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   Re: Java Specification Request for XML

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  • From: David Brownell <db@eng.sun.com>
  • To: Elliotte Rusty Harold <elharo@metalab.unc.edu>
  • Date: Tue, 09 Mar 1999 03:01:47 -0800

Elliotte Rusty Harold wrote:
> >The Java Community Process is an open, inclusive process and we
> >look forward to the active particpation of all interested parties.
> The process, and its relatnive openness, is a little more obvious if you
> remove the passive voice. compare this:

When you change it to what you wrote, it is no longer correct.
Some key points:

	- No, Sun doesn't need to submit all JSRs.  Any
	  Participant can do so.  We did for this one, to
	  help jumpstart the process; many people want to
	  see a Java Platform API for XML.

	- Yes, Sun's Program Management Office (vs. say
	  Ken Starr) approves or rejects submitted JSRs.

	- No, the leader of the expert group doesn't need
	  to be from Sun.  The group formed by that leader,
	  from the pool of volunteer experts and from
	  external invited experts, is supposed to be a
	  diverse cross section.  This is auditable.

	- Re cost to be a "Participant", I had the same
	  comment.  The fee can be waived for invited
	  experts.  And note that the fee is less than
	  an expert's time will cost -- much less!

Sun is working with this process in good faith, though you seem
to fear otherwise.

Re other processes ... I don't think anyone's quite figured
out how to make the "open source" processes drive established
software companies.  Like many leading companies, Sun is
taking steps in that direction. But at least for this year,
that isn't a useful class of processes to measure against.

> >The key point is that everyone with internet access will get a
> >chance to review and comment on the emerging specification.
> They can review and comment. There's no promise that
> anyone will even listen to their comments, much less act on them.

No, there _is_ a promise they'll be listened to; and I understand
the action will at least include a response.

Have you ever participated in the comment process for an IEEE spec?
One submits comments, and gets formal responses. (I seem to recall
it being restricted to paid-up IEEE members though.)

That's the model to keep in mind -- not the "black hole" model
you've described.  Again, this is auditable.

> There are a number of aspects of this "open" process that aren't mentioned
> here.

Paraphrasing points I didn't mention above:

- Copyright and other Intellectual Property Rights.  Hmm, wouldn't
  you just hate to base a product on a specification, and then find
  that you've got to fork over $5K/copy to use it?  Have a look at
  what any of the "Open Source" license agreements (e.g. MPL2) say
  about such issues.

- Derivative works.  Nobody wins if people are allowed to ship things
  as "compatible" that really aren't; that's what the compatibility
  test suite is there to help ensure:  "Write Once, Run Anywhere" does
  not come without effort, and it's a Big Deal.

- Pillow talk.  It's supposed to be private.

- Of course non-corporate experts exist; always have, always will.
  And they can participate too.

> To me these alone make it pretty clear, that this process is open in name
> only. If you're still not convinced, ask yourself these questions:
> 1. Can anyone tell Sun No? Can anyone keep Sun from putting something into
> the spec they want to put it in? Or put something in that Sun wants to keep
> out?

If the Expert Group disagrees with Sun's representative, that
could happen.  I'd hope it wouldn't -- but it could happen.

> 2. Can Sun's enemies (i.e. Microsoft, HP, etc.) particpate in this process
> on an equal footing with Sun? Can they even participate at all?

Can those companies participate?  Absolutely.  Though I don't think
that they've wanted to do so -- going purely by what the press has
been seen to report.

> Bottom line: The openness of this process is PR, pure and simple.

So is that glass half full, or half empty?  :-)

"Openness" fits on a spectrum.  I think that this process compares
favorably with most other standards processes I've seen.

- Dave

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