Was the Java Community Process the Chink in James Gosling's Armor?


News: Was the Java Community Process the Chink in James Gosling's Armor?

  1. With Gosling's hasty resignation from Oracle, which was officially submitted to Oracle on April 2nd, although it wasn't publicly announced until April 9th, one can't help but go over some of James' more recent speeches and discussions and see if there weren't any hints or signs of big things that were bothering him while in Oracle's employ. And clearly, there were significant things that were bothering him.

    "As to why I left, it's difficult to answer: just about anything I could say that would be accurate and honest would do more harm than good."

    On the surface, that may not sound overly harsh for a departing employee, but when someone of James Gosling's stature, not to mention 'diplomatic nature,' makes even the slightest public overtone about being unhappy and upset, well, you have to magnify that sentiment ten thousand times to get an idea of how he's really feeling inside.

    At TheServerSide.com's Java Symposium, which represented one of his last keynote addresses while still in the employ of Oracle, James Gosling reiterated a common frustration he had about the Java Community Process, damning it as a 'political nightmare.' This 'political nightmare' discussion had become a common theme in his recent public speaking engagements. Was this the public "chink in the father of Java's armor" that might be hinting at his greater frustrations with Oracle? 

    And really, what did Gosling mean by asserting that the Java Community Process was becoming far too political? After all, JCP was supposed to be just that - a community process into which everyone who had a stake in the future of the Java language could contribute. Perhaps we could ask Lenin and Marx the same question, but how does something like the JCP, which is designed to thrive on amiable qualities such as participation, cooperation, and communication, end up becoming such a problem?

    It's hard to say what drove James Gosling from Oracle, but with another high profile figure from the Sun legacy leaving Oracle, the Java community can't be blamed for seeking out an answer to the question 'why?'

    Threaded Messages (16)

  2. dig deeper[ Go to top ]

    Since Gosling has said he won't explain publicly why he is leaving, anything he says in public is likely not why he is leaving.

    I also think that someone with his success is likely not ready to collapse the tent simply because he doesn't like the rain.  Politicking in a community is like rain in the campsite: it happens.  I don't think any professional can get very far by quitting out of the frustration of politicking.

    So, guess again.

  3. The thing is JCP was goign towards too much democracy as in every tom dick n harry had an opinion and then others have to explain why good is good and bad is bad. so many discussions, some vendors have their own hidden agenda as they want to make a proprietary feature of their own into a java feature, lots n lots of time spent on writing the documents...Its like the healthcare debate. we all know current insurance model is unsustainable, so its good to have a reform. but if tyou wait for every senator and house rep., then it will never pass and nothing will ever happen. You have got to pass it with whatever you can so that some help is out there.

    So people like James Gosling etc should always be given more "votes" and allowed to make final call and move on. Too many opinions just hamper the main good intent of the process.There is always next versions, revisions.
    But people want to stop even version 1 from coming out and thats why JCP is Jcrap. its just too much choice to everyone. thats wrong in a practicle world.
    i wish James gosling goes to apache or soemhtng and joins open JDK and does something better with java without all the messy politics.

  4. well, that's depressing...[ Go to top ]

    This is starting to sound like the argument I made in my Poli Sci classes a about why democracy could never work. :P

    Did Gosling ever prognosticate about what the better model was? If Sun doesn't let everyone else play, then they look like a dictator. If they give everyone an equal vote, it turns into a lowest common denominator scenario, where the most inventive force gets pulled back by those least willing to innovate.

    This isn't meant as any disrespect to James, but were we just supposed to accept a benevolent dictatorship when it came to the progression of standards for things like Java, Portlets, Servlets, JSPs, EJBs, etc? What's the more workable alternative?

  5. well, that's depressing...[ Go to top ]

    The obvious answer to the question is of course that democracy doesn't work - at least from an idealist's standpoint - hence we have presidents like Bush Junior and candidates like Sarah Palin here in the US :-). Hopefully that doesn't give away too much of my political stripes. LOL.

    Just as despite it's imperfections democracy is the best choice around there really aren't many good alternatives to community consensus based standardization with some central control of a serious stakeholder to make sure things don't really go awry. That being said, the JCP has plenty of room to improve, some of which hopefully will be addressed sooner than later. Honestly, top on my agenda would be mending fences with Apache/giving them what will make them happy so they feel a little more ownership of Java SE and Java EE than they do today.

    Plato's "Philosopher Kings" idea sounds good in theory but in reality what you get is Nero and Julius Caesar instead...

  6. Yes.[ Go to top ]

    Sun should have either used a 'benevolent dictator' model which worked great for .NET and Python or they should have switched development to community.
  7. Thanks Gosling, but...[ Go to top ]

    I'm asking a simple question, not trying to bash Gosling, but...when's the last time he actually contributed something meaningful to the Java community?  I guess I'm saying that I don't think Java will be hurt very much by his departure.
  8. James' Current Impact[ Go to top ]

    No, James was more the face of Java these days, maybe even the way Bill is the face of Microsoft. Not a perfect comparison, but something like that.

    And Java has so much momentum of its own that no one person can change its direction, be it forwards or backwards or sideways. Like a snowball doing down a hill, James packed the snow at the beginning and help push it down the hill, but nowadays, it's rolling on its own.

    But still, he is the Java evangelist, and that person that seemed to have really weathered all of the storms over the years. To see him go is sad, and given the fact that he didn't seem to go out on the happiest terms, it makes you wonder what the heck is going on with Java at Oracle?
  9. Nah... That couldn't be it ;-)
  10. James' Current Impact[ Go to top ]

    Like a snowball doing down a hill, James packed the snow at the beginning and help push it down the hill, but nowadays, it's rolling on its own.

