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JavaOne 2011 Wrap-up

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JCP.next Encourages the Community

One of the specifications of greatest interest among JCP members and other observers was JSR 348, Towards a New Version of the Java Community Process, which was close to Final Release. During the week of JavaOne 2011, the JCP community had plenty of opportunities to ask questions, get answers, and make suggestions about how the program can be improved.

During the October 2 panel discussion, on JUGs and the JCP, Chair of the JCP, Patrick Curran explained that the JCP constitution -- comprising the JSPA and Process Document -- can only be changed through the usual formal standards process. To update the program, the JCP Executive Committee (EC) became the Expert Group that would collect feedback and specify changes, addressing the easiest concerns around transparency, particiaption, and agility right away through JSR 348, then working on consolidting the EC from two EC s into one, and after that a JSR that would focus on modifying the JSPA.

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“The greatest change is that Expert Groups will be required to work in the open with a huge degree of transparency,” Patrick said. As EC members representing JUGs, Bruno Souza (SouJava JUG) and Martijn Verburg (LJC JUG) both served on the Expert Group to revise the process. Bruno noted that the details of how to run an Expert Group had been ambiguously defined, resulting in a variety of opaque processes behind which a Spec Lead could “disappear in a puff of smoke. These changes set a clear standard of transparency,” he said. Martijn undescored the importance of JSRs’ operating in the open because the community doesn't participate when they sense that contributions are to be made by Experts only. JSR 348 opens up the process for JUG members in particular, making it easier for them to contribute.

Later that afternoon at the first open-to-the-public Executive Committee meeting, about twenty EC representatives were on hand to address questions brought by the community. Members of the community attended to get a glimpse of the EC operating with a new degree of transparency. After the roll call, for example, representatives openly expressed frustration over the underrepresented ME side of the EC, a chronic pattern that will be addressed once JSR 348 is approved. The JSR 348 revision formalizes the group’s ability to replace EC members who repeatedly fail to show up.

Through it all, the EC “used the process to change the process,” not just in terms of following the usual JCP timeline, but also by implementing and therefore testing the very transparency behaviors they are mandating. The group published their work materials and minutes out in the open. They also used the same tools they were recommending at Java.net, including an issue tracker to catalog, address, and close all comments and feedback.

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Patrick summarized the main features of JSR 348, which requires all Expert Groups, and the EC, to conduct business with increased transparency through the use of a public mailing list and issue tracker, at a high level of participation, and in an agile manner. The JSR also included the less important goal of restructuring and cleaning up the Process Document.

All of the EC representatives appeared enthusiastic about the changes and wanted to assure the audience that good has been done. For example, Victor Grazi of Credit Suisse said, “The protest exit of Apache…was related to openness. I joined to watch this, and I’m satisfied it’s open to participate, not just controlled by Oracle.”

During the meeting, all questions and suggestions submitted from the floor were taken seriously. Some had been addressed in the new specification, others were new ideas to consider. Patrick noted some action items of ideas to incorporate in JCP.next or address in other ways. The EC appeared pleased with the audience participation. Mike DeNicola, EC representative for Fujitsu, recommended making the Q&A a regular event at JavaOne.

More issues were aired at the “JCP and the Developer Community” session hosted by Patrick Curran, Martijn Verburg (EC Member and JUG Leader), Bruno Souza (EC Member, Java Champion and JUG Leader), EC member Scott Jameson (HP), and Reza Rahman (Java EE Expert Group member).

Specific issues brought up by audiences at both sessions had to do with:

  • increasing the community’s participation through voting
  • providing a more comprehensice community calendar
  • inviting former members to rejoin the community
  • mentoring new members and JUG participants
  • reducing the language barrier for non-English speakers
  • defining a “good” JSR
  • coping with potential for overwhelming amount of community feedback
  • maintaining incentive to join an Expert Group now that the work is done in the open
  • reducing the membership fee for very small startups to encourage participation in the program and even the EC
  • adding descriptions of the technologies underlying the specification

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Once JSR 348 achieves Final Release, every new JSR will automatically fall under JCP 2.8, but older JSRs can also choose to change over to the new version or stay under the old terms. The EC and Program Management Office (PMO) prefer that every in-flight JSR upgrade, so Spec Leads were invited to a private session on Wednesday afternoon with Harold Ogle, program manager of the JCP PMO, to learn how their processes would be impacted. He explained the implications of some of the changes related to submitting, voting, licensing, keeping the process open, addressing issues, maintaining, and so on. There will be further training available on http://jcp.org 27 October 2011 at 8:30 AM PST.

JSR 348 can mandate changes in behavior, but adjustments in attitude are harder to dictate. Nevertheless, the majority of the JCP community is up for it. According to Bruno Souza, EC representative of the SouJava JUG, “We haven’t had any comments that we’ve gone too far, only complaints that 348 doesn’t go far enough. We need to keep moving.”