In one my rare weekends at home, I found myself on a pottery course (this is the sort of thing that happens when you're a "yes" person).
So, I thought a few months ago that my blog would become more of a travel blog than a tech blog because of the amount of conferences I was going to. Turned out that I was so busy writing / updating / practicing talks and workshops and, er, travelling, that I never got around to doing retrospectives on the events I'd been to.
Saturday I had the pleasure of being part of the 5th London Java Community Open Conference. This is a great event to end the conference season on - it made me feel good about being part of the LJC, and got me excited about the prospects for 2013.
The fantastic thing about an open conference is that a) you don't have to prepare like mad for it and b) the short sessions and wide variety of subjects mean that you learn stuff you didn't expect to.
Given how much I've been presenting lately, and with the conferences piling on top of each other back-to-back leaving little time for preparation, I had decided not to speak at the open conference, but to sit and learn for a change - it's a great opportunity for new speakers to present for a start. But that resolution lasted all of 3.54 milliseconds. After all, if people don't like the sessions I propose, they won't come, so I lose nothing by suggesting some.
Photo by Ged Byrne
First up, it was a very great honour to be giving my very first Keynote. Ben Evans and I presented on the State of Java - a summary of this last year from the point of view of our community and globally, and a view to next year. I know we've had an incredible year as the LJC, it was really satisfying to be able to summarise this for everyone there, to present what we've achieved locally and globally. And looking forward to the future, there's so much more we can do as individuals trying to improve our skills (especially with Java 8 due), as a London-focussed community (with our own events, our sister communities, and with Devoxx UK), and globally (with the JCP and OpenJDK).
Next, I was roped into a Java Performance panel, with the JClarity guys (Ben, Richard and John). I was surprised to see that not many in the audience were working on low latency systems - in London you'll frequently find a room full of Java developers who are all working in finance on things that have specific performance requirements. It was good that we had a this variety of developers, because it meant we covered a much broader range of subjects, and could discuss what to think about and where to get started when you're considering your non-functional requirements.
Immediately after that I was on another panel, with some of the same suspects, talking about the LJC's involvement in the Java Community Process and the Open JDK. I really like these sessions because it's easy for us, who are dealing with these things at least on a weekly basis, to forget that most of our members aren't familiar with either of these two things. What's encouraging though is that after just a short introduction to what they are and how we can impact them, most people want to be involved in some way. The hack days are particularly appealing to developers (not surprising). Although we've had a number of very successful hack days, we still need to work out a way to scale them - how do we attract more people? How do we make the best use of their time? In particular, we need to work out how to cater for people with different timetables (weekends vs evenings vs week days), and how to handle the split between beginners and those who have already been to at least one hack day. I'm excited about what we've achieved so far with the hack days, but I think there's so much more that can be done.
You can't tell from this photo, but there were girls this year
Over lunch there was a series of lightning talks. I really like the way the lightning talks are presented to everyone in the conference. I like the variety of topics, and I like that it's fairly easy for a new speaker to give a 5 minute talk, with as little or as much preparation as they want. The one I remember most was on software for elections from Alex Florescu - I thought that looked like an interesting (and difficult!) business domain, which needs novel solutions in order to get acceptance.
Next up, I gave an intro to NoSQL From Devoxx, it was clear that while a lot of developers have heard of the NoSQL movement, and of databases like MongoDB, it's not clear to them why you'd chose these over traditional databases. Which is a relief to me, because that's exactly where I was three months ago. So this was a really quick (30 minute) overview of the different flavours of NoSQL, what they're good for and why you might pick one over another. Obviously there was a focus on MongoDB, since this is the one I know most about, but I also covered the strengths of some of the others. I really enjoyed giving this session - the audience was perfect for the topic, the questions were intelligent and drove the direction of the discussion, and I had a number of positive comments from people who felt like they had learnt something.
I gave another session which was a recap of the JavaOne and Devoxx Problem with Women talk, but even shorter. The fantastic thing about this was the energy from the people in the room - these guys like what they do and they're keen to tell other people how great it is to work as a developer.
Finally, I managed to actually attend a couple of talks too. Barry led "Why is technical recruitment so broken?", and we had some interesting discussions around the problems employers and developers face, in trying to get the right people into the right roles. Clearly there is no easy solution, and there's definitely a role for recruitment agents of all kinds in this space, but it would be awesome if we stop floundering around in the dark and actually be able to match the right people to the right jobs more easily. In seems to me that there is a huge educational piece here: developers can find resources around how to write their CVs, how to stand out from the crowd, how to network to increase their chances of finding a good job, but they need to know to start looking for these resources. Worse, though, is the problem of the employers - if you're a big company you have a non-technical HR department standing between the team needing a developer and the candidates themselves, and smaller companies don't have the time to invest in the hiring process, or going out and networking to meet people at things like LJC events. It's a tough problem, and one I'm extremely interested in. I'm hoping that the "Attracting Great People" track I'm running at QCon London will look at some of these issues, and give some advice from those who are doing a good job.
