Tuesday Jun 09, 2009

OpenJDK Board gets Google & Red Hat Members

Over the weekend, Mark announced he's updated the OpenJDK Interim Governance Board page to add details of the two new members Sun has asked to join the Board to navigate towards a permanent OpenJDK governance system. They are both well-known contributors to OpenJDK, and in fact when I asked Mark Wielaard to suggest the best pick for new Board members they were the names he suggested. They are:

  • Andrew Haley, of Red Hat, GCJ co-maintainer and Classpath corner-stone, and
  • Martin Buchholz, of Google, a developer of the JDK core libraries at Sun for many years.

I'm delighted they are joining the Board and, while there's no crisis to solve since the existing interim governance is mostly working fine, I hope their arrival will help us formalise arrangements at last.

Wednesday May 06, 2009

☞ Innovation vs Corporate Effects

Wednesday Jun 18, 2008

Simplifying OpenSolaris Governance

We've been considering refreshing the OpenSolaris community governance in the light of experience. During the OGB meetings, I have made the following proposal a few times, so thought it would be good to write about it and see what people think.

I think the OpenSolaris governance needs to be simplified. We should move to an approach of "drawing a line around existing practice" rather than trying to invent a new system and force-fit everything that is going on into it. This is the approach we're taking with OpenJDK and, barring a few problems every now and again, it seems to be working.

For Governance purposes, all the overall community needs to have regulated are:

  1. What the top-level structure of the community looks like
  2. Who gets to vote in plenary decisions (OGB elections, constitutional amendments, extraordinary general meetings)
  3. Who gets to consume resources (create new mailing lists, repositories, web pages and so on)

All other factors are local to a particular grouping of the community, and given the size and diversity of that community it's likely attempts to generalise in a way that effectively embraces all the groupings will be very hard. I therefore suggested that, for governance purposes only, we treat all entities in the community as "community groups" empowered to do whatever it is they are already doing, but coming to the OGB for approval when they do one of three things:

  1. Instantiate a new top-level entity
    • I suggest that new instantiations be handled on a case-by-case basis by the OGB.
    • Top level groups can then create nested groups any way they wish
    • However, new groups must abide by points 2 and 3
    • The OGB may wish to publish criteria for which groups it would be likely to permit and limit creation of top-level groups to one-per-type but I suspect writing rules for this now falls under YAGNI.
  2. Grant a member voting rights at the plenary
    • I suggest that the OGB create a Board Committee with diverse composition to grant plenary voting rights
    • I suggest that the committee ask groupings in the community wishing to have the power to grant plenary voting rights to members to submit a proposal for how they will decide to do that
    • The proposed process should as a minimum:
      1. Be deterministic and repeatable
      2. Grant voting rights only to those who have already demonstrably contributed, not to those intending to
      3. Require those being given voting rights to publicly assent to the grant (either by nominating themselves or accepting the nomination of others)
    • The committee should grant rolling annual permission to groupings to grant voting rights once their process is approved
    • The committee should draft a default process for new groupings to adopt if they don't need special treatment
  3. Choose to consume resources in a new activity
    • I suggest the OGB create a Board Committee for this too
    • I suggest the committee also grant resource access allocation rights on a rolling basis to those groupings exhibiting bona fides

As plenty of people will agree, I am no master-of-governance but that seems sufficient to protect community-wide rights while leaving maximum flexibility for there to be Consolidations, an ARC, User Groups and more. Thoughts?

Saturday Mar 29, 2008


Many thanks to the people who voted for me in the OpenSolaris Governing Board election last week. I was very surprised to receive so many votes, especially considering the strength of the field and who else was elected. I was also pleased that both the constitutional amendments I proposed were approved - I edited them into the Constitution this evening.

I've dived straight in on the ogb-discuss mailing list and IRC. Our first OGB meeting is on Wednesday and I welcome input, especially conversation on the OGB IRC where I try to show up at 10pm UK time each evening if I am free to do so.

Saturday Mar 22, 2008

Election Ending

The OpenSolaris elections are ending soon (they close at 7am UK time on Tuesday). If you have a vote, please use it!

In particular, I'd draw your attention to my election statements as I would be grateful to receive your vote. You may also be interested by my comments on the constitutional amendments.

Do please vote - those amendments need a "yes" from 50% of the overall electorate if they are to pass so I doubt we have enough "yes" votes so far to pass these very rational and widely agreed amendments.

Friday Nov 09, 2007

Glassfish gets trawler crew

Padstow Harbour

Eduardo P-L has announced the membership line-up he's proposing should form the Interim Governing Board of the Glassfish community. We'll be devising a constitution to ensure that all of the contributors to the rapidly growing Glassfish community have a say in how the community is governed.

The other Board members represent a great selection of stakeholders in the user community for this application server and Eduardo has done a fine job identifying them. As for me - well, you may think it's a foregone conclusion that I'd be included, but it wasn't (and hasn't been for any of the others) and I'm honoured to have been asked to contribute.

Wednesday Aug 29, 2007

The Wrong End of the Paint Stick

John Loiacono

One of my better managers at Sun was John Loiacono - I worked for him around the start of the decade. Later, when I was working for then-CTO of software John Fowler, Loiacono was a figurehead for the release of OpenSolaris under the CDDL. By then he'd become way too busy to talk at any length to the likes of me, although he was as charming as ever on the odd occasions we met. And so, I never really got to discuss Free software with him before he left for Adobe.

