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Shashank Tiwari

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My Positon on the JCP and the JCP EC

Election for JCP EC members is in progress and by next week a new committee will be in place. So it’s an important time to understand where the JCP stands and what the EC members can possibly do to make things better for the JCP and the Java community. 

Simply stated, JCP is a member driven organization to create standards for the Java language and the platform. Ideally, it intends to be the common aggregation point for all the voices in the community. Unfortunately though, it’s still far away from realizing this dream. There are over 10 million programmers and thousands of companies that actively use Java to create their products and deliver their services. However, there are less than 1500 JCP members as it stands today. In addition, only a handful of these 1500 are active in proposing JSR(s), participating in Expert Groups or providing active feedback on the specifications. Therefore, JCP hardly represents a majority of the community. 

Why is it important that a majority of the community take active part in the JCP? Standards make sense only when they are adopted by a large majority. In the case of Java it means,

  • companies that make Java tools and products need to make their products and offerings comply with the standards and
  • developers and service providers who use Java in creating applications need to adopt and accept it.

The current gap is evident from the fact that many JCP created standards are hardly in use. For example JSR 69 (Java OLAP Interface), which was approved back in June 2004, never had a “final release” and is hardly supported by the OLAP vendors or developers today. There may be a small group still using it but alternative standards have rendered it useless from the time it was still being created. 

Things are improving though! Over the last few months we have seen an increased participation from all corners. This is making specifications more relevant and meaningful. However, it’s not enough yet and a lot more participation from the community is required.

Apart from less participation, the JCP process has additional shortcomings, which are as follows:

  • Too many JSR(s) have not reached completion and remain in limbo for over 3 years now. These JSR(s) either need to be taken to completion or officially abandoned. In some cases it may make sense to start new JSR(s) to address the needs that the earlier JSR may have decided to address.
  • Many JSR(s) try and solve the same problem. It makes sense to merge a few specifications where they overlap. It may also make sense to refactor related JSR(s) sometimes.
  • Many JSR(s) need to be drastically simplified. Enterprise Java is complicated further will the addition of complicated JSR(s). The work of simplifying the EJB specification is a good success story to emulate.
  • Many JSR(s) need to be stalled. Sometimes the standards body has proactively tried to create standards in an area, which is still volatile and therefore has not seen much success. No point starting too early. Standards are not about “early adopters” or “bleeding edge technology”.

Now that we are aware of some of areas to work on, let’s see where the EC could potentially contribute. Firstly, the role of the EC is not to manage each of the JSR(s). The JSR spec lead and expert group members run and manage the affairs of their respective JSR. The EC’s role is to manage the JCP process itself. Its duty is to provide checks and balances by voting for or against proposed JSR(s) and facilitate the workings of the JCP. 

Therefore, the most significant contribution the EC can make can be summarized as follows:

  • Evangelism – Encourage all members of the JCP to participate and even take on the additional responsibility of spreading the word to the larger community. Also work on standards adoption once they are established.
  • Process Democratization – Work to mitigate the imbalance between corporate influence and individual members. Allow a few newer processes – for example, allow change of spec lead (not necessarily from the same company) mid-term if required, especially if things are currently going awry in that specific JSR.
  • Active Collaboration – Propose and support collaboration among related JSR(s). Work on refactoring existing JSR(s) where required.
  • Future Direction – Actively identify areas where standardization will help Java take a smooth course into the future and encourage participation from members working in such areas. For example JSR 292 (Supporting Dynamically Typed Languages on the Java Platform) is a good initiative to facilitate the evolution of Java.

By now you have a sense of what I am thinking. Much needs to be said and done, but I will stop here and start doing my bit to make JCP a more effective organization.

Let me start by appealing to all of you to come take part in the JCP. For those who are not yet its members, please come join in and make your mark. For those who are already members, please cast your vote (https://www.jcpelection2008.org/jcp/election_ballot) and make your presence felt.

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I am a technology entrepreneur, innovator, author and, as some say, a “thought leader”. I like to solve challenging computing problems, especially those that drive innovation. Being a polyglot programmer, I can program fluently in many languages, including Java, Python, C++, C, Ruby, ActionScript, JavaScript, Objective-C, Haskell, Scala, Clojure, PHP, Groovy, Lisp and Perl. I must admit that I like to learn programming languages and if there is a new interesting one coming, I wouldn’t be far behind getting to grips with it. Over the last many years I have built some cutting edge enterprise and consumer software applications, many of which have leveraged large data sets and the web based programming paradigms. This means I also know a lot about data bases and persistence. I am very conversant with relational databases, embedded databases, object databases, text based data and XML. Having leveraged web based programming paradigms, I have first hand experience with a lot of web development frameworks, including but not limited to Adobe Flex, Spring MVC, Rails, Grails and Django. Not to forget, I obviously have worked a lot with HTML, JS and CSS. My experience and interest are varied and diverse and range a wide spectrum of application development realms that include the server, the client and the middleware. Besides, programming, I am also deeply interested in mathematics and theoretical computer science. This motivates me to bring my knowledge of applied mathematics, statistical modeling, artificial intelligence and sometimes simply data structures, to good use, when I build applications. A couple of domains like financial mathematics and scientific computing seem to have been good fit for such expertise. I am an ardent supporter of open source software and try and contribute to open source code bases and causes. I like the plurality and variety that software development offers; the choice of programming languages, the abundant availability of tools and libraries, the existence of multiple operating systems and the possibility of varied software development methodologies. As a member of the technology community, I am an active contributor to the ever evolving software development languages, methodologies and standards. I am an expert group member on a number of JCP (Java Community Process) specifications, for example JSRs 274, 283, 299, 301 & 312, and have been recognized as an Adobe Flex Champion.I run and organize a few community events like Flex Camp Wall Street, Show Ramp and Polyglot World. I bring together all my expertise in terms of services and products via my primary venture, Treasury of Ideas LLC, in which I play the role of a Managing Partner. Treasury of Ideas LLC, through its focus on innovation and value optimization, offers many best of the breed services and products and has incubated many ideas to help translate them to reality. Our clients range from large enterprises, government agencies, not-for-profit organizations to promising new startups. I write regularly in many technical journals and magazines, present in seminars and mentor developers and architects. I have authored a few books, including Advanced Flex 3 (friends of Ed/APress, 2008) and Professional BlazeDS (Wrox/Wiley, 2009) , and am in the process of authoring a few more. You can learn all about my books and public talks by browsing through the Publish & Present page at www.shanky.org.