The last session was an exploration of all that is wrong with Agile, led by Ged Byrne. It was an interesting discussion, the only disappointing thing about it was that everyone agreed with each other! Certifications Are Meaningless; external Agile coaches and consultants aren't necessarily invested in improving your business; a formal Agile process is really defeating the point; and, most importantly, let's try to remember the original agile manifesto.
In summary, it was a really great day! I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed last year's, for many of the same reasons - we have a fantastic community, it's a great event for meeting people, it's brilliant for encouraging new speakers, and if you are speaking you get much better feedback than you do at the large events, because you can involve your audience directly and give them what they really want. I can't believe how much I personally have achieved since my first solo talk at the LJC Open Conference last year, and I can't wait to see what the next year holds.
(More photos from Andrew Black)
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.
Taylor Street Cafe
I'm going to be controversial. I think this was my favourite conference of this year. I know that's not trendy, and that Oracle-bashing is still a popular pastime. And I know I've also made a big deal about how much fun it is to meet people who program in different languages. But there is something very special about being surrounded by thousands of people from all around the world who use the same technology as you, some facing the same problems, some solving very different issues.
Yesterday dawned, with a sense of foreboding (actually it dawned with me coughing my lungs out, but we've heard enough about the sub-optimal state of my respiratory system this week). On this day, I was giving the talk I was dreading when I got asked to do it. It's the talk I actually put more work into than any of the other sessions I was presenting at this JavaOne. It was the Women In IT talk.
Well this is exciting! JavaOne 2011 is the first conference I spoke at, so this the first time I've covered the same conference two years running. I think.
It's very nice to be back at JavaOne. Last year it was my first opportunity to meet so many people - the guys at Oracle who work really hard to make sure Java has its own identity; the JUG Leaders and Duchess folk; the JCP EC committee members; and loads of people who live and work in the area who I wouldn't normally get a chance to speak to in person.
This year I'm here with several other London Java Community people, and it's great to be a member of the Alumni, to have the privilege of showing other guys around and introducing people to each other. It's nice to run into people I met here for the first time last year, some of whom I've had a chance to see at other events this year.
Today, Sunday, is an interesting day. The focus is on community, so I get to hear what other JUGs are doing, some of their pain points, and learn some of the things they're doing that maybe we should think about.
The day started well, with Jim and Richard de-mystifying the business and technology terminology we're bound to come across at this conference. 8:15am is a really harsh time to have to do your first presentation, but it had a good turnout and was a great way to kick off the conference.
I followed this with a talk about why you would open source your secrets, a short presentation detailing the benefits to your business of opening up parts of your codebase. It went better than expected, given my voice has all but disappeared due to a stupid cold and plane travel and jet lag (and noisy bars). I had contingency plans on how to present via typing or drawing on my iPad, but in the end I managed even despite the microphone not being turned on. Doh.
There were a series of presentations on how to make your JUG successful and how to run Adopt a JSR/OpenJDK programmes in your user group, before Ben and I had to dash off to the public EC meeting. This was not as well-attended as last year, but it meant that I had a chance to talk to all the EC members, and to drink more free champagne than one really ought to in the afternoon.
Next on the packed schedule was a trip to yet another location (seriously, that's 4 different locations just on Sunday) for the keynotes. Note: next time I say "it's not far, let's walk" in San Francisco, hit me with sticks. That's the second time in as many days I've been hit with a vertical distance that was further than the horizontal. At least this time I wasn't wheeling my luggage up the hill like I was on Friday.
The keynotes were definitely better than last year. I really enjoyed how the technical keynote put the shiny new stuff into an everyday context - seeing JavaFX running on all the platforms, including embedded, and seeing lambdas used in anger, was really engaging. In my mind, it's much more likely to get "real" developers using these things. I particularly enjoyed the interplay between Mark Reinhold and Brian Goetz, it's great to see people like that so passionate about what they're doing, it really humanizes them and their projects.
The last trip of the day was back down the hill to one of the many parties scheduled this week. Of course, it's not in every party that you get given an award, so this was particularly sweet - the London Java Community has been honoured with a Duke's Choice Award. This is the first year a community has won a "Dukey", and it's amazing to be part of a group of people who are actively contributing to the language I work with daily, and to be recognised for this. So yes, I was on stage getting an award again. It's addictive.
So, a really great kick off to this year's JavaOne, and I'm back at the apartment well before my coach (well, Uber) turns into a pumpkin and resting my voice in time for my Disruptor presentation tomorrow.
I didn't really have any expectations from the conference, I've never been before and, if I'm honest, hadn't heard of it before. So everything was a pleasant surprise.
It's a very geeky conference. I mean that as a compliment, of course. Lots of very smart people talking about stuff that's waaaay more advanced than you frequently get in the conferences employers would be happy to pay for. The themes I mostly saw were functional programming and the (insert horribly abused term) Big Data space.
Three airports and three hotels in a week, and I don't know whether I'm coming or going. Add to that a mere four hours sleep last night, and this might resemble the ramblings of a mad woman (more than usual that is).
GOTO Amsterdam was a different affair to GOTO Copenhagen, which is not necessarily a bad thing - it's great that the events have their own personalities and aren't cookie cutter versions of the same thing.