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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.

Mark Hornick
Working in Burlington, Massachusetts, Mark Hornick is currently a senior manager in the Data Mining Technologies group at Oracle Corporation, which acquired Mark's former employer, Thinking Machines Corporation, in 1999. Prior to that, at GTE Laboratories, Mark contributed to research on Distributed Object Management, and a Transaction Specification and Management Environment for distributed transaction processing. At that time, Java technology caught Mark's interest, and he took an advanced summer course at Stanford University. "Object-oriented design and development had been a particular interest of mine since grad school, so Java technology was a welcome arrival. Ease of programming, especially with threads, was particularly exciting," he says.
Mark has a master's degree in Computer Science from Brown University, where he was involved in the ObServer Object Database research project, and a bachelor's in Computer Science from Rutgers University.
Upon joining Oracle, Mark embarked on two Java technology development efforts: Oracle Data Mining and Oracle Personalization. He contributed as an architect, application program interface (API) designer, and project manager in these efforts. The development team leveraged Java technology for APIs, as well as a combination of Java technology and Procedural Language/Structured Query Language (PL/SQL) for server-side development in the early releases.
Oracle Data Mining was the seed that grew into the Java Data Mining (JDM) standard, versions 1.0 and 2.0 (JSR 73, JSR 247), which Mark initiated as Spec Lead and began participating in the JCP program mid-2000. Oracle had already been a JCP program member and a big proponent of Java technology, even having a JVM running in the Oracle database. Mark says, "We felt it would be good not only to provide data mining in the database, but to include data mining in the Java language with an explicit standard extension."
Mark recently completed a book on Java Data Mining with two co-authors from the JSR-73 expert group. "This book was a great opportunity to explain the use of JDM in more detail and introduce data mining to Java developers, architects, and analysts," he said.
Within the Expert Group...
The Expert Groups for JSR 73 and JSR 247 generally hold 30-90 minute conference calls on a weekly basis. In addition, interested experts exchange email as needed on subprojects such as the Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) and Reference Implementation (RI). Mark precedes each conference call with an email announcement that summarizes the previous call and lists the agenda for the coming week. Experts are encouraged to develop proposals for features independently and in collaboration with other members.
Mark usually communicates with the Program Management Office (PMO) by sending email to, but he also interacts directly with various members, including Liz, Harold, Corina, and Onno when necessary to get issues resolved or inform the PMO of progress with the JSR.
With JSR 73, from 2000-2003, Mark maintained a separate web server for the Expert Group, where they maintained the Unified Modeling Language (UML) model, proposals, specification drafts, conference call summaries, meeting summaries, and various contact information. In more recent years, this information migrated to since it provided a convenient place to maintain documents, email aliases, and discussion forums, as well as providing tools for managing membership. Two projects were created: one private "javadatamining" for the Expert Group, and one public "datamining" for the greater data mining community.
Maintaining an issues log for the weekly calls helps to ensure that issues raised by the Expert Group, PMO, and Executive Committee don't fall through the cracks. This was especially effective in the year leading up to the final JSR 73 submission, and now the public review submission for JSR 247.
Data Mining is unlike other technologies. It consists of many different algorithms supporting different mining functions. For example, Support Vector Machines and Decision Trees are two algorithms supporting Classification, a technique by which the algorithm learns how to predict an outcome (classify a record) based on historical data. JDM supports several other mining functions including Clustering, Association, Attribute Importance, and Regression. With JDM 2.0, we extended this list with Feature Extraction, Anomaly Detection, and Time Series. Each of these functions and algorithms comes with specific input settings (parameters) and corresponding model representation. Moreover, different vendors support different subsets of algorithms and functions. As such, the standard needs to be extensible, yet consistent. It must enable tailoring, yet allow API users to experience an integrated whole. These complexities mean that many details need to be tracked and brought to satisfactory conclusion.
The Expert Group also included an XML Schema and web services specification during the year leading up to the JSR 73 final release. This helped to point out issues such as consistency or omissions in the Java specification.
The Expert Group has met face-to-face roughly four times per year at different Expert Group member locations. These meetings typically run for two to three days and cover a wide range of topics: current status, project plan, feature proposals, new feature reviews, existing feature reviews, UML model and javadoc review, specification review, and most importantly, design discussions. The host company usually provides a special dinner out for the Expert Group attendees. Meeting locations have included Massachusetts, California, Chicago, Maryland, North Carolina, Colorado, and New Mexico, as well as Paris and Boeblingen, Germany. These meetings are our most productive as members have a significant period of uninterrupted time to focus on the issues at hand.
Forming an effective Team
Leadership and team performance are often made easier with a skilled and motivated team. Mark says, "I was very fortunate to have an excellent set of experts who were enthusiastic about this standard. As Spec Lead, it was important to assimilate input, sometimes conflicting, as well as to provide numerous proposals based on discussions. Team performance was at its best by holding regular conference calls and meetings, and structuring each with a clear agenda. Being able to show steady progress helps keep a team engaged and motivated."
When forming an Expert Group, it's important to draw on individuals with a mix of backgrounds and interests. For JDM, we have had both vendors and users of the technology, industrial practitioners, and academic experts. Such a mix ensures the evolving standard will be able to solve real problems, while at the same time can be implemented.
Mark had a head start on the Star Spec Lead program, having been nominated for "Most Outstanding Spec Lead" in 2004 and again in 2005. Mark says, "I think the Star Spec Lead program is useful in that others can learn how Expert Groups are run and the people behind them. It creates more of a community rather than abstract names on JSR numbers."
Outside of work...
Mark's latest activities include being an assistant soccer coach and Cub Scout den leader. His hobbies include bike riding with his children and digital photography. He enjoys experiencing new cultures and historic sites through international travel. As an undergraduate, Mark studied pipe organ performance, having a preference for classical music and instruments with a lot of controls (stops, pistons, pedals, the more keyboards the better!). Although recital days are past, he still appreciates a good organ concert.
Go to the Star Spec Lead Program page for more information.
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