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Transparency, Agility, and Democracy

Operating in an open and transparent manner

A couple of months ago in this column I discussed the ways in which many Expert Groups conduct their business in an open and transparent manner. After that informal review, the JCP's Program Management Office (PMO) conducted a more formal survey, asking Spec Leads what they were doing to meet their obligations under the Java Community Process to operate in a transparent manner.

We received responses from approximately half of the Spec Leads for the 75 JSRs that we classified as active (those that made some progress through the system since the beginning of 2007). This is a good response rate, but we believe that we can also conclude that those who did not respond probably are not making any special efforts to operate in a transparent manner. (If they were, they would have wanted to receive credit for their actions.) While many Expert Groups (EGs) are trying hard, we have plenty of opportunity to improve.

Interestingly enough, we also received responses from several Expert Groups whose JSRs have made no formal progress through the system for several years. While it's laudable that these EGs want to operate in a transparent manner, it is also doubtful how much value there is in communicating openly with the JCP membership or the broader public if the JSR has not been updated in several years.

The PMO therefore intends, in addition to encouraging transparency, to look more closely into the problem of "inactive JSRs," encouraging more agile development. The record, at least in recent years, is held by JSR 291: Dynamic Component Support for Java SE, which completed in August 2007 only 14 months after the JSR was approved. This Expert Group was able to move so quickly because they were building on existing specifications from the OSGi Alliance. Conversely, JSR 113: Java Speech API 2.0 completed in April this year after a development period of more than seven years. (Perhaps we should also reward perseverance as well as agility?)

Returning to the question of transparency, we asked Spec Leads to tell us which techniques they are using to communicate with the public. The numbers reported below are the percentages of active JSRs as defined above.

Thirty percent of Expert Groups conduct their business on a public alias or discussion forum, while 36% use forums or Wikis to solicit input from the developer community. Twenty-eight percent of Spec Leads provide frequent updates on JSR activity through blogs, while almost half (44%) promote their JSR at conferences or other events.

More Stories By Patrick Curran

Patrick Curran is chair of the JCP and director of the JCP Program at Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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