Friday, December 10, 2010

Oracle vs. Apache Software Foundation: Absence of Malice (Take 2)

The resignation of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) from the Executive Committee of the Java Community Process (JCP) is giving me a strong feeling of Déjà vu. Oh wait, I know why that is. It is bringing up the same feelings I had when I wrote this earlier blog post about the Oracle lawsuit against Google.

The same scene from the movie Absence of Malice still comes to mind for me. It perfectly captures my sentiments regarding the ASF's resignation from the JCP Executive Committee. The segment I am referring to starts at the 6:16 mark of this YouTube Video.
"Everyone in the room is smart, everybody is just doing their job, and Oracle's reputation as the steward of Java is dead. Who do I see about that?"
The response in the movie pretty much sums up where we are now:
"Ain't nobody to see. I wish there was. You're excused now sir."
My problem is that I don't want to be excused. As one of a select group of Java Champions, I want to stick around. However, I am finding it increasingly difficult to support Oracle as the new steward of Java. In fact, I can state without reservations that I do *NOT* support Oracle's recent actions that led to the ASF's complete withdrawal from the JCP.

My quandary now is what to do about that. Is it better to continue on as a Java Champion and be engaged with Oracle about my concerns with their stewardship of Java? Or is it time to submit my own resignation from the Java Champions community? I can say one thing publicly. The private discussions amongst my fellow Java Champions and our Oracle liaisons brings another movie to mind, Twelve Angry Men. Just like the scenes in that jury deliberation room, there has been a lot of unpleasant discourse about what is happening amongst us in private. I'm at the point that I feel like this one juror does at the 1 minute mark in the movie trailer for Twelve Angry Men.

I doubt that anything can be done to persuade Oracle to change course at this point. I only know that doing nothing about it is not an option for me personally. I am going to ask my fellow Java Champions to join me in endorsing a public statement in support of the ASF's recent decision to withdraw from the JCP (and denouncing the JCP decision not to honor the licensing commitments made to the ASF). If I am unable to get a critical mass of my fellow Java Champions to do so, then it may well be time for me to excuse myself. I hope it doesn't come to that though.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Most Amazing Thing To Me

Some people would say it is pretty amazing all the volunteer community work I managed to do over the years with Java User Groups (JUG), Google Technology User Groups (GTUG), and Community Leadership Summits while still holding down a full time job as a web developer in Silicon Valley. The most amazing thing to me is that I will start getting paid to do community work as part of the Google Developer Relations Team on December 13, 2010. Or as Steve Martin would say, "the most amazing thing to me is ... I ... get ... paid ... for doing ... this."

I have the dot com bubble burst to thank for getting me started in my developer community efforts. When I escaped the imploding Silicon Valley startup world for a safe haven at VeriSign in 2002, I started the Silicon Valley Web JUG in early 2003 to scratch my own itch simply because I missed hanging out with other Java developers. I had no idea it would lead to me being part of a Global Community of JUG Leaders or that I would be the one creating our JUG Community Map or that I would eventually be selected by my peers to be a Java Champion. Of course, none of that would have happened without the support of Aaron Houston during his tenure supporting the JUGs at Sun or without Kevin Nilson coming on board as my JUG Co-Leader when I was on the verge of volunteer burn out.

I have Chris Schalk to thank for prodding Kevin and me to start the Silicon Valley GTUG. When we held our first GTUG meeting in January of 2008, we had no idea that three years later ours would be the longest running GTUG with 2400+ members. It has been wonderful to see the explosive growth recently in the number of local GTUGs all over the world. Stephanie Liu has done an amazing job supporting the GTUGs over the past two years. I am so looking forward to working with her to keep the GTUG momentum going strong.

Finally, I have Jono Bacon to thank for organizing the first Community Leadership Summit (CLS) in the summer of 2009 and Marsee Henon for putting the bug in my ear to organize the first CLS West in January of 2010. It was my involvement in the main CLS and subsequently in CLS West that made me realize it was time to make the move from software development to working with developer communities for my day job. If you get a natural high from hanging out with other community leaders like I do, then come party with me at our second annual CLS West gathering on January 15th, 2011.

