JavaOne 2008 kicks off with CommunityOne

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The wait is over. The biggest Java show on earth is underway. Well, it is a big event, but it is not just a Java show. This first day -....
CommunityOne – is much more than Java or even the direct Java eco-system as it is sometimes called. Jonathan Schwartz just now compared the eco-system and beyond with the Amazone, one of the biggest rivers on our planet which technically is not just one river but instead a combination of 1000s of smaller streams, Just like that, the technology environment around Java and much beyond that is an amalgation of contribution from many different sources.

The community is a large, abstract concept. It is tied together by common interests and an open approach. CommunityOne is about open technology. NetBeans and Eclipse instead of NB vs E. It is about open vs. proprietary, closed, monolithic. With the assumption that open and open standards based mean easy integration. Ian Murdock, Sun VP formerly of Debian, had the audience believe that Sun has been about the open community for the last 25 years. While that may be slightly exaggerated, it is undeniable that Sun’s activities made a huge contribution to making open source main stream. And fostering the community that has brought so much innovation and specialized solutions in many areas.

CommunityOne will discuss many initiatives in the open community, many of which are completely new to me, such as GreenFoot and Lustre. Other better known subjects for today include OpenESB, Eclipse, NetBeans, OpenSolaris, OpenOffice, Project DarkStar, Java FX, jMaki, OpenSSO, OpenDS, Glassfish, Spring, various Linux distributions, JavaDB, (Sun’s) MySQL, Subversion, Hudson, Comet, OpenMQ, Dojo, OpenJDK, Apache HTTP, OSGi, EJB 3.1/JPA 2.0, EclipseLink and many more.

Matt Asay (Alfresco) was invited on stage by Ian and welcomed Marten Mickos (Database Group at Sun), Jim Zemlin (Linux Foundationi), Stormy Peters (OpenLogic), Ted Leung (Python Lead at Sun), Jeremy Evans (SAMBA Lead at Google), Mike Evans (Red Hat). To discuss ‘communities’.

Marten Mickos: "MySQL community is and will stay free and open source now and for ever!" Community are bloggers, developers creating plugins and tools. Not all that many core code contributors.

Samba – Jeremy Allison -: we like people who contribute a lot of code.

Red Hat: we hire people on a range of open source projects (Linux, Identity Management, GCC, Samba, ….) to advance the technology for the community and give RedHat added value to its (enterprise) customers.

Stormy Peters: community needs not just developers. People creating documentation, writing about the open source products is tremendously valuable. Also users who test and file bugs are very important community members.

Jim: the enemy of any community is obscurity. People writing negatively about an initiative are not the enemy, they help too in building the community.

How to really piss off your community? Matt: "too much company screws the community" When a company tries to add closed elements to what used to be an open source initiative is a main factor in turning the community against you or having it implode. Sun is contemplating adding closed extensions for MySQL and is meeting with quite come resentment, even over the plan.

Ted Leung: on the whole the contribution from companies has been good. Companies assigned people to work on open source projects, propelling the rate of development as well as providing a level of credibility.

Would developers contribute to Samba the company in the way they participate in the Community? Jeremy replied: "when the company is associated with the software and not the project, then people will move away and let go, leave it to the corporation to sort things out."

It seems that it is essential to the success of an open (source) community that a company does no try to own it. And another success factor seems to be the involvement of a strong, visible and charismatic leader who leads and motivates and inspires. There is always a tension between the company wanting to make some money and the community cooperating out of less mundane motives.

Jeremy (about Google): Google does not try to own Open Source Software. At the same time, much of what we do is proprietary I am afraid.

You at RedHat did some community things well – and some not as well. How do you make a community work? Strong leader, listen with an open mind, welcome feedback – any kind of feedback.

Conclusion: individuals make all the difference in successful communities. Rich Green: No amount of planning, budget or team size and compensate for those rare, special individuals who propel the initiative  by their enthusiasm, personal contracts, inspirational skills etc.

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About Author

Lucas Jellema, active in IT (and with Oracle) since 1994. Oracle ACE Director for Fusion Middleware. Consultant, trainer and instructor on diverse areas including Oracle Database (SQL & PLSQL), Service Oriented Architecture, BPM, ADF, Java in various shapes and forms and many other things. Author of the Oracle Press book: Oracle SOA Suite 11g Handbook. Frequent presenter on conferences such as JavaOne, Oracle OpenWorld, ODTUG Kaleidoscope, Devoxx and OBUG. Presenter for Oracle University Celebrity specials.

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