A look inside the Java Community Process

A detailed examination of the wins and losses of the Java Community Process

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Major revisions to the specification become a new proposal -- that is, a new Java Specification Request -- at which point the entire Java Community Process begins again. Minor revisions become part of a lightweight maintenance process: the new proposal is posted on the public Web site, comments are gathered for 30 days from the participants and the public, and (assuming there are no major objections) the specification is revised.

The specification is then posted to the public Web site with notes on the changes. The CTS and RI are also updated to make sure they are current with the revised specification.

What you can do

Not everyone is happy with the Java Community Process, but the international Java community can either work with the process as it stands today or it can become active and try to create a process with which it is more comfortable.

The first step is to become familiar with the process as described in this article. The next step is to see what Sun suggests on its Getting Started page (see Resources).

Concerned members of the community can send feedback about the process to community-process@sun.com. Email to this address goes directly to Sun's Process Management Office. This is the best way to tell Sun what you think of the process and offer constructive criticism. You can also become involved in the maintenance phase of Java 2 (see Resources). Anyone can propose changes or request clarifications to the Java 2 specification.

In June, the first JSR was released for public review. Keep an eye on the public-review page of the site to see when more specifications become available for public review. You can also join one of the JCP mailing lists to get email notifications of new specifications. (See Resources for links to these pages on Sun's Java Community Process site.)

If you've got an idea, share it! Sun itself has claimed, "If you've got a good idea, you're not going to have trouble finding support." According to Urquhart, Sun has waived the participant fee in the past, and it may do so again if the Expert Group agrees to it.

What Sun can do

It would benefit both Sun and the Java community if Sun responded to feedback and took steps to make the process more inviting. As a developer with ten years of software engineering experience and a strong involvement with the Java community, I would like to propose a few minor changes to the Java Community Process:

  • The Java Community Process should apply its rules to itself. Having achieved its final release, the process can be regarded as being in maintenance mode. (Section 11 of the JCP Manual outlines this mode.) Such a perspective gives both the participants and the public an understanding of how they can shape the process for everyone's benefit.

  • The process should allow third-party nonparticipants to submit JSRs. Those JSRs would be posted publicly and could be voted on by the participants and the public. This modification would allow anyone to share a good idea with the Java community, through Sun, regardless of the size of the company or budget.

  • The process should allow experts who are not participants to respond to the Call For Experts. These independent experts would be screened for their technical experience and contribution to the Java community. This modification would bring a much broader range of experience and expertise to the Expert Group, a key step in the process.

Those proposed changes would help make the Java Community Process achieve its goals: to encourage the Java community to participate in defining the Java platform and language, to develop more complete and robust specifications, and to increase the acceptance of the specifications that the process generates.

Paul Philion is a Sun Certified Java developer and a principal consultant with the Highland Technology Group. Using Java, CORBA and servlets, he has spent the last several years leading the development of Web-based applications for Internet companies. Paul has a B.S. in computer science from Virginia Tech. In his free time Paul eats, sleeps, and sometimes takes a walk; otherwise, he is grinding out Java.

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