Devoxx UK 2013

Last week was the first Devoxx UK, bringing the brand from Belgium and, more recently, France. And I think it was a HUGE success.

Of course, disclaimers first - I was on the programme committee, so I might say that the whole thing was awesome. Although in all honesty, even being slightly involved in the organisation of a conference is a lot of work, and you can't wait to see the back of it (and I didn't do half as much as some people). Note to self - never speak at a conference you're on the programme committee for, it's too much work.

As a speaker and attendee though, Devoxx was really brilliant - great speakers, interesting content, awesome friendly atmosphere, good venue, parties with free drink and good opportunities to speak to people. There were downsides: limited coffee availability, no free croissants, um... I'm really struggling to think of anything else, and none of those are show-stoppers (especially when the venue is in Islington, so you can step outside and get whatever you want).

All throughout the run up to the conference we kept hearing it was a conference "for developers, by developers" until I was nearly sick of it. But it was a mantra that kept us on track when we were deciding on content, and it really came through on the two days of the conference. Pretty much everyone on stage was, or had been, a developer, the talks were a good balance between "useful" stuff for our day jobs and "interesting" stuff for techies <insert joke about some being "useful" and "interesting">. The future track excited us with things like hacking on the Raspberry Pi, and the rest of the conference had a good mix of Java SE, EE, methodology and Other Stuff.

For me, the highlights were:

  • Kevlin Henney's keynote, reminding us that Developers Are Human. Who knew?
  • Sandro Mancuso's walkthrough of OO principals, and how they apply to us in our actual day jobs. Sandro did a good job of taking quite a dry topic, that many of us dozed through at university, and showing us why we already use these principals and how understanding them will make us better programmers.
  • Mazz Mosley had an entertaining talk about the Dark Side of Agile, walking us through the agile practices in The Government and highlighting many of the unanswered questions that teams have after switching to agile.
  • Colin Vipurs's talked about Test Driven Development from the trenches - he managed to give a good intro for those who might not have done it in practice, but for those who may have been doing it for a while, this a) was a good reminder of good practice and b) gave a good insight into why we do it. On top of that, he had solid advice on how to write better tests, that we could all take home with us.
  • Martin Thompson gave the talk I was attempting to give at JAX London last year - what is performance and how do we achieve high performance in Java? Where I failed, Martin really rocked it. I'll be leaving that to the professionals.
  • It would be rude of me not to mention this point - what a diverse conference! We had developers of all shapes and sizes, from the suits to the mohawks, of all colours, and (by technical conference standards) lots of women. Watch the video below and I think you can see it. I was so proud to have been a part of it.
  • ...and meeting everyone. What an awesome conference for networking! Of course, there was a large number of London Java Community people there (speaking, volunteering, and attending), and quite a few familiar faces from Devoxx Antwerp - it was brilliant to see them in London. But I was also very pleased to run into people I've worked with in the past, some I haven't see for ages, and some I still see regularly. And I met dozens of new, interesting people - you guys really made the conference for me.

I was giving my new presentation, What Do You Mean, Backwards Compatibility?. In this talk I share some of the experiences I've had in helping to develop the new MongoDB Java driver. This is not really a MongoDB talk, although there are some examples from the new driver, it's more a talk about design, and how we as developers make design decisions every day, something I don't think we recognise very much. I am hoping to give this presentation a number of times this year, so if you missed it there will be another opportunity to see it.

As usual, my take-away theme from a conference is probably influenced by the sessions I attended, so is as much a function of what I think is important right now as it is an indication of what themes are emerging in the industry. But I came away from Devoxx feeling like there's a desire to focus on the basics - the OO principals that have been around for years; the good design practices that have been written about many times; and, most of all, a reminder that developers have a difficult job - we don't simply turn requirements into code, we are constantly doing tricky stuff like system design, and even trickier stuff like working with other people.

I loved Devoxx UK, and I wasn't alone in feeling a bit empty when it was all over. To re-live a tiny amount of the event, or get a good feel of what it was like, watch this video by the awesome Roy van Rijn.

Devoxx 2013 from Roy van Rijn on Vimeo.

The talks are available on YouTube. If you watch nothing else, watch Kevlin's keynote.


  • 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.