Summary of Devoxx 2012

Devoxx 2012 from Roy van Rijn on Vimeo.

Devoxx topped off a crazy two months of conferences. I've heard people talk about the conference season in the past, and been slightly (OK, very) jealous of all that jet-setting. I'll admit, however, to a slight feeling of relief that my focus until Christmas is pretty much going to be coding. I hope.

Neal Ford's When Geek Leaks

So, how was Devoxx? Well for starters, the calibre of the speakers and talks was excellent. I learnt things in every one I went to - either something I could put into practice at work, or something I could do to improve my own presentations. My favourite was Neal Ford's When Geek Leaks - Neal is a great speaker, and this talk was entertaining and informative. I'm also currently reading his Presentation Patterns book, which is extremely useful. Although obviously I give a bunch of presentations and have found some very handy tips in here, it's dead handy for everyone, even if you're just presenting to your boss or team at work.

The great thing about Devoxx is being able to meet all the European-based people in the Java space. People fight to get to JavaOne, but Devoxx is a lot easier if you're based over this side of the pond. It's also easy to run into people in either the exhibition area (where lunch is served, so everyone ends up there at some point), or the central corridor between the rooms (which everyone has to go through at some point). It was really awesome to have so many people grab me either at the MongoDB booth or when I was sat at the desks in the corridor. I really like that venue for a conference, the only downside is the seats are so comfortable, people fall asleep in the talks. Even in our presentation (how rude).

I have a lot of personal highlights from Devoxx now I'm finally free to think about it:

  • It was fun making a couple of guest appearances in the keynote, firstly as one of Stephen Chin's Nighthacking crew and then to celebrate the London Java Community being re-elected to the Java Community Process Executive Committee (with a massive 33% of the vote!).
  • Another re-run of The Problem With Women. If anything, this went even better than when I ran it at JavaOne. What I really loved about the session is the sheer number of men who turned up. it's tempting to assume they're there to heckle, but in fact their active participation in the subject proves to me that the men in this industry are very much on board with trying to address the gender balance. As always, I have so much more to say on this subject, so I'll make a note to write a separate blog post. In summary, although there are differences in the contributions from the audience in these sessions, there are common themes and a willingness to get involved and Do Something.
  • The exclusive premier of the new Agile++ talk, co-presented with a colleague of mine from LMAX. The aim of this presentation was to talk about where you go when your organisation starts with a great agile grounding - what problems might you face and how do you tackle them. Bit confusing for me giving this talk since I was still in LMAX-mode, and I'm very grateful to 10gen for not only allowing me to present this, but actually promoting it for us as well. I'd love to do this session again, I'd like to work out how to without having a split personality as an LMAX person and a MongoDB person.

    Agile++ with Israel Boza Rodriguez

Not everything can go swimmingly, so I should probably make an apology for giving the Shortest Talk Ever on Wednesday. It was supposed to be a 20 minute talk about the benefits of open sourcing your software, but it ended up being more like a lightning talk. Lessons learned: 1) no matter how much you think you have to say about a subject, having the speaker notes is still very important (to me) and 2) a bit more preparation, updating the talk given my new role, would have been extremely beneficial - as it was, I cut a lot of the content on the fly and had nothing to replace it with. Oh well, you live and learn.

I also had a new experience on Tuesday, being on the MongoDB booth in the exhibition space. This was really educational too:

  • I'm glad I had a week of intensive MongoDB training the week before, I could actually answer all the technical questions thrown at me - yay me! It's true that educating people is a really good way to learn stuff.
  • People are really interested in MongoDB. Many are using it already, but even more are wanting to learn about NoSQL in general, and Mongo specifically. It was really awesome that Stephan gave a massive boost to Mongo's reputation, describing how the central data store for the conference technology was MongoDB running on a Raspberry Pi. You don't get cooler than that. Numerous other speakers gave very positive stories of using MongoDB too, so we had a lot of people stop by the stand to ask us what it was all about.
  • Although I was nervous of being on the stand after Ceri's experiences, I didn't notice anyone doubting my ability as a technical person despite being of the female persuasion I only had one conversation where the (male) developer I was speaking to kept addressing his questions to the (non-technical) (male) sales person instead of me. But that's fine, I just kept answering the questions, and maybe I've made a slight dent on his (clearly subconscious) assumption that women aren't techies. I still think the best way to address problems like this is to keep persevering, keep being visible, and to not let your assumptions about what other people are thinking override your own confidence in your abilities.

And finally...

Robots seem to be cool again, and I, for one, welcome our new automated masters. I was totally blown away by the choreographed dancing robotos on stage as a lead up to the keynote.

I think the only way to top that for Devoxx UK is Robot Dancing Tyrannosaurus Rexes. On caffeine. Destroying Lego cities.


  • Trisha Gee

    Trisha is a software engineer, Java Champion and author. Trisha has developed Java applications for finance, manufacturing and non-profit organisations, and she's a lead developer advocate at Gradle.