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Clap of hands for the 2008 JCP Annual Awards Winners
by Susan Mitchell

Every year the Java Community Process (JCP) Program Management Office (PMO) keeps the public in suspense about who the annual awards winners will be. After award nominees are announced, the wishful thinking machine kicks into high gear. Prayers are prayed, bets are placed, and water-cooler chat happens as everyone wonders who will take the coveted community prizes?

Before the rest of the community knew, nominees from all over the world learned they were in the running. On the basis of a potential win, some were sponsored by their companies or by the JCP program to attend the JavaOne Conference in San Francisco, California, where the winners would be revealed.

The announcement took place during the Spec Lead Dinner at the InterContinental Hotel on May 6, the opening night of the JavaOne Conference held a block away. Representatives of most of the corporate nominees - the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), Ericsson AB, IBM, Intel, LG Electronics, Nokia, SBC, Sun Microsystems, and TM Forum - were on hand to see who had been selected for the yearly honor. Individual nominee Doug Lea couldn't make it to the dinner, but Michael Nascimento Santos and Stephen Colebourne were present.

Suspense over the annual JCP awards ceremony was palpable in the room when Heather VanCura-Chilson, the JCP program manager, called at last for everyone's attention. The moment had arrived to pair the six winners with their trophies. This year's version was an eye-catching paisley crystal enclosing a ribbony blue-ball swirl.

Entities of the Year
When the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) was named the winner of the Member of the Year award, there was plenty of cheering in the room. Geir Magnusson, Executive Committee (EC) member and vice president, Java Community Process, for the ASF, accepted the award, just as he did in 2007 and 2005. A non-profit corporation, ASF offers legal, financial, and organizational backing for open source software projects. "ASF has been active and engaged since the beginning, with wide participation at both the EC level and in projects, as members of Expert Groups," said Geir. "Sun clearly has been embracing open source more and more. Organizations like the JCP traditionally move slower than technology in general. But I think you'll see the JCP program start to open itself up and transform itself in the same way that technology is becoming more open and participatory. Patrick certainly has good vision for how things should be open, and I think he's starting to take action to make that happen."

Other people were struck with the same thought about Patrick Curran, now chair of the JCP, who was formerly involved in Java conformance testing and policy issues for Sun. For example, before the Participant of the Year award was announced, Stephen Colebourne, nominee for that same award, said, "I hope Patrick gets it. He has shaken up what the JCP is and has moved things forward. He's doing a very tricky job standing between Sun and the rest of the community, and he's doing it pretty well, I think."

Sure enough, Heather called outPatrick as Participant of the Year, to the tune of enthusiastic applause and calls for a speech. Patrick confessed to being rather embarrassed, though he appreciated the "very welcome vote of confidence from the Executive Committees." He vowed to change the rules next year to exclude PMO staff from consideration and to turn the awards into a "People's Choice" situation rather than a selection by the PMO and Executive Committees.

"Because I'm new in the position and I'm able to take a fresh look at the organization, I've been pressing for reforms and telling both the organization and Sun that we're in a new world here: open source changes everything," said Patrick. "I've been arguing for openness and transparency, more democracy in the program, more power and influence for individuals, for open source groups, to balance the influence that the large corporations have. They are important because they're doing the bulk of the work and paying for most of the work that gets done, but I find that developers want a voice, and their voice isn't being heard as loudly as it should be." Patrick took it as an encouraging sign that EC members recognize the need for reform and are willing to support his campaign for it.

Java SE/EE Awards
In the Java Standard Edition/Enterprise Edition (SE/EE) space, the Most Outstanding Spec Lead award went to Star Spec Lead Stefan Hepper of IBM for his leadership of JSR 286, Portlet Specification 2.0. JSR 286 offers various enhancements to the first version, JSR 186, which Stefan co-led, by introducing portlet filters, including Java EE 1.4 support, and aligning with the Web Services for Remote Portlets (WSRP) 2.0 OASIS standard and JavaServer Faces (JSF) with Portlets. Stefan was "surprised and honored" to win this year's award. He attributes his success to the openness of his Expert Group. "Once again, what I tried to do is really have an open discussion in the Expert Group. I tried to get everyone's opinion, and I tried to integrate that into the JSR," he said. Now he plans to wrap up the current JSR and move into the maintenance phase. It's taken him a little over two years to finish this one. Stefan is the responsible architect for the IBM WebSphere Portal and Workplace programming model and public APIs. He has worked in the IBM Böblingen Development Laboratory since 1998.

