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Star Spec Lead Profiles

 
 
The Java Community Process (JCP) program applauds the community's Star Spec Leads. These leaders earned this honor through their efficient, prompt, and transparent communication with their Expert Group, the Program Management Office (PMO), and the Executive Committee (EC). They used community web pages, observer aliases, and other tools to communicate with their expert group, the JCP program community, and the public. They kept their Java Specification Requests (JSRs) on schedule by making sure their team stayed focused and felt appreciated. The JCP program congratulates and honors these Star Spec Leads.

David Nuescheler
When David Nuescheler joined Day Software more than ten years ago, the company was called Bidule. It is located in a former sausage factory on the outskirts of Basel, Switzerland, close to the French and German borders, and not far from good skiing in the Alps. As chief technology officer (CTO), David has been instrumental in growing Day Software from a small multimedia agency to a global content management solution company. He has participated in website content management projects for high profile clients such as McDonalds, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and Holiday Inn.

In 1999, David began working with Java technology after the decision was made to adopt the Java Platform for Day's entire suite of products. Since then, he has worked primarily on server-sided web projects as a solution and product architect. By 2001, he had joined the JCP program, and the next year he became Spec Lead for JSR 170, Content Repository for Java Technology API. As soon as that effort wrapped up, he became Spec Lead for the next version, JSR 283, which is near completion.

A content repository can be viewed as the best of both worlds between relational databases and file systems, says David. Features include transactionality and query using SQL from the relational database world as well as support hierarchies and dealing with large binary streams that are known from filesystems. Additional features, such as access control or versioning that are often built on the application layer, are directly built into the repository. He says, "A standardized content repository is the ideal store for almost any Java application."

Communication Leaves No Expert Behind

Although his Expert Group nearly doubled in size in the move from JSR 170 to JSR 283, David still relies on the email list provided by the PMO as the main conduit for technical discussions among the current 70 or so Experts who represent over 40 organizations or individuals. Weekly phone conferences are used for administrative discussions or schedule updates as well as to get a feel for whether consensus is emerging. For every meeting, there is a simultaneous webmeeting with slides using webex, Days current provider. Issues raised are noted as action items and put on the mailing-list for those who could not attend the phone conference. An ongoing open issues list tracks all issues pertaining to the specification, Reference Implementation (RI), and Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK).

David calls for a face-to-face meeting about twice per year, as needed. An agenda is produced weeks ahead of time. A rotation of Expert Group members host the face-to-face meetings in different geographical locations, usually balanced among West Coast USA, East Coast USA, and Europe. Those who cannot attend in person are encouraged to dial-in to the conversation and view the simultaneous webmeeting. Resolutions of the face-to-face meetings are documented and sent through the mailing list for Expert Group members who were not present. The general working model for Davids successive Expert Groups has remained essentially the same. He notes, however, that in a future JSR, I would probably open the mailing list to the public for reading. I think this allows for greater transparency, and especially in the phases of the JCP where feedback from the public is requested, it allows reference to discussions within the Expert Group on a mailing list archive.

Scheduling and Diplomacy

David keeps an "aggressive but adaptive schedule," signaling the PMO when necessary to update the schedule. He keeps in touch with the PMO through email and phone, especially before submissions, announcing his short-term timelines. "This greatly helps the PMO to plan its resources and keeps the turnaround time to a minimum," he has noticed.

"A JSR is always also a diplomatic mission for the Spec Lead," says David. In general, his philosophy is two-fold: try to drive consensus, and vote as seldom as possible on technical issues. For the rare cases when consensus is not reachable, the Spec Lead must consult the Expert Group, then make a firm decision in the best interest of the JSR.

Encouraging Feedback and Adoption

The RI and TCK for JSR 170 are being developed as open source under the Apache Jackrabbit Project, at jackrabbit.apache.org, or at jsr-283.dev.java.net. (The package space of JSRs 170 and 283 is javax.jcr, hence the use of codename JaCkRabbit on the Apache Software Foundation site, to match the other animal codenames already in use, such as "Tomcat.")

The level of transparency David operates under is remarkable. He feels that the point of a JSR effort is to produce an industry standard, so its important to allow anyone to look into the downloads section at jackrabbit.apache.org/downloads and see how the various pieces are progressing. These downloadable materials are updated, even more frequently than the formal review periods mandated by the JCP program.

The Expert Group publishes the specification as frequently as possible, making it transparent to those outside the group. David has learned the importance of allocating enough resources for the RI, and of starting RI development as early as possibly in the process because "that's how you find the real issues with the spec." He also suggests using the RI as a vehicle to get the open source community excited about a JSR, noting, "A credible open source implementation will help the adoption of a JSR dramatically," and will prompt even more valuable community feedback.

Go to the Star Spec Lead Program page for more information.
 
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