That's All Folks!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

JavaOne 2011: The Middle Way Approach

The Middle Way Approach is proposed to peacefully resolve the issues with JavaOne and to bring about stability and co-existence between JavaOne and Oracle OpenWorld based on equality and mutual co-operation. It is inspired by the Dalai Lama's Middle Way Approach for resolving the issue of Tibet. Obviously, our issues with the co-location of JavaOne and Oracle OpenWorld are trivial compared to the issue of Tibet. That in itself will hopefully bring some lightness to dealing with the JavaOne logistical issues. In the grand scheme of things, it is truly not all that significant. Having said that, it still matters a great deal to those of us in the Java development community.

I much prefer a middle way approach rather than the nuclear option (i.e., the community starting their own "J2" conference). The problem as I see it though is the sheer size of Oracle OpenWorld makes it very difficult for JavaOne to co-exist with that event. I do accept the practical necessity to have them in close proximity. However, the use of adjacent hotels for the JavaOne 2010 sessions was a logistical nightmare and dismal failure this year. Since holding a separate JavaOne conference at a different time is a non-starter in discussions with Oracle, I propose here some slight modifications to the current organization of the combined events that I believe would significantly improve the situation.

Instead of relegating all the developer sessions to the hotels, the primary goal of this proposal is to move the developer sessions back to Moscone. The way I propose accomplishing this is by having the JavaOne developer sessions start one day earlier on Saturday and the OpenWorld sessions shift their start/end dates by one day. The old format was:
  • User Group Sunday
  • Oracle Open World/JavaOne on Monday-Thursday
The new format would be:
  • JavaOne on Saturday-Sunday
  • User Group Monday
  • Oracle OpenWorld on Tuesday-Friday
You might be wondering what this really buys us. It would allow JavaOne to move back to Moscone. There will be no competition with OpenWorld during the weekend. So, we can have the technical sessions like in past years in the meeting rooms at Moscone. I also envision a few Java talks of crossover interest being held on the overlapping Tuesday of the two events. Since it will only be a few talks of crossover interest on Tuesday, they can be fit into the overlapped schedule at Moscone on Tuesday. In my personal opinion, being back in Moscone for two full days would be better than the current situation being in the separate hotels for 4 days. Plus, it does retain an overlap between the two events that is important for some of us. With respect to the big appreciation event/party on Wednesday night, that could be a separate additional option you can choose to buy (or not) when you register for JavaOne.

By the way, this would allow Oracle Develop and a new MySQL conference to also move back to Moscone for the weekend. There is plenty of room at Moscone to co-locate all three developer focused conferences. They could follow the same overlapping schedule as JavaOne. I truly believe this is a middle way approach that could work. My biggest logistical fear is that it is already too late to change the Moscone reservation for next year's event to include the additional days required to do this.

As an aside, a JavaOne pass could have the same benefits as the Discover Pass this year did for OpenWorld. That way, JavaOne attendees that choose to hang around could still network with the OpenWorld attendees later in the week.

Namasté, Van

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oracle Lawsuit: Silicon Valley Web JUG Poll

In this unscientific poll of Silicon Valley Web JUG members, we had roughly 14% of the JUG members (171/1202) participate in the poll. The one poll question was in regards to Oracles current Java patent lawsuit against Google. And the answers were:
  • Strongly Support Oracle (2)
  • Support Oracle (4)
  • Don't Really Care (5)
  • Support Google (31)
  • Strongly Support Google (129)
The poll was open for JUG members only for one week. I have now closed the poll in order to publish the results. In the pie chart below, the For slice represents the total of all the votes in support of Oracle in this lawsuit. The Against slice represent are total of all the votes in support of Google. The Neutral slice represents all the votes from people that don't really care one way or the other about this issue. Click on the chart below to be taken to the raw poll data.

Oracle Lawsuit Poll
Just to be clear, I realize the opinions of our JUG members have no bearing on the legal action. However, I think it is still useful information. It supports my earlier claims that regardless of whether Oracle is in the right here (not clear at this point), they are paying a heavy price in the public perception arena for their first major action as the new steward of Java.

