OpenJDK's New Governance

What Makes for Effective Open Source Governance?

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."

Jessica Thornsby

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