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Jon Roberts

Mentata eats crow and serves Blue

March 22, 2003

It takes a thick skin to be successful in the open source community. If you ask a stupid question, you may get a snide response or occasionally several. If the answer is already available, you could be told to RTFM (ie. read the manual) or get sent to search for it in an unstructured archive of commentary. When the code in question is your own, you have no secrets and there will always be somebody who can tell you how to do it better. Learning how to take it on the chin requires humility and maturity, but it will help others help you to improve the knowledge and skills essential to good development. There are a lot of smart people working with free software, but that doesn't mean you get to harness all that brainpower to solve your own problems for free. Sometimes the price comes directly out of your pride.

In my career and particularly with recent work, I've become immersed in a number of open source communities. No two are alike in character, resources, or level of productivity, but each has the power to draw a person in. You seek and find help for your problems and next thing you know you're helping others with theirs. As you witness the power of karma in internet time, it's possible to get so intent on assisting your neighbor that hubris creeps in and blinds you to the flaws of your advice. This happened to me recently, but rather than dashing off a thoughtless reply or keeping a lid on my mistake to hope nobody notices, I want to share the experience and the solution with the class.

Auto-Incrementing Identifiers in LDAP

The OpenLDAP project is among the best open source efforts I've had the pleasure to work with. This is clearly the result of a long history of hard work and commitment to the open source process. In times of trouble, I find the OpenLDAP community swift and supportive. In an assessment of my strategy, the strength of their offering mitigates risk and for this I am eternally grateful. I'd like to pay my respects in my own small way by recognizing in my work the alma mater of several of the project's key developers and mentors.

Search the University of Michigan

Of course I should've included the University of Michigan in my Big Ten example from day one; after all it was their computer science department that gave us open source LDAP back in 1992, the great grandaddy of modern OpenLDAP. I guess I was afraid such a credit might rankle my brother, a spirited Ohio State alumni. However, now that Cooper has been kicked to the curb and OSU finally got their national title, it's about time to show props to the Blue. Besides, both my brothers as well as my brother-in-law have something more important on their minds right now: they're busy flying some of the many airlift missions in support of the Iraq invasion.

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