If their own die hard Java fans like me are not happy about this action, one can only imagine what others that already have a negative opinion of Java make of the current situation. There are two things though that Oracle could do independent of the lawsuit that would immediately dramatically improve their standing with Java enthusiasts such as myself. They simply need to reintroduce and follow through on these two earlier JCP resolutions (which Oracle voted in favor of when Sun was the steward of Java) and truly open source Java as has long been promised.

That's All Folks!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oracle vs. Google: Absence of Malice

There is a scene from the movie Absence of Malice, that perfectly captures my sentiments regarding Oracle's complaint against Google for Java patent infringement. The segment I am referring to starts at the 6:16 mark of this YouTube Video.
"Everyone in the room is smart, everybody is just doing their job, and Oracle's reputation as the steward of Java is dead. Who do I see about that?"
The response in the movie pretty much sums up where we are now:
"Ain't nobody to see. I wish there was. You're excused now sir."
My problem is that I don't want to be excused. As one of a select group of Java Champions, I want to stick around. However, I am finding it increasingly difficult to support Oracle as the new steward of Java. There need to be some dramatic changes in the landscape soon or I will take that offer to be excused and withdraw from the Java Champions program.

Monday, July 19, 2010

To call it a Camp or NOT to call it a Camp, That is the Question

At the recent Community Leadership Summit in Portland, Dave Nielsen proposed that regional unconferences be called Community Leadership Camps rather than Community Leadership Summits. The rationale being that the unconference format we use is closely aligned with the "Camp" brand (FooCamp, BarCamp, CloudCamp, etc...). In practice, I don't think people would spell it all out. So, we are really talking about the term CLCamp. This would then lead to qualification of the regional events by geography appended to that. At least, that is how it tends to work for the other branded camps. In our case, that would mean CLCamp West.

My first reaction was a very strong one against this proposal. However, I have since realized that Dave's proposal only pertains to the unconference events and not all the other activities associated with the existing CLS West brand: Ignites, First Fridays, Special Events, etc...

You see, CLS West is not just an unconference. CLS West is a "community" of community leaders here in the bay area that come together in many different ways. This led to the realization that CLS West needs to live on as the umbrella entity associated with our Ignite events, our First Friday dinner gatherings, and special events like the CLS West Karaoke Holiday Party in the works for December of 2010. =)

So, what we are really talking about is the event name for our next unconference gathering here in the bay area. Regardless of the name, the sponsoring entity/organization will be CLS West. With that in mind, the possibilities that I see for the event name are:
  • CLS West

  • CLSCamp West

  • CLCamp West
Personally, I don't have a strong need to associate our unconference event with the "Camp" brand. I believe the advantages of that association are outweighed by the weakening of the association with the "CLS" brand. Which is why my first choice would be to leave it alone and have our main event simply use our umbrella title of CLS West. However, I could live with incorporating the "Camp" brand into the name as long as the "CLS" brand is kept intact. This means I would be okay with CLSCamp West.

What I am strongly opposed to is calling it a CLCamp. This completely removes the "CLS" brand association. For me, the "CLS" brand represents the concept of bringing community builders together in a vendor-neutral environment. It just so happens that the first ever CLS event was an unconference. Through the activities of CLS West over the past 6 months, we have demonstrated that the "CLS" brand as described here can be effectively applied to other event formats too.

So, now you know my opinions on the matter. Although I spearheaded the formation of CLS West and continue to take a leadership role in the community, I realize that I am here to serve the community. The best way to serve the community in this situation is to solicit your input into the final decision. To that end, I have created this simple online poll where everyone that is a member of CLS West can vote and be counted. We will implement the community's decision whatever it may be.

That's All Folks!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Global GTUG Campout: Aug 13-15, 2010


GTUG Campout is an annual weekend-long event where Google Technology User Group members have an opportunity to design, develop, and demo a complete application over the course of three days. This year, the theme will be HTML5. The event kicks off on Friday, August 13th, where ideas and teams will come together. Teams will then have the rest of the weekend to build their HTML5 applications before presenting their work to the public on Sunday evening.