Reading his recent blog posting, Innovate or Integrate, I start to wish I had. Despite claiming open source credentials, John explains why he thinks it has no place in Adobe's creative products business. From what the blog says - "Yes, clearly it's cheaper, but does it really save money in the end?" - it's clear this part of Adobe thinks of Free/Open Source software purely as a commodity and a way of cutting corners. That it's ultimately only about saving money. They seem to confuse Free with free, liberty with payment. In the process Adobe is missing a huge opportunity.

The thing is, the user-integrated/supplier-integrated distinction in the blog is a false dichotomy. The blog compares their products with existing Free graphics software - presumably things like The Gimp, Inkscape, Nvu and so on. It concludes their lack of integration makes them fatally inferior and thus the Free software from all open source communities is flawed. But that's missing the whole point.

As Stallman points out, software freedom is not about avoiding payment, it is about preserving and exercising liberty. I don't accept that pursuing profit and respecting software freedom are unrelated, much less that they run counter to each other. Profit and liberty are not orthogonal. I also profoundly believe that competing against software freedom provides (at best) a short-term advantage. For a company like Adobe, to compete against software freedom is to ignore the inexorable progress of disruptive technologies and the Innovator's Dilemma.

Those Free programs aren't integrated and offer lower function than Adobe's product today, but through Adobe's neglect that will change. They'll find each other, start to define interfaces and integrations with each other, begin to penetrate the "good-enough" band on the chart. Worse, being outside their domain, Adobe will refuse to use the integration they define. This happened while Sun was neglecting Free Java implementations, for example. The Java Libre communities agreed interfaces to make VMs and JITs pluggable and today can plug and play VMs with relative ease - apart from HotSpot.

So what could Adobe do? Well, by opening up their source code, licensing it under the GPL, they would team with the open source communities gathered around the various Free software commons. It's not impossible - they do it elsewhere in their business (albeit with a different motive and competitor). Instead of competing against Free graphics software, their programs would become the leading Free graphics suite. It would have the tight integration the blog speaks of, but it would also deliver the freedoms that the software world is coming to expect, stimulating a new developer community emboldened by the guarantees of freedom. And perhaps most importantly, their software would likely become available on platforms Adobe is currently unwilling to touch. They would take a leadership position that their main competitor would be unable to assail.

OK, there are plenty of difficult unanswered questions about business models, community governance and so on (which I'd love to explore, by the way, they are not insurmountable). But the point is, the dichotomy Adobe paints is of its own making. It is not inherent in either Free software or in the open source communities which create it. And by trying to protect their short-term revenue, Adobe avoid affinity with some high-energy developers while pushing their customer base to increasingly attractive Free - and free - alternatives.

Wednesday Mar 07, 2007

Testing the OpenSolaris Voting System

The voting system for the OpenSolaris Governing Board elections needs testing. Stephen Hahn has done tremendous work in the last few weeks constructing the OpenSolaris voting site. The current temporary OGB decided it would be smart to have a test run with it before the actual election, so it will open for a trial vote at 00:00 PST tonight, closing Sunday at 23:59 PDT.

We'll be asking a set of opinion questions about the infrastructure and function of the OpenSolaris community, and it would be wonderful for every core contributor to try out their vote. That way we'll be ready for the OGB election, and in addition we'll have some great guidance for the new OGB on key issues.

Thursday Mar 01, 2007

OpenSolaris Elections - Nomination Deadline Approaching

The nomination phase of the elections for the first democratically elected OpenSolaris Governing Board comes to a close on Monday. Right now there is a wide field for the seven positions but there is room for more candidates. Al has posted a helpful summary of the election on several lists.

If you believe yourself to be a contributor to OpenSolaris, you should also check the voting system and ensure you are listed on the Grants tab. Al's e-mail has instructions on what do do if you aren't. If you are, you need to get your SSH key generated and included in your profile pronto.

Tuesday Jan 23, 2007

OpenSolaris Governance Ready to Boot

As Ben Rockwood notes, the time has finally come for the OpenSolaris community to pay close attention to the community governance. The Board (OGB) has completed a proposed governance document - the OpenSolaris Constitution - and it's time to hold an election. The work was actually completed at the end of 2006 just before the OGB's term expired, and while it would be feasible to select an entirely different group to run the voting, Stephen Harpster (to whom responsibility has reverted under the Charter) felt it would be smarter to ask the OGB to hang on for a little longer to oversee things.

If you trawl back through the OGB discussions you'll see we toyed with having separate votes to ratify the Constitution and to elect the new OGB under its terms, but Roy Fielding pointed out (and I agreed) that really all that's needed is one vote - if the Constitution needs radical revision, the OpenSolaris Community can elect a Board to go do that.

So, now is the time to sit up and take note. Please read the Constitution Draft, then consider if you would make an ideal Board member for the community and be ready for the announcements. This is the moment many of us have been anticipating with both excitement and concern - when OpenSolaris truly steps out as a member-led organisation. Get ready, the project needs you.


Thoughts and pointers on digital freedoms and technology markets. With a few photos too.


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