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Star Spec Lead Profiles

The Java Community Process (JCP) program applauds the community's Star Spec Leads. These leaders earned this honor through their efficient, prompt, and transparent communication with their Expert Group, the Program Management Office (PMO), and the Executive Committee (EC). They used community web pages, observer aliases, and other tools to communicate with their expert group, the JCP program community, and the public. They kept their Java Specification Requests (JSRs) on schedule by making sure their team stayed focused and felt appreciated. The JCP program congratulates and honors these Star Spec Leads.

Ed Burns
Who would guess that the classic game, Tunnels of Doom (ToD), running on an early eighties TI-99/4A computer would be the technology that propelled Ed Burns into a high tech career? For whatever reason, that interest pushed his techie button, and by 1995, he had earned a bachelor's in Computer Science with a minor in Germanic Studies and an emphasis on computer music through a co-op program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The rich research opportunities afforded undergraduates at UIUC gave Ed the chance to work at IBM, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and on student projects with the local Association for Computing and Machinery (ACM) chapter.

These experiences, including programming in Objective-C on the NeXT computers in the computer music lab, put Ed in a good position to take advantage of the marvelous dot-com boom. After a brief stint at Silicon Graphics, in 1997 he landed at Sun Microsystems, where he joined Jonathan Schwartz's Lighthouse Design group, which had just been acquired by Sun. "The Lighthouse team was really fired up about bringing the common sense software design of NeXTSTEP to the Java Platform," he says, and their enthusiasm was contagious.

Current Projects

Currently a senior staff engineer at Sun, Ed has influenced a variety of Java Standard Edition and Java Enterprise Edition projects in roles ranging from individual contributor to team leader to architect. On the front end, he worked on applications such as a Java port of Lighthouse's popular Quantrix multi-dimensional spreadsheet and the Mozilla Java Plugin hosting code. On the server side, he has worked on JavaServer Pages (JSP) and JavaServer Pages Standard Tag Library (JSTL), but his primary focus has been on JavaServer Faces (JSF) technology. In a nutshell, JSF is a standard framework that paves the way to make user interfaces for web applications easier by gathering reusable components in a page.

Ed got involved with the JCP program when he became co-Spec Lead of JSR 127, JavaServer Faces at the beginning of the JSF development lifecycle in 2002, and he continued in that role with JSR 252, JavaServer Faces 1.2, and JSR 314, JavaServer Faces 2.0. He has also served as an Expert for:
  • JSR 154, Java Servlet 2.4 Specification
  • JSR 245, JavaServer Pages 2.1
  • JSR 273, Design-Time API for JavaBeans JBDT
  • JSR 276, Design-Time Metadata for JavaServer Faces Components
  • JSR 303, Bean Validation

Transparent Communication through New and Old Methods

Pushing the envelope is second nature to Ed, and he has always sought to operate his Expert Groups as transparently as possible. However, his vision of transparency may be unique among JCP members. He says, "I would measure transparency by taking the pulse of the developers who are using Java and the community members who are making IT investment decisions based on Java. I?d ask them how well they feel their ideas are represented in the actual work product that comes out of JCP program."

Ed actively polls the community through numerous speaking engagements at conferences and Java User Groups (JUGs) and also through the online JSF chatroom. ?When people out there suggest things, even small things like adding an variable attribute to a JSF tag, if we can point to where it has been implemented and leave that individual with the feeling of ?Wow, I?ve made a difference,?? then that is transparency to me. I?m happy to say that when I engage the JSF community, I get a strong feeling that they do feel listened to.? In a practical sense, the ultimate payoff for that effort is twofold: increased adoption of the technology and a decreased lag time between final release and implementation. As a bonus, Ed feels a tremendous personal gratification in giving the community a real voices satisfaction in the evolution of the Java Platform.

With new tools and innovations, Ed?s Expert Group continues to explore new possibilities for communicating with the public, including hanging out daily in the JSF chat room, issuing Twitter tweets, announcing updates from on, screencasting demos of the software, maintaining a Linked In page, bookmarking useful websites through delicious, and keeping an eye on the accuracy of the Wikipedia entry.

Although email remains an essential element of Expert Group communication, Ed says, "Plain old email is a terrible tool for distributed collaborative workgroups." As an alternative, the JSF Expert Group uses project infrastructure, both for private communications within the group and for public feedback. All the issues addressed by the Expert Group are tracked in the public issue tracker. These issues are fed into a Gantt chart tool at Sun, called Enact, so that the Spec Lead can share the charts with the Expert Group as development progresses. Ed recently opened his JSR 314 Expert Group email list to the public. Public subscribers are read-only by default, but at the list owner?s discretion, anyone can gain the same read-write privilege that Expert Group members have.

Productively Engaged Free Time

From Altamonte Springs, Florida, where he is married with two young sons, Ed telecommutes to the Application Engines group at Sun's Santa Clara, California, headquarters.

Ed spends a lot of his free time writing. Twin passions -- JSF and enhancing professional processes -- are reflected in his two books: JavaServer Faces: The Complete Reference (2006) and Secrets of the Rockstar Programmers (2008). He also occasionally posts practical articles such as ?Rockstar Tips for Processing E-mail? in the free online articles directory.

Though it takes a back seat to his current effort on a sequel Rockstar book, Ed hasn?'t forgotten his first computing inspiration. On the TI-99/4A webring, Ed hosts a Tunnels of Doom fan page that offers his personal tribute, screen shots, links to interviews with the ToD author and ToD musician, and other resources. He still gets occasional mail from the 18,000+ fans who have viewed the site since 2002.

Go to the Star Spec Lead Program page for more information.
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