    But will that snowball reach the bottom of the mountain and break up against Oracle?
  11. James' Current Impact[ Go to top ]

    "No, James was more the face of Java these days, maybe even the way Bill is the face of Microsoft."

    When was the last time you saw Bill give a keynote at TechEd, PDC, or MIX? If you think Bill is the face of Microsoft, then you haven't looked at Microsoft in a long time.
  12. Thanks Gosling, but...[ Go to top ]

    I'm asking a simple question, not trying to bash Gosling, but...when's the last time he actually contributed something meaningful to the Java community?  I guess I'm saying that I don't think Java will be hurt very much by his departure.
    Very good point.  I saw him "launch the ball" at JavaOne 2003 and that's about all I saw/heard of him until the resignation.

    Pretty funny actually.  Even President Clinton still tours/speaks and has his own organization to help the world...
  13. Cameron,

    As someone working inside the JCP for a few years now, I doubt the JCP had anything to do with this. However, it is a good question worth asking - I suggest doing an interview with Gosling on the future of Java under Oracle...

    It would be great content for TSS and would be valuable in many different ways provided Gosling has something good to say...

    Author, EJB 3 in Action
    Expert Group Member, Java EE 6 and EJB 3.1
    Resin EJB 3.1 Lite Container Lead
  14. I think it was 14 years ago I saw Gosling give a keynote about Java at OOPSLA (I think I still have a cassette tape of the presentation. BE jealous!). He certainly was the face of Java then, and I was persuaded to move from C++ programming to Java.

    I saw Gosling's keynote at TSS last month and saw less "the face of Java", and more of a really nice, really smart guy who likes to tinker and do cool stuff with software - not something his position at Oracle allowed him to do enough of, I'd guess.

    I'll at least take comfort in the following sentiment he expressed last month: that he expected to be programming on the Java platform twenty years from now.
  15. Oracle, Sun, JCP[ Go to top ]

    Oracle's is success in selling the product...Purely commercial firm. but recognized by the market and shareholders!!  Probabaly at Oracle, JCP doesn't have the same status as it had with Sun.... Gosling is not the first person leaving Sun either,,,  Michael "Monty" Widenius of MySQL too left Oracle....

    On the other hand all these 'gurus' also have a responsibility to the community to explain why Sun ended up in the hands of Oracle???
  16. This message is not directly linked to JG's decisions or to the JCP but then, neither is mentioning "Marx and Lenin" within the original posting. If the latter is supposed to evoke cold-war-reminiscent feelings toward long-gone autocratic regimes, thus making some similar point about what the JCP is/should/should not be or such, then it misses the mark. Marx, for one thing, died some 30 years before the Russian revolution.
  17. It could very well be that Gosling was uncomfortable with the philosophy and work ethos at Oracle. It is not unusual to have one company buy out another and the former employees of the previous company simply:

    (a) Do not feel comfortable with the new management and the direction that the new company wants to take.

    (b) Have philosophical differences with the new management

    (c) Do not feel that the new company is a good fit with their style, work habits, and/or conditions.

    Anyone who has been engaged with a corporate buyout can identify. I have been through two. Believe me, things do not stay the same and major shifts in philosophy and work practices and ethics can make one feel uncomfortable and uneasy.

    At Sun James was considered somewhat of a rock star. I am sure he had a free hand in the direction of many of the engineering projects at Sun and was considered one of their chief engineers with very few peers. At Oracle, he may have had to play a lessor role of influence than he did at Sun, or was expected to fit into the Oracle mold as a chief engineer.

    From what I can gather, Dr. Gosling has always been somewhat of a renegade and non comformist; not in a bad way mind you, but he is not the normal shirt and tie type director or leader. From the days of McNealy, this was kind of encouraged at Sun, just look at the history of Java itself; where and how it was developed. Oracle is more of a formal structured suit and tie type business. I am sure most of the Sun engineers will not feel nearly as comfortable with this type of environment. They are used to an engineering type company, who granted a type of freedom that does not mean 9 to 5, be at your desk type of structure.

    When you come from an environment where you are free to set your own work hours, goals, and have the freedom to direct your own activities and measure your successes based upon outcome, not upon structure,  this is a major paradigm shift. For many IT people, structure is often viewed as a hindrance to success, not as an asset. I am willing to wager, knowing Sun and knowing Oracle, this was a huge overriding factor in Dr. Gosling's decision.

    As an engineer, what do you want to do? Sit in meetings all day, discussing the merits of the next big ticket item for generating sales revenue, or go to your own comfortable domain to create the next kool ticket item that shakes up the IT world? Oracle is the former, JG the latter.

    Of course both types are necessary. Sun could have used more of Oracle's marketing and sales prowess, whereas Oracle needs the kind of engineers that worked at Sun. However, very few companies are capable of embracing both types of environments within one organization. The closet large company that I know of, that strives to create this kind of balance is Google. I am certain that they are not the only one and it is not one of perfect balance, but one that is easily recognizable by all and does attempt to create this kind of climate.

    I have worked in both environments, and as an IT worker, I definitely prefer the Sun type work environment. Of course I see the need for the formal business approach, but IT is IT.

    Bright and creative IT workers do not do their best work when they are enclosed in a stringent type work environment where mandates and strict adherence to policy is the order of the day. However, precious few modern day IT managers recognize that IT cannot and is not like another business unit within a corporation.  Most modern IT managers and companies want IT to be more akin to an assembly line where work is cranked out in predictable fashion, rather than a place where creative genius is not measured by a clock or imposed timeline.