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Soviet-era JCP needs change, concedes top commissar

Time to tear down this wall

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Just over six months into the job, Java Community Process chairman Patrick Curran has reached a firm conclusion on his organization: "We have to change," he said. "No more smoke-filled rooms."

The context for Curran's comments was the recent QCon event, where Spring framework father Rod Johnson had just likened the JCP to a commissar in Soviet Russia. "The Politburo knows what's best for the proletariat, and the Politburo meets in the form of JCP expert groups," he said.

His point was that, historically, the JCP has standardized too many things. "When you try to standardize everything you end up with a degree of thought control where there is a failure to critically evaluate technologies."

Johnson did not condemn all the JCP's standards as bad. He mentioned the Java language itself, the Servlet API, the Java Transaction API and Java Message Service as examples that have been "extremely beneficial".

When it came to Entity Beans, though, he was withering. "The Entity Bean technology somehow ignored every piece of prior art, with the result that you had two generations of completely failed technology," he said. "The cause of object-relational mapping probably lost at least six years because of that, and [it caused] billions of dollars of wasted development."

Quietly spoken Curran said he's aware the JCP is dominated by the creators of Java technology, not the developers using it, and seemed determined to steer the JCP towards a more transparent and inclusive process. "Sometimes what we're producing is not what you need," he said.

"The only way to fix that is to have more involvement of end-user companies in the JCP. They are seriously under represented."

Other problems are a perception that things happen behind closed doors, the legal agreement that you need to sign to participate, and the unfriendly JCP web site.

"The spec leads are encouraged to maintain a web page and to create a public mailing list. Many of them do not do this," he said, something he promised to change.

Despite his harsh words, Johnson said he believes the JCP is changing for the better, particularly with Sun Microsystems' renewed commitment to open source, and even came to its defense. "It's not fair to sit back and say: 'Sun should fix the JCP'. Community engagement doesn't work unless the community engages," he said.

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