Engaging Community

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-06-28 Print this article Print

Youre trying to come up with a unifying solution across this rather confusing array of alternatives … But it may not be unified, Steve. We use the GPL for OpenOffice, but GPL may not be the right answer for Java. The Apache license may be more akin to what we want for Java.
All I want to do is suggest that, as we move forward in our business, were cognizant that there is a very substantial community of developers who prefer having access to the source code. We may in fact not simply limit ourselves to Solaris and Java; we may look more broadly at what else we can open-source.
Read more here about Sun open-sourcing its next-generation Linux desktop technology. The BEA open-source strategy isnt really about opening the source code; its more about presenting the opportunity for developers to feel that theres a coherent investment on BEAs part to make sure that the technology gets into the ecosystem, so that developers can count on and therefore invest in it themselves. Fundamentally, open source is a means of engaging a community. And the motivations of the community youre engaging are going to vary. From day one, with Java we have engaged the community through something called the Java Community Process [JCP]. And as you rightly point out, for the dominant majority of Java developers, the JCP has been a wonderful aligning force that has enabled us to move at a much more rapid pace than even Microsoft. Witness the introduction of Web services into the basic platform, the progress on mobile handsets, the progress on set top boxes. The Java community is arguably one of the most effective open communities the network has ever seen, and yet there is a portion of the population that has a different perspective on what theyd like to see happen. And our only point, and the point of hosting a debate, is that we are interested in the feedback. We want to make sure that we continue to evolve the JCP as we have from day one. Were already in the second evolution of the JCP. Click here to read about Borland Softwares decision to join a fledging Java tools organization called the Java Tools Community. The motivations to examine our alternatives in the Java world are different than the motivations on the Solaris side. On the Java side, its all about making sure we continue to broaden and focus the community model and the engagement model to as broad a developer base as possible. On the Solaris side, its somewhat different: Its born of an increasing frustration among Red Hat customers who are upset at the realization that Red Hat has become the exclusive supplier of Linux for the enterprise. I was just with a series of Wall Street customers, all of whom were pretty crisp in their complaints: that they cant move code from Red Hat Linux to anything else. That their support process is such that they send an e-mail to Red Hat with an issue or a bug, and the next thing they see is a Red Hat employee posting under an assumed name in a community group, exclusively quoting the support problem and asking for help. The customer is asking, "Why am I paying Red Hat if all the Red Hat employee is going to do is post to the newsgroup? I could post to the newsgroup." Next page: Open source versus open standards.

Steve Gillmor is editor of eWEEK.com's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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