Friday, December 21, 2007

Please Reinstate The Top Contributor Award

Nominations for this year's Eclipse Community Awards are open but unfortunately the Top Contributor award has gone absent without leave. I sent Ruby out searching for it:

After some effort, she and Amber rooted out 213601. Apparently there was some confusion about the distinction between Top Committer verses Top Contributor, but that just left Amber perplexed:

She figured that both these terms are quite clearly defined and that the definitions are well understood by the community. Given that a picture is worth a thousand words, here is how Top Committer is defined pictorially for the illiterate:

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to imagine what the Top Contributor award would look like pictorially based on extrapolating from the definition of Top Committer which "Recognizes an Eclipse committer who best exemplifies support for the community through newsgroups, Bugzilla, white papers, conference presentations, blogs and other forums." It seems obvious that Top Contributor "Recognizes an Eclipse contributor who best exemplifies support for the community through newsgroups, Bugzilla, white papers, conference presentations, blogs and other forums."

I suspect that the confusing part in previous years was that committers could not vote on the committer award and that the community at large could not vote on the contributor award (if my recollection is accurate). That seemed odd to me because with regard to the platform project, I am a community member, not a committer, and if I provide patches and a test case, then I'm a contributor to the platform project. An excellent example of this is dual aspect is Tom Schindl who is a committer on the platform UI, but as far as I'm concerned, from EMF perspective he is a top contributor because of 209434, 209435, and 211340. So I think that both committers and contributors ought to be able to vote for both awards and that the biggest point of confusion is likely the dual role folks play within the community. But that's just another aspect we ought to encourage. Let's not leave contributors out in the cold.

I don't think the distinction between committer and contributor is the least bit confusing and certainly doesn't require two paragraphs to explain well; just read the IP policy for clear definitions of these terms. Once the terms are well understood, the reason for an award for each seems self evident. Nick made an effort to provide the requisite two paragraphs to get Bjorn's +1, and while Ian thought the distinction of "committers are paid but contributors are not" was useful, I'm with Remy on this one: a giant -1 on the notion that renumeration or lack there of is a useful distinguishing characteristic. There are an awful lot of people committing or contributing valuable results simply based on their passion for Eclipse without that work directly earning them a single extra penny. People like Martin Taal, Eike Stepper, Sandro Boehme, Bernd Kolb and others (whom I won't mention because they've not contributed their photos on the EMFT contributors page despite reminders; expect to be nagged further) are perfect examples of committers who aren't being paid by anyone for their commits.

Given the high value we committers place on the community at large and especially on the contributing subset within that community, we most certainly ought to have an award to recognize those who best exemplify this valuable trait.

Please don't take our sunshine away!

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