The first JCP Executive Committee public meeting of 2012 took place on Tuesday, June 26. The meeting was open to any Java developer who wanted to attend, via Oracle's international phone network and the JCP's Webex account. I called in. I also tried the Webex option, but couldn't fully connect (I think due to my own system, which isn't yet fully operable after a recent disk crash).
Most of the meeting consisted of a presentation given by JCP Chair Patrick Curran. Occasionally, questions were raised by other members of the Executive Committee. Though the general audience was welcome to comment and ask questions, this in fact did not happen (as far as I could tell).
Patrick discussed the road ahead for the JCP, as represented by the three JCP.next JSRs: 348 (Towards a new version of the Java Community Process), 355 (JCP Executive Committee Merge), and 358 (A major revision of the Java Community Process). JSR 348, which was completed last October, mandated two public JCP EC meetings annually. That JSR, according to Patrick, addressed the "low-hanging fruit" -- the changes that could be made almost unilaterally by the JCP itself, without getting into legal complexities. Yet, even JCP 348 came close to bumping into legal issues. At the JCP's open meeting at JavaOne last year, there was considerable discussion about simplifying the document individuals or groups (like Java User Groups) must sign in order to become a JCP member.
Indeed, Patrick spent considerable time discussing the next version of the Java Specification Participation Agreement (pdf). For example, he said that the language relating to Java Technology Compatibility Kits(TCKs) will be clarified in the next version of the JSPA. Around this point in the meeting, someone spoke up (I believe an EC member), saying that "Oracle is incorrectly speaking for Sun..." The details are not something I know about, having viewed all of this history from the outside. But, it was a somewhat contentious moment -- which I think indicates how difficult it really is to evolve an organization such as the JCP so that it addresses the changing needs of developers who are working with changing customer requirements and changing underlying hardware.
At one point, Patrick talked about companies that try to "game" the system by having their employees become members of the JCP, but as individuals, not as representatives of their company. Any change in the JCP's rules can be perceived by corporate lawyers as benefiting or harming each company's interests. Patrick seems to anticipate corporate lawyers wrangling for perhaps the next three or four years before full agreement on the next version of the Java Community Process might be complete.
I myself (though some in the audience thought Patrick was overestimating) wonder if Patrick is being optimistic here. I mean, will we actually be lucky enough that the complete JCP reform Patrick and others envision will take only three or four years -- given that diverse corporate lawyers will be involved?
Patrick's presentation and related commentary ended about 40 minutes into the meeting. Then he opened the floor for questions. At first, the silence from the audience was quite impressive. Then several people like Martijn Verburg and Richard from the London Java Community broke the silence with some interesting questions and comments. The first was by Martijn, who stated that Java.net has some SEO issues regarding visibility in search engines. Patrick said he'd inform the Java.net team. [Aside: we at Java.net are aware of and have discussed certain Java.net SEO issues, which have been pointed out by Java.net Community leaders. Improving this, as well as our hardware infrastructure, is definitely on our "to do" list.]
After a while, Patrick tried to encourage non-EC members in the audience to participate, even volunteering: "I know you're not shy." But, nothing worked. So, finally, the meeting was closed.
Enticing non-JCP members to participate in public JCP EC meetings... How can we do it?
After the meeting, I thought about the fact that no one who's not a JCP member chose to ask a question or state a comment. And it struck me that today many people might be more comfortable with texting a question than with speaking out into a massive global conference call. So, I suggested to Patrick and Martijn that perhaps for the next public JCP EC meeting, the JCP should also utilize a JCP IRC channel (perhaps on Freenode). Then, as the meeting proceeded, people could text comments and questions, which would be relayed to the speakers.
Martijn said the Webex interface provided a window for texting. But I still think an IRC channel is a good idea. Webex is a pretty hefty app, whereas IRC is lightweight -- an advantage for people who live in places where connectivity is limited or of low bandwidth.
The next open JCP Executive Committee meeting will be in November, at a time of day that is better suited for participation by people in Asia. Let's think of some good questions for next time! Or, at least we might provide some comments on what we think about the JCP's long and arduous journey toward greater openness and transparency. I think it's great for Java as a platform, and for the Java/JVM developer community. What do you think?
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