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Power to the people


J1 was fun. So much fun, that I should write something long & remotely relevant about all the sessions I've seen and people I've met in another post. Meanwhile, I'm back at home, and managed to sleep off the time difference, and even my backpack has arrived, after it apparently had decided to spend a night in Paris without me.

Meanwhile, I've noticed on Planet Classpath that a bunch of people seem to be happy to see me on the interim governance board for the OpenJDK project. Thank you all for your support, I'm flattered to have it. And thanks to those that approached me during J1 to ask questions, suggest directions, and complain about Sun in general. Keep doing that.

I should probably clarify that I've been made as much king of Java as Hani has been made king of JCP before, so please don't expect me to be able to move mountains (immediately). I don't work for Sun, IBM, Oracle or any other company making their money with Java, so my influence on the business decisions made by any one of them is going to be limited by their willingness to listen to outside opinions.

I'd like to see OpenJDK rapidly evolve into something larger, and getting that right will be easier to do with all the interested parties involved inside the project, rather than waiting outside it - which is why it is so important to me to get the runtime projects like the Classpath VMs, for example, and GNU Classpath, to become closely associated with OpenJDK (and eventually Apache Harmony & J9 as GPLv3 happens) as soon as possible, projects using it as a supported platform like Eclipse or NetBeans to contribute their fixes to it, rather than working around bugs forever, and downstream distributors and porters to maintain their customizations in the project trees. I'd love to see the OpenJDK project take on a similar community role as the backbone that the GNU Classpath project played to the various efforts around free runtimes and distributions.

One of the questions I've seen asked before is about the selection of the initial governing board members, and the lack of IBM and other household names on it. My uninformed guess is that most of Sun's current licensees at the moment feel a lot more comfortable making their influence on the further development of JDK in the walled off, smoke filled rooms of the JCP, without having to deal with the Free Software & Open Source communities directly (and all the other young rebels that were fighting for the liberation of Java from one trap or another), and having to learn their codes & culture. My other guess is that those parties will eventually prefer to make their influence felt by participating in OpenJDK, rather than staying outside it, as long as their main business is not providing a proprietary runtime, but rather above, below or around Java.

As far as the interim governance board membership goes, I guess it's a fair cross-cut of academics (Doug), users of the Java platform (Fabiane), people who've done the community governance bootstrapping dance before (Simon), OpenJDK leaders (Mark) and those young rebels are probably being represented by me. One of the bootstrapping tasks outlined in the OpenJDK charter for the interim board is to draft the constitution of the project with its community and provide it with a way to elect a democratically legitimated governance board, which may or may not have a radically different composition, depending on your votes.

It's up to you, really. If you chose to get involved in OpenJDK, you can make sure that it's an inclusive project. I'd really like OpenJDK to be as inclusive as possible, as that was part of the secret behind the success of community building around GNU Classpath. OpenJDK is not likely to become a blue print copy of GNU Classpath, though, in the same way a Hollywood remake of an arthouse movie usually tends not to be one, but it can become damn good by learning from and working with JDK, Classpath, Apache, Eclipse, gcc, Solaris, Linux, GNOME and other communities.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking about Microsoft's declaration of total war against their customers and other users of free and open source software, and realized that in the Fortune article lies not only a threat, but also a business model for a global, distributed downsizing of Microsoft, the fun & profitable way. More on that another time, meanwhile, you should ponder which 'intellectual property' of yours Microsoft may violate, who the lawyers in your country are that keep winning those pricey lawsuits that Microsoft keeps losing, and how the whole thing with libel suits, injunctions and all that works in your local jurisdiction. Your keywords are global & swarm.

The last thing Microsoft wants are actual lawsuits, as it has no resources to withstand a distributed, world-wide counterattack by those whose intellectual property has been ruthlessly violated by that company for so many years, and such a move could force its hand to put up or shut up. As usual with those things, timing is everything, so take your time to build up your capabilities, and scout out Microsoft's weaknesses, like their distribution of GPLd code as part of Vista's SFU tools, or Microsoft's distribution of SUSE. Your lawyers should be in it for the settlement cash, so make sure you've got a case that's worth a couple of billion.

In other words, why should the big American corporations be the only ones to get settlement money out of Microsoft's massive pile of cash? If there was a business model that made downsizing Microsoft a global business for every local software company with intellectual property Microsoft infringes upon and local legal experts, that would change. But you don't need me to figure that out for you.

Have fun when the show starts, and watch out for flying chairs.