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JSR Watch: Focus on Spec Leads

The “unseen heros,” who work tirelessly, often behind the scenes

The Java Community Process requires the development of not only technical specifications, but also Reference Implementations (which prove that specs can be implemented) and conformance test suites (Technology Compatibility Kits or TCKs), which are used to verify that implementations conform to the specifications. The Expert Group (EG), which is typically composed of representatives from all of the member organizations that have an interest in the technology addressed by the JSR, is responsible for these deliverables. Although several (sometimes as many as 20 or even more) organizations participate in the EGs, one organization takes the lead and is responsible for managing the development process. The Spec Lead title belongs to the representative of the organization that leads the Expert Group.

Spec Leads organize the meetings and coordinate the activities of the Expert Groups. Without the Spec Leads no JSRs would be completed. They are the "unseen heros," who work tirelessly, often behind the scenes, to ensure that JSRs work their way smoothly through the process.

Star Spec Leads
For several years now the PMO has been running a program that rewards Spec Leads for their leadership in the JCP, recognizing the critical role that they play in the organization, and encouraging others to join their ranks.

Using feedback from other Spec Leads, Expert Group members, Executive Committee members, JCP Community members, and PMO staff, each year we identify a small number of Spec Leads for recognition as Star Spec Leads. The criteria we use include the development of high-quality specifications, moving JSRs efficiently through the process, actively promoting the JCP within the broader Java community, encouraging and mentoring other Spec Leads, and conducting the Expert Group in an open and transparent manner.

This year, in keeping with our theme of encouraging transparency and openness in the work of the organization, we put an increased emphasis on these criteria when selecting the Star Spec Leads. Leading an Expert Group involves a delicate process of managing the different and often competing interests of the participating organizations. This is difficult enough when meetings are conducted "behind closed doors." When discussions are conducted in the open (via public mailing lists, for example), the whole process becomes even more difficult, requiring great diplomatic and organizational skills.

Applying these criteria, we selected three Spec Leads who will be honored this year at our annual celebration at JavaOne in San Francisco. (For more information about the program, and a list of all Star Spec Leads.)

Ed Burns of Sun Microsystems
Since joining Sun Microsystems in 1997, Ed Burns has worked on a variety of Java Standard Edition (Java SE) and Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) projects, in roles ranging from individual contributor to team leader to architect. He has acted as a Spec Lead for several JSRs, and he currently shares this role with Roger Kitain on JSR 314: JavaServer Faces 2.0. This JSR is run in an extremely open manner. The specification is developed in public, here, and the Reference Implementation is an open source project. They have a public issue-tracking mechanism and public discussion forums. To learn more, visit their website.

Mike Milikich of Motorola
As Java Micro Edition (Java ME) Technology Development Manager for Motorola Mobile Devices, Mike Milikich focuses on Java ME standards, implementations, tools, and TCKs. He has been an active participant in the JCP program since 2001, during which time he has served on several Expert Groups, and represented Motorola on the Java ME Executive Committee. After acting as Maintenance Lead for JSR 37, Mobile Information Device Profile for the Java ME Platform (MIDP1) and JSR 118, MIDP2, he took on the very challenging role of Spec Lead for the next revision of this important platform specification, JSR 271, MIDP3. In this role Mike manages an extremely large Expert group of more than 60 members, while conducting the business of the EG in an open and transparent manner, utilizing an online discussion forum, issue tracking, and a document repository.

David Nuescheler of Day Software
David Nuescheler is the chief technology officer of Day Software, and has been working with Java technologies since 1999 when the company adopted Java for its entire suite of products. He joined the JCP program in 2001 and is the Spec Lead for JSR 283, Content Repository for Java Technology API Version 2.0. David encourages adoption and feedback to his JSRs through making frequent public drafts available to the public and by developing open source implementations of the specification (see the Apache Foundation's Project Jackrabbit).

Reforming the JSR Process Through the JSR Process
I myself am a Spec Lead - for JSR 215, which defined the process through which JSRs are developed within the JCP. The Executive Committees of the JCP constitute the Expert Group for this JSR. Over the past couple of months we have been working on a Maintenance Release of this JSR, focusing on a number of relatively small, but hopefully useful, revisions to the process, with an emphasis on increasing transparency and agility. We are currently in the review process and expect to complete this before JavaOne. The complete list of proposed changes can be found here. For those who don't want to delve into the details, here's a high-level summary:

  • Expert Groups must publish and respond to public comments before ballots.
  • Full disclosure of licensing terms for the spec, RI, and TCK is required.
  • Expert Groups must publicly state which transparency techniques they plan to use.
  • Expert Groups are discouraged from marking material as Confidential.
  • The process for replacing uncooperative or inactive Spec Leads is clarified.
  • Maintenance Review deadlines are changed to allow more time for review.
  • Final Release materials must be posted promptly after Final Approval Ballot.
  • Updated specs must be published after completion of a Maintenance Review.
  • The duties of the EC in providing guidance to the PMO are clarified.

Active JSRs
As always, many JSRs made progress through the process since my last column. In keeping with my theme, I'll be sure to give credit to the Spec Leads.

We've already mentioned JSR 283, Content Repository for Java Technology API Version 2.0, which is led by 2009 Star Spec Lead David Nuescheler of Day Software. This specification updates JSR 170, providing an implementation-independent way to access content repositories. The Expert Group, under David's leadership, recently published a Proposed Final Draft.

Two JSRs that are components of the umbrella JSR 249: Mobile Service Architecture 2 recently issued Maintenance Reviews. JSR 179: Location API for J2ME is led by Kimmo Loytana from Nokia. The APIs defined in this specification enable the development of mobile location-based applications and services such as Google's recently announced Latitude. This JSR is a component of the "full set" in MSA 1.1, and will be part of the Standard Platform in MSA 2. (MSA2 defines three platforms targeted at different types of phones: the Entry Platform, the Standard Platform, and the Advanced Platform.) JSR 257: Contactless Communication API led by Jaana Majakangas - also from Nokia - was not part of MSA1, but will form part of the Standard Platform in MSA2. This JSR enables mobile devices to utilize contactless (near-field) communication technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID), optical barcode readers, and infrared. I had the chance to see an application of this technology on a recent visit to Tokyo, where a colleague used his cellphone to pay for the subway, simply by passing it close to sensors in the turnstiles.

Two other JSRs in the mobile field made progress recently. JSR 325: IMS Communication Enablers, led by Martin Johansson and Niclas Palm from Ericsson, entered Public Review. This JSR builds on JSR 281, IMS Services API, led by two other Ericsson employees, Piotr Kessler and Stefan Svenberg, which recently entered Maintenance Review. Together, these JSRs define a high-level framework and API that provides Java ME-based devices with a simple way of accessing IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) Communication Enablers for services such as Presence, Instant Messaging, Multimedia Telephony, and Push to talk Over Cellular (PoC).

Finally, JSR 235: Service Data Objects passed its Final Approval Ballot. Congratulations to the spec leads: Kelvin Goodson from IBM and Radu Preotiuc-Pietro from Oracle!

The PMO is now working hard to prepare for JavaOne, where we will meet many of the Spec Leads who work so hard to advance the Java platforms. I hope we'll get a chance to meet you there too. Until then...

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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