Wednesday Jan 26, 2011

For Your Eyes Only

Someone TalkedSimon Phipps recently commented in his blog about the nomination of SouJava for a ratified seat on the JCP's Executive Committee. In that entry and in a follow-on email discussion with me he expressed the hope that this nomination would help "fix the JCP" by eliminating secrecy and confidentiality requirements. I thought his concerns were important enough that I should respond publicly.

The belief that the JCP is a secretive organization is widespread. I often hear it when I meet with Java developers. People sometimes tell me that they are unwilling to join the JCP or to participate in an Expert Group because if they did so they would be prohibited from discussing the group's work with anybody else. Not true! This belief probably originates with the language in the JSPA concerning confidentiality. At first reading this is indeed scary:

Top Secret!

Confidential Information is defined as "information exchanged between You and Oracle, or among You, Oracle and other Members, during the term of this Agreement concerning the development of Output or other activities under the Process (defined below) that: (i) if disclosed in tangible form (which may include information made available over the Internet), is clearly labeled as confidential or proprietary at the time of disclosure; or (ii) if disclosed orally, is identified as confidential (or words of similar import) at the time of disclosure and is confirmed in a writing delivered to such receiving party within thirty (30) days after disclosure."

The JSPA later states that Confidential Information must not be disclosed prior to the spec's Public Review or for a period of three years if such information is not incorporated into the spec.

If you read this language closely, however, you'll see that it simply says that if information is classified as confidential then (and only then) must it be kept secret. In practice Expert Groups almost never do so. (During a recent Executive Committee meeting members were able to provide only one example - where an Expert Group had considered some business-sensitive market research in deciding what features to include in the specification.)

In order to discourage confidentiality restrictions we inserted the following words into last year's revision of the Process Document: "The use of JSPA Confidential materials (as defined in the JSPA) by Expert Groups limits transparency and is strongly discouraged." In the next revision of the JSPA Smoke-filled roomwe expect to prohibit confidentiality entirely.

A second misconception is that the Executive Committee meets secretly, and does not publish its proceedings for all to read. In fact, since September 2008 the full minutes and meeting materials have been public by default. (You can access them at jcp.org.) Admittedly, as it says on that page, "the EC reserved the right to go into Private Session from time to time when sensitive matters are discussed." However, we don't do this very often, and if you browse our meeting minutes and materials I think you'll agree that we are quite open and transparent. (For example the full minutes of the recent meeting in Bonn, during which the Apache/Field of Use dispute came to a head, are published there.)

Finally, it's often claimed that the work of Expert Groups is hidden from outsiders. While this is sometimes true it should be noted that about half of all currently active JSRs are being run as open-source projects, while others use public mailing lists, public issue-tracking mechanisms, and similar transparency techniques. Last year's Process Document changes introduced language to strongly encourage transparency, and also required Spec Leads to publish the transparency techniques that they use. Again, we expect to make transparency mandatory in the next revision of the Process Document.

I don't disagree that there is much about the organization we need to fix. However, it's disappointing when the progress we have made in recent years is not understood. Obviously we need to be even more transparent, and to tell people what we're doing. I hope that this blog entry is a start.

Monday Oct 08, 2007

Travel and JCP Elections (and ravens and writing-desks)

Munich beerIt's been a busy couple of months as I've been coming up to speed in my new job. In August I went to Munich for an Executive Committee (EC) meeting. The work of the JCP is carried out by two Executive Committees: one deals with Java ME while the other deals both Java SE and EE, but we meet as a single group. We meet every month - usually by phone but three or four times a year we get together face-to-face.

St Petersburg bridgeI went on from Munich to St Petersburg to work on some transition issues with my previous TCK team and then to Manchester, England to visit family. I didn't get to see much of historic Munich (just my hotel, the corporate park where we met, and a local beer-garden). However, as I always do, I enjoyed the architecture of St. Petersburg and of my home town, Manchester. I think I feel at home in St. Petersburg because in some strange way it's like Manchester. (Why is a raven like a writing desk?) St. Petersburg was an imperial capital. It's full of canals and palaces and churches and cathedrals, but there are also many 19th century commercial buildings. Manchester Town Hall Manchester was the industrial capital of the British empire. It doesn't have palaces, but there are gothic cathedrals, canals, and 19th-century warehouses that are similar in style to those that line the St. Petersburg canals.

Once I returned to the US it was time to prepare for the annual JCP elections.

Each year elections are held for one third of the membership of each committee, so that five ME EC seats and five SE/EE seats are up for re-election. Polling booth The elections are carried out in two stages: JCP members first vote for three ratified seats for each EC (the candidates for these seats are nominated by Sun). Later, members vote for two elected seats for each EC (JCP members nominate themselves for these seats).

This year's nominations for the ME EC are Research In Motion, Samsung Electronics, and Time Warner Cable. The nominations for the SE/EE EC are Apache Software Foundation, Nortel Networks and Red Hat Middleware.

Voting for the ratified seats is now in progress (voting for elected seats will take place in November). For more information about the voting process, including an election timetable see the EC Elections 2007 page on the JCP website.

If you're a JCP member please vote. If you're not a member please consider joining (it's free for individuals). Instructions for signing up are here.

 

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Patrick Curran

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