the software and help make it better with suggestions. Some individuals eventually become contributors and will directly enhance the software. Others might help document it thereby making it more consumable for others. A few will even strive to become committers to invest even more of themselves.

For quite a few weeks now I've been watching the geese practice flying in formation. They tend to do this every evening for the late weeks of summer.

I find this a particularly striking example of mutually beneficial behavior at work. Most folks probably know why geese fly in formation and it's not because they just love to hang out together. The goose flying the front has to do the most work, and those behind benefit by virtue of getting a little bit of extra lift from the turbulence created by the goose in front. They need quite a bit of practice to learn how to fly in this way. Each goose will take turns leading, and when it tires, it will peel away, falling back to the rear, allowing the next goose in line to take the lead. In this way, all the geese benefit and get to their destination with less effort than it would take to get there alone.

Let's try to be like the geese and act cohesively for the mutual benefit of our whole community.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Diversity is More Than Just a Symbol

With all this recent talk about diversity, imagine my surprise when I got up just past the crack of dawn this morning to see the very symbol of diversity arching across my backyard.

This is just too coincidental and clearly something that I feel compelled to share with those who sleep in well past the crack of dawn.

Do you see how all the different colors of the flowers are complimented by all the different colors in the rainbow? Diversity isn't just nice. It's pretty too. And for a successful project at Eclipse, it's even expected if not absolutely required.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The World Reflected in the Eyes of Another

The unofficial end of summer is always a time for reflection, so it's kind of cool to see myself reflected in the eyes of a frog:

From this perspective, it's clear that I'm rather large and intimidating which helps to remind me that others are likely to perceive me very differently from how I might intend...

It's also apparent that I'm not the only one always on the lookout for bugs!

The bugs themselves are busy too. This bee is absolutely covered with summer's bountiful harvest of pollen.

I'll bet most people have never stopped to notice how many kinds of bees are really buzzing around out there. This one's busy lapping up sweet nectar as well as collecting protein rich pollen on her hind legs.

I'm sure that even fewer people notice that the flies too are rather pretty if you take the time to look really closely.

Life is a rich tapestry full of the unexpected. I don't even know what kind of bug this is, but it's certainly fierce looking!

Contrary to popular believe, I don't spend my whole life answering newsgroup questions. It's certainly one of the gardens I nurture with perhaps a little too much zeal. But I do have time for my other gardens too.

In EMF-land, we're just finishing off polishing the final chapters of the second edition of the book and we've decided that since it's been so incredibly painful we should prolong the short term pain by writing an appendix to describe the new features of EMF 2.3 so that we can avoid the longer term pain of ever having to write a third edition. Like my hardy Hibiscus, it's taken a long time to bloom.

I'm also pleased to have finished a prototype for a more flexible and powerful URI converter along with support for content types; please see 191077 for patches. The enhanced URI converter APIs support things like exists, delete, timeStamp, and isReadOnly to allow one to build a fully functional application without hard dependencies on the backing store APIs used to prop up your resources. In addition, it supports contentType to allow one to define resource factories based on resource content rather than on file extensions. I'll need to write some documentation to describe how best to exploit these new capabilities. Probably it will be easier for folks to provide feedback once we commit the changes and start providing builds for EMF 2.4. Just as the garden gets better each year based on experiences from previous years, so too EMF keeps getting better.

So let's say goodbye to summer with the attitude that there will always be more summers and likely even better summers. These sunflowers are most certainly a very lovely way to say goodbye.