JSR 294, Improved Modularity Support in the Java Programming Language was declared the Most Innovative JSR for Java SE/EE. It uses a "module" unit to organize large programs. A module encapsulates multiple packages and allows sharing within its boundary. Danny Coward accepted the award on behalf of Spec Lead Alex Buckley. Alex is Sun's Computational Theologist, responsible for maintaining the moral and technical integrity of the Java language.

"JSR 294 affects everybody because it affects the call language and the call virtual machine. Frankly, it deserves a lot of attention," Alex said in a later conversation. He kept group discussions open through a world-readable mailing list, and as a result, JSR 294 has gotten significant feedback, which helped "shape the JSR in a way that is being extremely received." Alex was pleased that JSR 294 was one of the elite three nominees for the award. "Now we know what success looks like: technical people approving a technical solution." Alex deeply respects the process of the JCP program, saying, "The JCP community has spoken, and it's not right to undo what was decided." He plans to blog and speak at a variety of academic, industrial, and developer conferences to answer frequently asked questions about how the JSR came to be. As lead of the Java language JSRs, Alex is responsible for nine JSRs, all developed within the JCP program.

Java ME Awards
On the Java Micro Edition (ME) side, Star Spec Lead Jaana Majakangas earned the Most Outstanding Spec Lead award for her leadership of JSR 293, Location API 2.0. JSR 293 is an optional package that extends the features of JSR 179, enabling the use of UI components to handle landmarks, geocoding (assigning or retrieving location coordinates), navigation, and display of maps on Java ME devices. At Nokia in Finland, where she has been employed for twelve years, Jaana is a standardization manager in the Devices unit.

Jaana has been a very active member of the JCP program for five years. In addition to JSR 293, she is also the Spec Lead for JSR 257 and is involved in JSRs 271 and 307. She served as an Expert Group member of JSRs 218 and 219. Jaana was surprised that she had earned the community's approval. She says, "It's nice to get recognition for your work. I guess it means I've been doing a good job. I have a really active group and we have active discussions, which might be heard in EC member companies so they know how we are making progress." As for what's next for Jaana, a Proposed Final Draft for JSR 293 is out, Final Approval Ballot is targeted for next month, and JSR 257 will need maintenance or another version.

The Most Innovative JSR for Java Micro Edition (ME) award went to JSR 290, Java Language and XML User Interface Markup Integration, which just passed Public Review. As the Spec Lead for that effort, Jean-Yves Bitterlich, a senior staff engineer for Sun Microsystems, felt "honored" to accept the award on behalf of the Expert Group. Carrying on the work started by Vincent Hardy before he changed employers, Jean-Yves is glad to lead a project that is assembling an essential piece of technology needed to integrate the "very complementing world of browser languages" and the Java Language.

With the JSR 290 API, developers will be able to move into the Web 2.0 paradigm on mobile platforms and create powerful Java ME applications that take advantage of Web UI technologies, including XHTML Basic and SVG Tiny. There have been specific tools for Java developers to use, but now "we are opening up the world of designing interfaces to Web developers, a very large community. JSR 290 allows developers to profit from Web interfaces, while in the controlled and safe harbor of the Java platform," said Jean-Yves. He hopes the specification is final by the end of 2008. Ongoing discussions with operators, manufacturers and vendors shows the high importance of this particular combination of technologies.

Currently, JSR 290 enables the rendering of dynamic Web pages (WICD: e.g. XHTML, SVG, CSS, XHR and JavaScript). As a possible future extension, developers may seed for a duplex communication between the Java and browser worlds.

Suspense Begins Anew
We now know who won the community's awards for 2008, and they are all deserving recipients. But these awards prompt a new cycle of suspense.

Will the ASF continue the fine work that netted the foundation three Member of the Year awards? Will Patrick's arguments for openness and transparency, and more democracy in the program, mobilize the whole community towards change? Will JSR 294 revolutionize the way large Java SE/EE programs are built? Is Stefan's work leading the way to more portlet implementations? Will the JSR 290-enabled marriage of the browser and Java worlds prompt an explosion of Web 2.0 development in the mobile space? When will Jaana's Location API work be implemented on a phone near you?

Exciting times are ahead, and we keep wondering.