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i-Technology Viewpoint: Thoughts on the Java Community

Where Has the Respect Gone in the Java Community?

Community was a recurring theme at JavaOne, this year, and indeed at many of the Java User Groups that I've participated in recently. The Java Community (with a big C): a global tribe converging on programming nirvana where all is open, free and yet somehow affords us all a decent living.

The community vision itself is not something I have a beef with, indeed I like to belong, I like to contribute, and importantly I can afford to - so I do. The community raised me, so to speak, nurturing me through technology transitions, and delivering timely advice through the "Village Voice" of the search engines and forums. I feel obliged and happy to give a little back. But something is rotten in the state of Denmark. We are gnawed by the cancer of bigotry and opinion - by a simple lack of respect.

Don't get me wrong, discussion, debate, opinion are all essential to a society. Likewise we must preserve the personal freedom to express a viewpoint, but it comes down to the old adage that with rights come responsibility. Is it reasonable to insult and mock those with differing viewpoints? To publicly denigrate a fellow community member or group because they use the wrong IDE, Framework or design pattern (in your opinion) shows ignorance and lack of respect.

If you think I'm doing something wrong then explain why, provide proof that an alternate way is better. For instance, I've been seeing blog postings recently saying how evil and retarded certain frameworks are, with absolutely no proof, metrics or reasoned arguments to back up the position. The authors having exercised the right to express an opinion but have not accepted responsibility for what they are pontificating on. To those that say I don't have to justify my opinion - wrong, you absolutely do have to justify it, that is the responsible and respectful thing to do. I might feel that an author may have a point, but how can I judge? Yes I can come to an informed decision by look at source or by running metrics, but why should I? If a flamer has not done that and has not provided reasoned proof then any opinion they express is essentially worthless.

We also need to work on language and attitude. Take for example that most impassioned of debates My IDE vs Your IDE. I for instance don't particularly like to use Ecipse, but please note that I don't hate it, I don't think its rubbish (or worse). It just so happens that I'm just not comfortable with it. JDeveloper suits the way I work so I use that. I still respect Eclipse as a tool; I'm in awe of the community effort that nurtures it and the ecosystem that surrounds it. I respect your preference for Ecipse, so just return the favor right?

What can the community do with those that do not offer respect and considered opinion? There has been a case of this recently on one of the open source frameworks user lists the proposal was made to ban an individual who was rude, insulting and generally spamming the list with nonsense. I found many of the reactions to this disappointing, - Just ignore it or set up a mail filter was a common solution. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Individuals have responsibility but so does society. To ignore this behavior shirks the responsibility we all have to develop and nurture the community as a whole lest it simply dissolve into anarchy. Any parent will tell you that a naughty child must be confronted and have the consequences of their actions made plain. This is no different and we have to consider, as Java passes its tenth birthday, that our community's difficult teenage years are looming. We're storing up a whole heap of trouble if this issue is not confronted and addressed by every one of us.

Author´s Note: I wrote this piece on the plane a few days back, before the tragic events of the 7th July here in the UK. Perhaps now it seems petty to be griping about this issue, but at the same time, the importance of the basic message is reinforced. Tolerance and respect are the highest of virtues and should extend to all aspects of our existence. Im deeply saddened by anyone whose adherence to dogma is more important than his or her respect for humanity.

More Stories By Duncan Mills

Duncan Mills is senior director of product management for Oracle's Application Development Tools - including the JDeveloper IDE, and the Oracle Application Development Framework. He has been in the IT industry for the past 19 years working with Oracle, Java, and a variety of more obscure programming languages and frameworks along the way. Duncan is the co-author of the Oracle Press book: Oracle JDeveloper 10g for Forms and PL/SQL Developers - a Guide to Web Development with Oracle ADF.

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