OpenJDK's New Governance

What Makes for Effective Open Source Governance?

Jessica Thornsby

Simon Phipps has blogged on the characteristics he would like to see in the forthcoming Community Bylaws.

Earlier this week, Chief Architect of the Java Platform Group at
Oracle, Mark Reinhold revealed that he has been
drafting a set of Community Bylaws
, alongside IBM’s John
Duimovich and Jason Gartner, Mike Milinkovich of Eclipse, Doug Lea
and Adam Messinger. OSI director Simon Phipps has responded by
posting his own thoughts on the ideal open source community governance model.
He favours the sort of “open, meritocratic oligarchy” of the ASF
and GNOME Foundation, where a project is governed by an “elite”
rather than by the majority. However, it is important that this
elite does not become a self-perpetuating group, and Phipps views
transparency and elections as import factors in keeping the elite
open to change.

The specific characteristics he believes define a well-governed
open source community, are an OSI-approved license that provides
patent protection, a lack of copyright aggregation, a
community-equal trademark policy, and a published roadmap that
reflects the contributions of a diverse set of participants. “When
these……..are missing or malformed, go looking for a member
claiming they are more equal than everyone else for some reason,”
Phipps warns. Multiple co-developers are also an indication of a
healthy open source community, and community members must have the
option of forking the project. Although a recognised open source
license should automatically facilitate forking, in practice
corporate agreements can enforce a no forking rule, documentation
can be closed, or trademarks can make forking difficult – as the

Hudson/Jenkins community recently discovered

“These are the markers I instinctively look for in open source
community governance. When the new OpenJDK governance finally
appears they are the benchmark against which I’ll measure it,”
Phipps concludes. According to John Duimovich, a draft of the
Community Bylaws will be posted “soon.”

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