This page describes what mediation means, how it should help GNU Classpath and how it is supposed to be used by you.
What is mediation?
If you search the Internet for "mediation" you will find that it means basically conflict resolution and a mediator is someone who coordinates this. However mediation consists of certain tasks that are helpful for Free Software and Open Source projects as well like:
- clarification of issues
- helping people communicating with each other
When I joined GNU Classpath I quickly realized that I have a lot of questions to ask. On the one hand I had purely technical questions (e.g. usage of a certain programs) but on the other hand I had questions that deal with development policies.
At one time I wanted to know how I have to deal with adding support for 1.5 API that does not rely on the new language features. Another day I started a discussion because I hit a clickthrough license and asked the list whether I am allowed to accept it. With every answer to my initial question I gained knowledge. What I am uncomfortable with this situation is, that this knowledge cannot spread easily to other project members, especially to those who joined after these discussions have taken place. This leads me to the goals of the mediation effort.
Realizing that information and knowledge about development in GNU Classpath gets trapped in a few people's minds and is otherwise lost in the wide spaces of diverse communication channels like the discussion mailing list, the primary goal of mediation is to make knowledge easily accessible and recallable to any interested individual and take care that no such knowledge is lost.
This means that the mediator wants all the interesting outcomes of discussions and helpful guides for beginners being collected and summarized at a place where it can be reached with minimal effort. Though he should feel responsible for doing the collecting and summarizing work, no barriers should be imposed on people who want to help herein.
Developers are used to the way they are working. The mediator knows that and therefore adopts a way of working that causes minimal intrusion on the development process of the project's members. The developer is not obliged to work on this Wiki. However by adhering to what the developer usually does, he/she is indirectly helping the mediation effort: With every answer or even question on one of the project's communication channels information and knowledge is spread into the public and can be collected by the mediator.
However it should be said that the mediator encourages and appreciates involvement into the mediation effort but in no way enforces it.
The most noticeable effect of the main goal of the mediation effort is probably this Wiki. It becomes the manifest of equal rights on changes and simple usage. Information is mainly collected from the mailing-list and IRC, summarized and then put into the Wiki.
Another effect is the mediator's dedication to asking questions and drive to have prolific discussions.
Here I describe what is expected as a result of the mediation effort.
Lowering the entry barrier
With a collection of easily maintainable information for developers wanting to help GNU Classpath it is expected that the barrier for getting used to the development process is lowered and more people find the project attractive.
The centralisation of project knowledge should make it easier to find out why stuff works a certain way. In case that a key person is unavailable for some time or leaves the project at all the effect of this loss will be more limited.
Furthermore building new ideas upon previous ones is encouraged when they have been written down once.
As with code ideas and decisions can be checked by numerous people which can comment or discuss them. This will certainly lead to a higher quality implementation.
This part describes what mediation for GNU Classpath does for you and how you are supposed to work with it.
The mediation effort tries to be non-intrusive. If you do not need it, you can perfectly avoid it. However in case that you find yourself in a situation where you quickly need help on GNU Classpath development this Wiki is waiting for you. The information that is collected here should be your primary resource, when having questions regarding the inners of GNU Classpath development. It is perfectly OK if you treat this Wiki as a set of static webpages providing helpful information for you.
As a developer you often have to do small decisions on your own. GNU Classpath is a huge effort and its likely that your decisions have effects on other developers. Unfortunately without telling anyone about your decisions, this knowledge is trapped in your brain. This is OK if the effects are trivial or you have provided sufficient documentation. However there are situations where it is better to inform others about your decisions and traditionally developers have announced such things on the discussion mailing list. This is nonetheless a good idea because the mediator will feel responsible to collect the information and will put it in the Wiki. The only problem is that the mediator may not have the same good in-depth knowledge about a certain topic than the developer has. Putting his/her topic in the Wiki and adding as much special knowledge as possible is therefore encouraged.
To make it clear: The mediator itself is just another co-editor. There is no special editorial right attached to the role (Please excuse the mediator's personal page and this page being a slight exception to this rule). When a new topic has been collected and summarized or an existing one was changed fundamentally, an announcement will be send to the mailing list. This makes it possible that affected persons can review what was written, edit it in any case or simply complain if they expected a different view.
Anyone can do the mediator's job but there is no obligation to do it. It is just a question of dedication to the goals of mediation. One of the characteristics of Free software development is that contributors can freely choose on what they want to spend time. The mediator has simply chosen to work partly on information management.
In fact the mediator regards anyone doing development on GNU Classpath, asking or answering questions on the mailing list/IRC as a helpful contributor.