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Telling Stories at JavaOne
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Sam Ruby has a variation on the Schwartz/Green theme in his post Cooperate on Standards, in which he says, "The question isn't whether there will be a fully-compatible implementation of J2SE 5.0 under an OSI license in two or three JavaOne's from now; but rather one of how many, fully-compatible, implementations of J2SE 5.0, under an OSI license, there will be; and whether any of them will be ready by the next JavaOne."

Danese Cooper kicked off a volatile thread with her post What Sun Doesn't Want You To Know About Java and Open Source. Cooper reports that the Harmony Project's announcement that it has full support for Swing/AWT has caught Sun off guard. She says that "Sun's compatibility rules for the Java language have long included a 'gotcha' in the form of a chunk of code for user interface, for which there are no compatibility tests (SWING/AWT)." Apple has their own implementation of Swing and now, it seems, so does Harmony. Cooper says that open sourcing Java has been discussed inside of Sun for the past half-dozen years and that when Sun says they need to figure out how to deal with compatibility, "they are simply being disingenuous. What they really mean is 'How can we placate the FOSS community without giving up control?'"

So is that the "why"? Is it important to placate the FOSS community? If Harmony is getting closer to being an open source implementation of Java outside of Sun's control, does that induce Sun to move more or less quickly toward figuring out how to open source Java?

For what it's worth, I give Phipps a lot of credit for having the class to link to those who have issues with the DLJ and to leave comments open on his post to allow further discussion and dissent. I don't think there are bad people on each side. There are people who are mostly friends who just disagree.

In Discussion breaking out about Java and Open Source, Bob Sutor reminds us that "promises aren't news." He sees Java's steps toward open source as being similar to "someone who keeps taking half steps toward a goal. First half a step, then half of that, and so on. The direction looks good, it looks like they're getting closer, but they don't actually reach the destination. I hope that doesn't happen here."

In the General Session and in the press conference that followed, Jeff Jackson, Sun SVP of engineering, showed that open source is bursting out all over when it comes to Java APIs. This includes the Enterprise stack as well as many desktop projects. Jackson repeated his call to action to get the community involved in the code. He pointed out that the Mustang development has been exposed to all who are interested with weekly builds and public discussions. It's not open source, but much of the work on the source has been done in the open. He stressed the contributions from non-Sun employees that made it back to the code base.

As Jackson, Schwartz, and Green faced question after question about open source, it seemed that one of them would burst out and say "what more do you people want?" They, of course, stayed on topic and had to answer as many questions about Sun's fiscal plans as they did about open sourcing Java. It was a reminder to the members of the media in the audience of the balance that Sun needs to achieve.


If there was no concrete announcement that Java was being open sourced in a definite time frame following some easily explained plan, then why bring it up at all? Where is the news in that? And in the absence of any real news, where was the meat of the opening General Session? It should have been in the demos. With the exception of the Aerith demo, the applications chosen to enthuse the JavaOne audience were fairly uninspiring.

Before a word came out of Schwartz or Green's mouth, someone should have been showing off Aerith. It's what Swing demos should have looked like eight years ago. It shows that Java can mash up web services with the best of them. As for the other demos, instead of leading the way, Java is now an "oh, we can do what AJAX can do too" technology. Instead of unleashing imagination and capturing developers, the AJAX demo showed nothing that seemed particular to Java.

Finally, I have very good eyes and a fairly good attention span. But when you have developers on stage typing code in a font too small to see, without making it clear what they are doing and where they are heading, you are not meeting anybody's needs. Once you have chosen the demos for next year's keynote, ask "WWJD--What would Jobs Do?" If Steve Jobs wouldn't let these demos on stage in the state they're in, then neither should Sun. Every demo has to pop. It has to offer something special. It has to fire me up.

That brings me to my final small complaint about opening day. Let's assume that you manage to fire up folks and get them excited. More charitably, let's assume that you aren't able to entirely dampen the enthusiasm they entered with. Schedule the show floor to open directly following the keynote. Keeping attendees in the hall outside the expo floor after the keynote or other sessions is a wasted opportunity.


Believe it or not, despite this curmudgeonly report, I really enjoyed the show this year. I met with authors, coworkers, friends, and other developers. Even though it moves around a bit, JavaOne provides a natural break in the year. There are people I talk to at every JavaOne. I heard about the year that we're ending and the one we're beginning. Next year we need more technical sessions and many more BoFs. We could do with fewer General Sessions. The small subconference going on at the java.net booth was a blast--great speakers and fantastic hallway conversations. We'll do that again next year.

Where will we be a year from now when we head to Moscone for next year's JavaOne? Will Java be open sourced and if so, by whom? Will we see more than 20,000 developers crowd the halls? As we gain experience with Mustang and head for Dolphin, what will we want and expect from this platform and who will be providing the innovation and leadership?

Daniel H. Steinberg is the editor for the new series of Mac Developer titles for the Pragmatic Programmers. He writes feature articles for Apple's ADC web site and is a regular contributor to Mac Devcenter. He has presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack and other Mac developer conferences.

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