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Chair Says Java Community Process 'Definitely Unstuck'

During the Tuesday morning keynote at last week's JavaOne conference, Rob Benson, director of runtime systems at Twitter, took the stage to announce that his company would be joining both the OpenJDK community and the Java Community Process (JCP). Twitter wants to work with members of the JCP and the OpenJDK Community, Benson said, to help evolve the Java platform.

In a blog post on the Twitter Developers site, Twitter's open source manager Chris Aniszczyk wrote, "The JVM and its rich ecosystem are critical to our infrastructure and have helped us scale up as a business. Additionally, the polyglot nature of the JVM allows programming languages such as Java, Scala, Ruby, Javascript and Clojure to coexist seamlessly and, thus, lets Twitter choose the optimal language for the task at hand."

Twitter was also among five new candidates for seats on the JCP's Executive Committee (EC). During a JavaOne press panel, JCP chair Patrick Curran reminded reporters about the current election, which, according to the JCP Web site, will be in its "ballot open for voting" phase until October 31. The other candidates include Azul Systems, CloudBees,The Central Ohio Java Users Group and Software AG.

The EC currently counts two other Java user groups among its members: the Brazilian group SouJava and the London Java Community. "Both are working really well to bring the regular Java developers into the process," Curran said, "as a way of focusing their energies and helping them to understand how the process works."

"This is much more competition than we've seen in recent elections," Curran added, "and I see that as a very positive sign."

When Curran took over as chair of the JCP in 2007, he said, the organization didn't have the best reputation.

"People called us commissars," he said. "We were accused of being authoritarian and secretive, and just not community oriented. From the beginning I said that, should I have the opportunity, I'd like to open up the process and turn this into a real community organization, to allow the millions of Java developers out there who wanted to, to actively participate. I think now we've made some significant steps in that direction."

The committee took a big first step in the form of Java Specification Requests (JSR) 348, proposed in May and led by Oracle and the combined Executive Committees as the Expert Group, which aims to "update and revitalize" the JCP itself.

"We're revising the process through the process," Curran said.

JSR 348 ("Towards a new version of the Java Community Process") tackles four areas, including Transparency, Participation, Agility, and Governance. The longest list of proposed changes comes under the "Transparency" heading. The JSR calls for greater transparency into Expert Group (EG) operations of the JCP with a mandate that certain recommended practices become requirements. The example listed: "requiring all EG business to be carried out on public mailing lists, requiring issues and comments to be tracked through a publicly viewable issue-tracking mechanism, and requiring EGs to respond publicly to all comments."

The JSR also seeks greater transparency into the operations of the EC itself, the election process and the licensing process.

"We wanted to work on things that were important, but relatively non-controversial, and so, easy to do in a short period of time," he said. "We picked the low-hanging fruit... primarily focusing on transparency [of the process]. In the future we are going to mandate that all expert groups do their work out in the open, basically with public mailing lists and public issue trackers, making it very easy for members of the developer community to participate."

Next on the committee's to-do list: the merger of the two JCP ECs: the SE/EE EC and the ME EC.

"It seems like the right thing to do," Curran said, "that we should have a single executive committee which will deal with all of the three platforms -- because it is one platform with three flavors."

Down the road, Curran expects the EC to take on tougher intra-organizational changes, including issues around intellectual property rights, the Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA) and the Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK).

"We decided to put off tackling some of the more difficult issues so that we would actually achieve something this year," Curran said, "including revising the JSPA and looking at the whole question of licensing."

Although things were "kind of quiet" during the last year or two of Sun's stewardship of Java, Curran said, since Oracle assumed that role, things have "heated up" at the JCP. He estimated that since the JSRs for Java SE 7 were approved in December, about 17 JSRs have been submitted. That's compared with a handful submitted in the previous few years.

"The JCP is definitely unstuck," Curran said.

Posted by John K. Waters on October 12, 2011