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Sun open source project governance

Here's a sampling of governance docs from some of Sun's many open source projects. I've listed them in order of what I feel to be, the most progressive (i.e. community governance) to least progressive (i.e. corporate control). I've also listed a key quote from each doc and made a brief comment about each.

  • OpenSolaris governance: "The OpenSolaris Community has the authority and responsibility for all decisions" - seems to approach ASF style governance.

  • OpenJDK interim governance: "The [board] shall be comprised of [5 and ] shall conduct its affairs in accordance with democratic principles and shall represent the interests of the Community. Two [members] shall be employees of Sun" - not final, but looking good.

  • Netbeans governance: "In the case of an irresolvable dispute, there is a governance board of three people, who are appointed for six month terms." (2 appointed by community, 1 by Sun)." - sounds pretty good, but the doc seems a little vague.

  • SunGrid governance: "The Board positions include the Community Leader, the Community Site Manager, and four general members, two Sun members and from the independent developer Community." - sounds good, again doc seems a little vague.

  • Glassfish governance: "The GlassFish project has an overall Project Lead ... appointed by Sun" - Sun has final say.

  • OpenSSO governance (draft): "Project Managers make the final decision ... are appointed by Sun" - Sun has final say.

  • OpenDS governance: The OpenDS project has single, overall Project Lead [who is] appointed by Sun Microsystems." - Sun has final say.

  • Mobile and embedded: "Sun may change its appointed Governance Board members at any time" - Sun has final say.

Looks to me like the trend is towards community governance and the most important projects are the ones getting the most attention and the most progressive governance. That's good and I sincerely hope the trend continues.


I don't know if I'd call the OpenSolaris model very progressive - I just spent half a day reading through their mailing lists, and formed the opinion that people who like building bureaucracies more than developing software had had a free rein to create red tape and subcommittees, and were very much impeding any real work being done. I wouldn't call that kind of a thing a community - maybe a bureaucommunity?

Posted by Mikael Gueck on December 01, 2007 at 06:34 PM EST #

I can understand your point-of-view and I've seen the same feelings expressed on the OpenSolaris mailing lists. But I do think good governance, call it what you will, is extremely important for open source communities, especially big ones like OpenSolaris. It's hard enough to get folks to join and contribute. If there's not a level playing field, I think it's just about impossible. It's definitely a balancing act, because if the bureaucracy is too heavy that drives folks away too.

- Dave

Posted by Dave Johnson on December 01, 2007 at 07:04 PM EST #

The GlassFish Community is setting up a Governance Board (see [1] ) to help evolve the Governance we use in our projects. All the Sun-led communities are pretty young; I think most of their Governances are in one stage or other of transition.

IMO, Governances (in nations and elsewhere) are an exercise in tradeoffs; different goals lead to different governances. So, I think that the questions to ask are, first, "what are our goals", and then "what governances will help acheive those goals".

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on December 01, 2007 at 08:07 PM EST #

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