Monthly Archives: March 2008

Non-technical sessions at the Java Posse Roundup

I decided to break out my summaries from sessions that I attended at the Java Posse Roundup into technical and non-technical sessions.  Last year, I don't recall going to many non-technical sessions. This year, however, I actually attended several, including:

  • Ten Mistakes Not to Make in a Startup
  • Hiring and Retaining Technical Talent
  • Creating a New Company Structure for Programmers
  • Organizing Community Based Conferences
  • Networking for Geeks

I enjoyed each of these sessions and learned something in each as well.  I hope that others blog about them as well, because I will confess to enjoying myself too much to take good notes in most of them!  And, of course, the Java Posse will release each of these sessions on the podcast, and I definitely think that they will be worth a listen.

In "Ten Mistakes", it became evident that a lot of the attendees have been involved in startups (and were OK about revealing battle scars). I thought that one thing that Joe Nuxoll said really nailed it.  He said something along the lines of each company crashing and burning and what a great experience it was.  I know that I learned a lot from crashing and burning in a startup.  For one thing, I really did learn to reframe risk taking.  When I was younger, startups seemed "risky" and I probably wouldn't have gone out on my own to consult.  But after my startup experience, I recalled that my dad's career job disappeared in the 1980's, and what he thought was stable for life was absolutely not that.  That sort of led me down the path to realization that in consulting, at least, *I* am in charge of my own destiny.  *I* know when there aren't contracts out there and it's *my* responsibility to do something about that.  As an employee, it's easy to become complacent, to think that the company is "stable" and will be there as long as YOU want to work there.  In fact, projects get cancelled all of the time, and departments go away.  As Barry Hawkins said (paraphrasing), "As a consultant, I'm very aware that I could be fired at any moment".  All of the decisions I make relate to that: the work that I take on, my savings, etc.  There's a lot of content in this session, and I definitely would urge people to listen to it when the Java Posse releases the audio for the session.

As a result of the "Ten Mistakes" session, I talked to Sean Landis and convinced him to convene a session on "Hiring and Retaining Technical Talent"., where Sean works, has been hiring a lot of people, and this was an interesting discussion.  We talked a lot about how they hire (recruiters, online advertising, etc.) and contrasted that with how we hire (mainly word of mouth, user groups).     We also talked a lot about what it takes to keep employees happy, including compensation, training, flexibilty, etc.  Overall it was a great discussion, and at the end we tried to brainstorm a bit about what we COULD do rather than what we ARE doing.

 "Creating a New Business Structure for Programmers" was a brainstorming session convened by Bruce Eckel about how companies might organize to satisfy the needs of programmers.  I listened to "Representing the Socially Responsible Enterrpise (B Labs)" on Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast, while in transit to the conference, and while I don't know enough about it, it's definitely an interesting thought.  A lot of discussions centered around loose organization, for a particular job (akin to the Hollywood model for films). I didn't think of it at the time, but a few things came to mind later, like an organization that an Ann Arbor group put together:

 From the time that I learned Stephan Janssen had signed up for the Java Posse Roundup, I started looking forward to talking to him about "Organizing Community Based Conferences".  For the past 7 years, Stephan has organized JavaPolis in Belgium. It has grown to over 3000 attendees, which really turned my head, considering that CodeMash (which I help organize) attracts 300-400 attendees and I find the organization pretty overwhelming.  What Stephan has done with JavaPolis is humbling.  We talked a lot about the different conferences and I asked a million questions about how Stephan accomplishes this feat.  I can't wait to listen to this session on the podcast since Stephan had a lot of great advice.  FYI, his lightning talk on promotional ideas for JavaPolis was amusing (albeit R-rated at times).

"Networking for Geeks" came out of both the "Ten Mistakes …" session and some work that I have been doing with Ann Arbor SPARK in terms of helping them figure out how to help the local tech community in Ann Arbor.  In "Ten Mistakes", Joe Nuxoll mentioned how he interacts with the venture capitalists in the Bay Area.  I just don't see that happening here in Ann Arbor.  I guess that there are people who do this, but I don't see it.  I elicited some giggles with my (typical) comparison of traditional networking events with speed dating.  Others weren't quite as repulsed by such networking events. Barry Hawkins and Joe Nuxoll reminded us that user group meetings are NOT networking. People go and listen to the speaker and a few people stand around in the back, talking afterward, but it's not networking. Barry has done something interesting with the Atlanta Java User Group, by inviting everyone to dinner across the street before the meeting.  Contrasted with providing pizza AT the meetings, which people pretty much agreed only brings in the "free pizza crowd", the people who show up to pay for their OWN burritoes evidently are interested in talking.  My husband tells me that a meeting at a brew pub is even more effective (he's held meetings at Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti and people tended to stay afterward for long discussions).  Interesting.  I'm going to have to think more about this. The Python User Group usually adjorns to ABC after meetings.  Maybe they're onto something!  Jim White proposed a technology solution for bringing in people who can't attend and also to attract a younger crowd.  I had a really hard time seeing his point, because for ME, it's all about personal connections with people, and I can't see how this can be effectively accomplished without that personal contact.  I'm on some social networking groups, but they generally only enhance my in-person contact rather than replace it.

