Oracle’s Java technical chief recently admitted that dealing with long standing security issues has hampered the release of the latest Java instalment. The issues didn’t necessarily originate with Oracle, they’ll have been accumulating over many years, first at Sun and then at Oracle. The problem has been that until now these issues have been on a continual back burner, the “tyranny of the urgent” focussing developer attention onto business considerations as the priority.
Dealing with this technical debt is clearly a time consuming affair, but eventually it catches up with a project and needs to be handled. Some long lived projects don’t seem to gather this sort of flotsam though; the key is in the community. Proprietary projects are often forced to be solely feature focussed, but open projects with a healthy community are in a much better position to bypass the problem of technical debt, as community members will often pour enthusiasm and expertise into resolving the backlog. Continue reading