Since Meetup Everywhere only allows for one organizer per location, anyone unable to sign up on Meetup Everywhere as an organizer that would like to help can also contact me at this address:

van [at] gtugs [dot] org

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Regional Community Leadership Summit Day: January 15, 2011


As I announced in my Ignite Google I/O talk last month, we are making plans for a Regional Community Leadership Summit Day on January 15th, 2011. If you would like to participate in a regional CLSummit, you can click on the map above and it will take you to our CLSummit Meetup Everywhere page. There, you can register your interest to participate in a CLSummit event in your own area next January. If you would actually like to help organize the CLSummit event in your area, you can indicate that also.

Later this summer, we will be creating a Regional CLSummit Organizer mailing list. We will use that list to coordinate plans for the various regional events planned for next January. Since Meetup Everywhere only allows for one organizer per location, anyone unable to sign up on Meetup Everywhere as an organizer that would like to help can also contact us at this address:

info [at] clswest [dot] us

Regional CLSummit Day will be a major topic of discussion at the International CLSummit coming up on July 17-18 in Portland. There are quite a few community leaders already registered for the event this summer. There is still time for you to register and join us at the second incarnation of the International Community Leadership Summit.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

National Dance Day: July 31, 2010


Okay. I will admit it. I love to dance. When my daughter was little, we would watch Soul Train together and copy the moves in our living room. I may not be a great dancer myself, but, we had a lot of fun with it. To this day, I love to watch good dancing. Yes, there was some good dancing on Soul Train. :-)

Which is why I am a big fan of So You Think You Can Dance. It may be yet another reality show, but, there is no question that the contestants each season are talented young dancers. Seeing them work with professional choreographers in many different dance styles each week is a joy to watch for anyone that loves to dance.

I'm not coming out of the closet with my Soul Train dance moves at this moment in time for no reason. I want to promote the National Dance Day just announced on So You Think You Can Dance last night. It is sponsored by the Dizzy Feet Foundation whose mission is to help underprivileged young people realize their dream of becoming professional dancers and to support, improve, and increase access to dance education in the United States.

Getting down to business, this YouTube Video put together by professional choreographers, Tabitha and Napolean, breaks the National Dance Day dance down into 8 sections that anyone can use to learn this dance. Here are links that will take you directly to each section of the choreography training in the video:
I was just thinking that it is too bad that the Dizzy Feet Foundation doesn't have a good way to mobilize people to meetup and dance this routine on National Dance Day. Lucky for them, I just learned about the new Meetup Everywhere free service at a Community Leadership Summit West event. I'd be happy to offer my services for free to the Dizzy Feet Foundation to help them take advantage of Meetup Everywhere for this purpose. I sincerely hope they take me up on that offer.

Thanks for coming by. I hope you learn the routine and I hope you participate in National Dance Day on July 31, 2010.

Posted via email from Confessions of a Serial Community Organizer

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

JUG-USA is calling all JUGs in the United States

Okay. It was fun last year when JUG-USA in our inaugural year won a Special Meeting with James Gosling during JavaOne. The meeting is awarded to the Java User Group (JUG) with the most members attending JavaOne each year. With James Gosling departing Oracle earlier this year, it was also a historic meeting because it was the last time James would hold one of these winning JUG meetings at a JavaOne. Sigh!

Now that the Oracle/Sun merger dust is settling, we are learning how Oracle would like to engage the JUGs community. It turns out that umbrella organizations like JUG-USA are exactly what the Oracle user group support programs are optimized to deal with. As a result, it is now time to move forward and hold elections for JUG-USA officers ASAP. Once we have elected officers, they can move forward to establish JUG-USA as a legal entity.

To this end, I'm asking each JUG in the United States that would like to be affiliated with JUG-USA to do one thing right away. I need at least one and preferably two liaisons designated for each JUG-USA affiliated JUG and I need these liaisons to join this JUG-USA Meetup Group. We will be using the mailing list of the meetup group to formalize plans for officer elections. The goal being to have elected officers in place prior to JavaOne which starts on September 19, 2010. That way, our officers can meet with the folks at Oracle that support user groups during JavaOne.