Anyhow, I think that's it for the non-technical sessions that I attended.

Next up: technical sessions, including "Why is Agile Hard", "Future of Java", and "What's Scala Missing?".  Also, we video'ed all of the lightning talks and the Posse has promised to get them up on YouTube (along with a very amusing Crested Butte cross country skiing experience). 



Flex meeting tonight, March 10 at SPARK

An Ann Arbor area Flex meeting is being held tonight, at SPARK.  It's free, and open to all. 

Flex: Rich Internet Application (RIA) Demos and Case Studies

Join users of Flex, and others interested in Flex to view demos of Flex applications and talk about how companies are using Flex. Nick Kwiatkowski, manager of the Michigan Flex User's Group will be the guest speaker.

If you're interested in participating in an Adobe Flex User's Group, this meeting will include discussion around starting an official group and talk about its organization. 

If you would like to be involved, please plan on attending this meeting!

Nick Kwiatkowski, manager of the Michigan Flex User's Group (Lansing area)

Monday, March 10, 2008

6-8 p.m.

SPARK Central-330 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor


The Java Posse Roundup: the view from 9000 feet

I'm here in Crested Butte, for the 2nd Java Posse Roundup (my second time as well).  It's been great, and much different than last year.  That's cool because the theme was "Don't Repeat Yourself".  Here's my overview.  I'll post more detail later.

This is an open spaces conference, which means that the conference participants (about 35 people, including the Posse) are defining the content and shaping the character. This year, we're doing sessions from about 8:30 am until about 12:30 pm, then breaking for lunch/afternoon activities.  The 160" base on Mt Crested Butte is amazing.  Some people have been downhill skiing, others snowboarding.  Groups have gone out snowmobiling.  I've even spirited some people away (Dick Wall and Joel Neely and Mike Levin) to nordic skiing, which is fabulous here.  And, of course, some people spend the time working, collaborating with other attendees, or simply relaxing.  In the evenings, after dinner, we've been getting together for lightning talks (5 mins), which have been video-recorded and will be released on YouTube.  I'll post the link when they are available.  But this year, we found that the collaboration aspect of the conference was really growing, and many of us have wanted to have some "workshop" experiences. So, we've conspired to add in some workshop and hacking sessions in the early evening, either over dinner or just before lightning talks.  Joel and I hung back one afternoon and collaborated on some Scala code, and then presented a session comparing Java and Scala during one of those early evening sessions (before lightning talks).  The flexibility to do this speaks loudly for the benefits of open spaces. At more traditional events, people might still hole up in a hotel room and work on code together, but only they would benefit from that experience.  The other attendees likely wouldn't even know of their experience and certainly wouldn't get to listen to a talk about it.

 I don't think that I have attended a single Java specific talk this year.  They've been scheduled, and others are attending those, but I've been more interested in some other talks, like "Startups: Mistakes not to Make", "Hiring and Retaining Technologists", "Brainstorming New Structures for Organizing Companies that serve Programmers Better", "Component Based Systems", "Organizing Community Based Conferences", and "Why is Agile Hard".  But I'm getting some technical mojo out of workshops and hacking sessions.  We spent some time with Dick Wall on Android and that was quite interesting.  Chet Haase did a lightning talk on "Filthy Rich Clients with Flex", which motivated me to strong arm him into doing a more indepth session on that.  A bunch of us sat around for several hours last night hacking some Scala, and we had a lot of fun.  And, of course, there were more lightning talks last night and they were awesome as well.

 So, I'm off for the final day.  Some people will be leaving early today, but I think that they're missing out by not staying for the evening.  Sessions end at 12:30 or so, but we'll be doing dinner together and an informal gathering this evening as well.  Last year, that evolved into "Check out this cool thing on YouTube", but since we're in the mode of "Don't Repeat Yourself", I bet we'll come up with something different tonight.  And I'm taking a group out x-c skiing this afternoon!  Off to breakfast … at Camp4Coffee.