Governance Evaluation

Simon Phipps simon at
Sun Feb 6 05:49:34 PST 2011

Hi Mike, thanks for your reply.

On 6 Feb 2011, at 05:24, Mike Milinkovich wrote:

> Simon,
> I think your analysis is well and fairly done. Unsurprisingly, you have a good grasp of the constraints at play.

Thanks. As I said at FOSDEM, I think one of the key positive steps would be an FAQ where the reasons for the various compromises embodied in this document can be explained. For example, there's a reason why the main non-Sun contributor to OpenJDK, Red Hat, is not included in the draft at any point whereas IBM, who have historically never contributed to OpenJDK (despite being a Java powerhouse), have a permanent seat on the governing Board. It should be documented so that everyone understands where they stand and there's no need for back-channel explanation. 
Another positive step would be to track all the suggestions on this list in the bug-trackers so they are out in the open and none get overlooked. This has the additional advantage that when people want to discuss a point in depth they can do so in the bug tracker rather than on the mailing list.

> There are a few areas that you have pointed out that I think we may be able to improve. Areas which come to mind are:
>                 - “Roadmap”: A you’ve pointed out, capturing some baseline principles on how releases will be conducted would be helpful. There could be some controversy on this that I’m unaware of, but at face value it seems plausible that we could add something useful there.

I had some questions about this. To be clear, what I am suggesting is a release schedule for OpenJDK builds, together with a list of the contributions that will go into each future build. Having this allows every community member to see and participate in the process. I am not referring to the JCP-related roadmap for new language features.

>                  - Under “Modern License”, you point out that the Bylaws are silent on the use of the GPLv2. However, the referenced Contributor Agreement does require the use of “...under a suitable FSF (Free Software Foundation) or OSI (Open Source Initiative) approved license”. Does that address your concern, or do you think that needs to be included in the Bylaws?

Not really, as the contributor agreement is an external document under unilateral control. I'd suggest that the governance assert that "OpenJDK is a community based around the use of software licensed under the GPL supplemented with necessary exceptions" - avoiding mentioning the version and leaving room for the move to GPLv3 that the Oracle guys here at FOSDEM foreshadowed.

>                 - On “Transparency”, your points are valid. All I can say that that now that we have the draft in place that we can demonstrate to the community over time that transparency is a value that we all share. No matter how (im)perfect a governance document may be, in the end it is deeds, not words, which will shape the success of a community.
> One quibble is that in the first section labelled “Open, Meritocratic Oligarchy”, I would point out that the small board in its current form actually has one advantage, which is that because a 2/3’s majority is required for many major decisions it only takes two votes to block a mistake. That doesn’t change your larger point, but it does imply that a useful check is in place against capricious or inhospitable decisions.

While that's a potential feature, it cuts both ways and ensures that a non-preferred competitor like Azul or Red Hat can also have their proposals indefinitely blocked. At least it would be public (unlike the apparent long-term block we heard about at FOSDEM on Azul's OpenJDK TCK license) but it would still be a problem.


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