Sun and the OGB
By jimgris-Oracle on Nov 08, 2007
The last few weeks in the OpenSolaris Community have been pretty wild by any measure imaginable. Multiple lists on fire over Project Indiana with discussions winding all over the place 24 hours a day for weeks on end. You will not see any of this in the press or in blogs. You have to go where the community is -- on the 200 or so lists where the community lives.
The issue around Project Indiana is clear -- the use of the name OpenSolaris, the community's desire to share in the use of the name, and the need to build consensus around branding and trademarks. If anyone had any doubt about the viability of the OpenSolaris Community, I think the last few weeks should put that thought to rest. The OpenSolaris Community is clearly gelling right under our noses, and it's asserting itself like never before. Four years ago we set out to build a community when most observers thought it couldn't be done. Well, we did it. If OpenSolaris weren't a genuine community, you'd never see such raw passion expressed with absolutely no end in sight. The only feeling that comes to mind is, well, pride. It's really messy, sure, but there is no such thing as an antiseptic democracy. Pick up any good history book and you'll soon realize that self governance is difficult at best. The rewards are worth it, though, which I think history also documents pretty well.
The second thing to point out is the emergence of the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB). Up until very recently, most people in the community had little interest in governance, and the OGB was taking some criticism for a perceived lack of leadership. That's all changed. The criticism itself was unfounded since the OGB designed a governance that distributes leadership, and the community itself is realizing that it has to lead itself -- which is a wonderful opportunity that demonstrates the vision of those who crafted the governance in the first place. But the OGB has a clear leadership role to address conflicts, and that's exactly what they are doing right now over the naming issue of Project Indiana.
If you listen to a replay of the OGB meeting yesterday -- which I seriously encourage you to do -- what you will hear is this entire issue being addressed with a calm professionalism that could very well set the standard for exploring disputes in the OpenSolaris Community. I was very impressed. And as a result, for the first time in the last three weeks I'm confident that we are on the verge of solving this problem and becoming a stronger community as a result.
That brings up the third point: Sun. Sun takes in on the chin a lot in situations like this. Sometimes it's deserved, but many times it's not. The company rarely speaks with one voice on development matters, and although many consider that a weakness, I consider it a strength. It's an indication that the company encourages employees to assert themselves in an attempt to innovate. Exercising good judgment is required, though, and we always need to keep that in mind. But, as Roy Fielding said recently, "engineering at Sun is consensus-driven ... people simply need to learn a new tradition of moving that consensus-driving process onto the public lists." To me, that's the single most important aspect to building a strong community -- building consensus in the open. But when disputes occur, being open is even more important. That's why I was encouraged to hear Bill Franklin, the executive director of Solaris engineering, articulate Sun's position on the OGB call yesterday. Listen carefully and you'll hear his flexibility and also flexibility in return on the part of the OGB.
You can read the OGB's draft resolution here: [ogb-discuss] OGB/2007/004 written resolution. And you can follow ogb-discuss over the next few days as Sun engages formally and as the issue comes to fruition with an OGB vote. This is one of the most important moments in the young life of the OpenSolaris Community. And it's clear to see the OGB and Sun are inching closer together. It will be fascinating to see what happens over the next few days. If you are involved in this community, though, don't just observe. Your voice matters. Express it.