Posted via email from Confessions of a Serial Community Organizer

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Scratching My Own Itch

As a teaser for my Ignite Google I/O talk, one of my 20 slides will be about how I started the Silicon Valley Web JUG back in 2003 to scratch my own itch. One year earlier, I had left the imploding startup world of Silicon Valley for a safe haven at VeriSign. On the plus side, I managed to navigate the dot com bust largely unscathed. On the negative side, I went from doing exciting web applications in Java to working on enterprise security administration web applications implemented with CGI scripts in C and C++. I eventually led the migration at VeriSign to Java/Struts/Spring/SiteMesh/WebTest for the projects I was working on. Before that though, I started the Silicon Valley Web JUG (initially known as the BayCHI Java Web Developer BOF) to keep my sanity.

To hear more of my confessions regarding my serial community organizing, you will have to come to my talk at Google I/O on Wednesday, May 19th, at 4:15pm. For those of you not attending I/O, it sucks to be you. Seriously, I will post a link to the video of the talk as soon as it is made available after the conference.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bay Area JUG Roundup on May 12, 2010


First of all, I want to point out that the "J" in JUG stands for "JVM Language" rather than "Java" these days. This event is for developer user groups focused on any of the plethora of programming languages now supported on the JVM. Having said that, we have pretty much every "Java" user group in the bay area participating in this event already. The capacity of the Oracle Conference Center in Redwood City is 450 and there is no reason we can not fill it to capacity on May 12th. Please help us to make this the biggest JUG gathering ever here in the bay area by blogging, tweeting and emailing this out to everyone.

Oracle is fully sponsoring this free event including the dinner and beer that evening. The evening starts with an update on the infrastructure changes being made to the site. Plus, we have 2 passes to JavaOne and 2 Kindles preloaded with O'Reilly ebooks to give away. If that were not enough, we have the Java Posse recording their popular podcast live for us too. While there is still room, you can register here:

For those of you unable to attend in person, the event will also be streamed live that evening by Stephen Chin and the Silicon Valley JavaFX User Group here:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pay It Forward: Free Pass to CM Summit

Since I won't be able to attend the CM Summit in New York City this June, I have decided to take the free pass that @JohnBattelle gave to me and "Pay It Forward." In true conversational marketing manner, I have decided to give it to the person with the best tweet about why I should give it to them during the Chirp Conference. Participation in this giveaway, the announcement of the giveaway winner, and even the transmission of the prize will all be conducted on Twitter. The rules are simple:

  • Contest runs from 6pm PST (start of the Pre-Chirp Party) on April 13 through 6pm PST on April 15th when the Chirp Hack Day ends.
  • To participate in that time window, simply send a tweet referencing @vanriper and @cmsummit along with why you deserve a free ticket to CM Summit in 140 characters or less.
  • The winner will be announced via my twitter feed at approximately 9pm on April 15th. The winner will need to follow me and I'll follow them back on Twitter so that I can direct message to them the CM Summit free pass registration information.

Finally, multiple tweets from the same account are more likely to hurt than help your chances. In fact, repeating the same or similar tweets repeatedly will be grounds for disqualification. I won't be randomly picking one tweet from the twitter search results anyway. So, additional tweets will not improve your odds of winning.

Cheers, @vanriper

P.S. Congratulations to @ConsultantRC (Raul Colon) for winning the free pass to CM Summit.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Confessions of a Serial Community Organizer

Note: What follows is my Ignite talk submission for Google I/O 2010. As such, it is purposely a bit over the top in the way the information is presented. However, the core facts as they pertain to my work as a community organizer are all quite true.

Update: This talk has been selected for inclusion in the Ignite Google I/O Session which is scheduled for 4pm on May 19th, 2010.

It all started benignly enough when my daughter decided to take part in children's theater. At the mandatory meeting for parent volunteers, I offered to setup a Yahoo! Group (Google Groups were just a twinkle in Larry and Sergey's eyes back then) for us and the theater director turned and said to me, "So, I see you're a community organizer." Before long, I was community organizing every chance I could get. There was my 12 year stint with BayCHI organizing numerous Birds-Of-a-Feather groups. They even started calling me Mr. BOF. ;-)

After that, I decided to start a Java User Group (JUG). Of course, that was not good enough for me. I had to go and create a KML Map that rendered nicely in Google Maps and Google Earth that listed JUGs from all over the world. I even made it a global collaboration project with other JUG Leaders contributing to the project drawing more and more people in to my obsession. Eventually, they made me a Java Champion in hopes that it might slow me down. It didn't though. I went on to form an umbrella JUG for the United States, JUG-USA, which crushed all other JUGs in the annual competition for a meeting with James Gosling at JavaOne in 2009. Bwa, Ha, Ha ...

