Top Secret JCP?

JCP Chair Responds to Assumptions that JCP is Secretive

Jessica Thornsby

Oracle’s nomination of SouJava stirs up some old JCP-related debates.

After hearing that Oracle had nominated Brazilian Java User Group SouJava to fill Apache’s vacated spot on the JCP, Simon Phipps expressed his approval, and hope that “Bruno and SouJava will be able to use their new position of influence to fix the broken things (like the opaque decision-making and the ability to have FOSS-hostile licensing terms on JSRs).” Now, the Chair of the Java Community Process Patrick Curran has posted a response to Phipps’ blog, in which he focuses on the implication that the JCP is a secretive organisation. Curran has encountered this assumption may times before, and in his post he stresses that it is not true. The JSPA does bar “confidential information” from being disclosed prior to a specification’s Public Review “or for a period of three years if such information is not incorporated into the spec.” However, Curran points out that this only applies to information that is defined as classified, and in reality Expert Groups rarely mark any information as top-secret. Furthermore, the JCP is taking steps to limit confidentiality. Last year, the Process Document was revised to read: “The use of JSPA Confidential materials (as defined in the JSPA) by Expert Groups limits transparency and is strongly discouraged.” Curran expects the next revision to completely prohibit confidentiality.

The public can access the full minutes and meeting materials from September 2008. Although there is a disclaimer that “the EC reserved the right to go into Private Session from time to time when sensitive matters are discussed,” Curran insists this doesn’t happen very often. Likewise, around half of all currently active JSRs are run as open source projects, while more use transparent tools such as public mailing lists and public issue-tracking mechanisms, although some are still closed off from outsiders. Curran expects the next revision of the Process Document to make transparency mandatory for Expert Groups. He is optimistic about moving forward in this manner: “I don’t disagree that there is much about the organization we need to fix. However, it’s disappointing when the progress we have made in recent years is not understood. Obviously we need to be even more transparent, and to tell people what we’re doing. I hope that this blog entry is a start.”

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