COMMUNITY: Community Bulletin
Java.net Grows UpBy Justin Kestelyn
New infrastructure embraces the needs of the community.
In this issue, Java.net Program Manager Sonya Barry takes the reins; she gives us a Java.net history lesson and fills us in on what’s coming next.
Java.net: An Introduction
What is Java.net? I get that question a lot. The easy answer is that it’s a Website, but that trivializes the incredible amount of work that gets done by the Java community at Java.net. Java.net leadership has always called it a “community of communities.” It’s a big umbrella of communities that can be subdivided in many different ways—by bloggers, developers, end users looking for open source applications, and educators, to name just a few. These communities can also be divided based on what one wants to build using Java. So essentially, Java.net is an übercommunity that happens to be housed in a Website.
Java.net is broken into two major components: a forge side and a social side. On the forge side, accessible via the Project tab, or by going directly to a project (for example, glassfish.java.net), Java.net offers Java developers a place to host open source projects. This also means that it’s a place for new developers to learn by joining these projects. Java.net has defined, curated communities dedicated to Java tools, robotics, mobile and embedded Java, Java on the desktop, Java user groups, and the Java Development Kit itself.
The news and social side of Java.net (see the home page; People, Forums, Java User Groups, and Communities tabs; and the Blogs link) offers a more social presence. This includes a front page of relevant news, a growing blogging community, and an active message board.
Java.net has been undergoing major changes over the last couple of years—switching sponsorship from Sun to Oracle, switching forge infrastructures, and building a stronger content management system to support the social and editorial side of the site. The need to make these fundamental changes gave the Java.net team a good opportunity to think about how to further refine and improve the site.
Growth, and Growing Pains
When Java.net was originally launched by Sun in 2003, it was mostly a forge with a small editorial presence. The original site was directed by the shared vision of different managing boards to govern the site as a whole, and by very strictly delineated communities, often led by Sun employees. Sun built the infrastructure and assumed people would come.
And they did come. The site grew to host several thousand projects and several hundred thousand registered users—but its infrastructure just wasn’t flexible enough to handle that growth. By the time I joined the Java.net team in 2005 as a graduate student intern, systems that had worked to manage projects and communities when there were a few hundred projects failed spectacularly as the site grew, and more users and traffic made taking the site offline for a few days or weeks to do upgrades more and more difficult. Java.net was definitely becoming a victim of its own success.
At the same time, social communities on the Web were taking off. While Java.net was able to hang new applications on the old infrastructure to support blogging, wikis, and forums, those applications started falling apart under the traffic. At one point, Sun considered killing the site outright rather than trying to fix it. By January 2010, things looked really bleak.
A New Direction
Fortunately Oracle recognized the value of the site and the community. When Oracle took over Java.net, the company immediately committed the time and money needed to fix it. A new, agile infrastructure was put in place that allowed the Java.net team to update the site immediately and grow it to suit the community’s needs.
We made many refinements in the process. Java.net now embraces the raw definition of “community”—a group of people with a common home, interest, or goal. Using new social tools that we’ll be rolling out in the summer of 2011, developers will have the ability to “friend” or “follow” each other. This is a concept we’ve never been able to support on the site. By allowing users to follow conversations and watch tags that come along with blogs and tweets, the site will foster new communities as they bubble up. Java.net can now support new ideas and communities as they arrive, instead of building them out and assuming that people show up. Java.net will also have more-powerful tools for analysis to help showcase the community’s real leaders and reward those leaders with appropriate privileges and access to tools that will make what they’re doing easier.
I’m excited about the coming changes and what they mean to the Java community. Java is a hugely versatile group of technologies, but it wouldn’t be what it is without the people who build and use it every day. The opportunity to move the conversation to the next level is here.