Having conquered the Java Developer Community, I moved on to the virgin developer community territory for Google Technologies. Although they espouse a "do no evil" policy, Google Developer Advocate Chris Schalk succumbed to the allure of my work as a Java Community Organizer and begged me to apply my community black magic to the Google Technology developer community. Thus, the Silicon Valley Google Technology User Group (GTUG) was formed in January of 2008. It has been so successful that it is now the model being used to spawn GTUGs across the globe.

This developer user group community organizing is fun, but, it is just a sliver of the whole pie. I could no longer be satisfied with only that. So, I felt compelled to attend the first Community Leadership Summit in the summer of 2009. That event was like crack cocaine for someone like me. I was surrounded by a sea of community organizers coming from an incredibly diverse set of communities. I couldn't wait another year for my next fix. I just HAD to organize a West Coast Community Leadership Summit (CLS West) in January of 2010 even if it killed me (side note: it almost did kill me). Not only that, I decided to jump in the Ignite Gurus Pool in the same 6 month timeframe launching the first Ignite CLS West that January too.

Where this story ends is not clear. All I know is that I am counting the days until my next fix at CLS 2010 in Portland this summer. Did I mention that I've been invited to help organize it? I'm no longer just a community organizer. I am now an organizer of community organizers. Bwa, Ha, Ha ...

To get serious for a moment, I do have a takeaway message I plan to "sneak" into my story line. I know I/O is a technical conference and as developers we want to absorb as much information as possible. This can cause people to spend all their time in the technical sessions and very little time networking with other attendees. Since all the talks will be recorded, I want to encourage attendees to take the time to get to know somebody new or get to know better someone they already know. In my community work, I find the personal relationships that can be forged through quality face time with others in my community to be incredibly valuable.

People often ask me how I can put so much effort into my community work. What they don't realize is that I get much more in return from it in terms of the friends I have made in the process. For me, it is a no brainer. In the end, it is always about the people you have touched and those that have touched you even for a geek like me.

Posted via email from Confessions of a Serial Community Organizer

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree

It all started benignly enough when my daughter decided to take part in children's theater. At the mandatory meeting for parent volunteers, I offered to setup a Yahoo! Group (Google Groups were just a twinkle in Larry and Sergey's eyes back then) for us and the theater director turned and said to me, "So, I see you're a community organizer." Before long, I was community organizing every chance I could get: BayCHI, BayDUX, Java User Groups, Java Champions, JUG-USA, Google Technology User Groups, Ignites, Community Leadership Summits, ...

Truth be told, the origins of my obsession with community organizing can be traced back to my early childhood. As they say, the apple never falls far from the tree. It should come as no surprise that my father was also a serial community organizer. Shirleigh Van Riper was a community organizer in both local sports and local politics. He served in various elected capacities for over 25 years including a 10 year stint as Mayor of Onalaska. When not at council meetings, he was on the sports field coaching kids in football and baseball. There were always kids from his sports teams hanging out at our home. On New Year's Day, he would cook a huge batch of chili and all the kids would hang out at our place and watch football games on TV. When he finally retired from politics and coaching, there was a new park being built in town. In honor of his contributions to the community, the park was named Van Riper Park.

So, you might be thinking that "Shirleigh" is an unusual name for a man. It surely was particularly in the rural part of Wisconsin where we come from. He never went by that name. When he was a kid, everyone called him Spanky. Always the community organizer, he was the leader of his gang of friends growing up just like Spanky was the leader of The Little Rascals. When he was older, everyone started calling him Van. After his premature death due to a heart attack in 1994, I started asking people to call me Van too in remembrance of him.

The apple never falls far from the tree.