It is now more than 5 years that I enjoy my status as an Apache committer. I still believe it is something to enjoy, although I am getting older and less active. I have learned to live with the realities that must be accepted: This applies, in particular, to the legal straitjacket, but also to the considerations that a community applies. A community? There are plenty of them, each of which very different: For example, the Webservices project tends to take things rather easy, whereas Commons, or Incubator can be quite formal: Javadoc jar file with or without META-INF/NOTICE.TXT? Good enough reason for hours and hours of discussion. Then, legal-discuss can be quite interesting. And the infrastructure mailing list is always a good place for listening what's going on. Sadly, it never paid for me to listen to firstname.lastname@example.org. :-)
That said, there always are cases when I am not sure whether it's worth the hazzle. Running a project (effectively) on your own within the ASF basically means that you have the actual project work plus ASF related burdens. For example, pushing a Apache projects release can be quite some work: I honestly marvel at people like John Casey who has the patience to deliver 10 release candidates in a row. (I feel exhausted after three or four release candidates.) Compare that to the times of JaxMe 1 when I published a new release after almost any commit. Of course, that won't be possible for projects like Maven, or Axis. But there's something to the "Release early, release often" mantra.
I always thought that this uneasiness with the ASF procedures and the responsibility to the community would be my personal problem, (Let's face it: I'm much more of a Maverick than a team player.) until I read Robert Burell Donkin express similar feelings as the reason for starting RAT at Google Code. But what made me think even more was the recent discussion on a proposed Commons Incubator project: Obviously, there are a lot of projects, which are small and expect to remain small, would like to enter the ASF, but don't manage to overcome hurdles like the rule of at least three committers. Are they doing themselves something good?
The FSF is hosting a server called nongnu.org: It contains a lot of (mostly smaller) projects which manage themselves, which most likely feel attracted by or even close to the FSF and it's ideals. These projects don't have the FSF's holy endorsement (sorry, Incubator members, but that's what "endorse" reads to me sometimes), but they are able to work, to publish releases, to attract a community, almost everything an Apache project does.
I'd like to ask you to think whether it wouldn't it be a good idea to have something similar in the grey area of the ASF. For example, Apache Labs could almost immediately move - and finally start publishing releases. The sandbox projects - what could be a better place for living? I have no suggestions for the organizational details, but I think it's worth considering.