Tag Archives: conferences

Day 4 at the Java Posse Roundup: Wrapping it up for 2012

On the final day of the Roundup for 2012, Gunnar Hillert, who organizes DevNexus in Atlanta, suggested that he and I convene a session on Organizing your own Conference. Since I had previously done such a session in March 2008 with Stephan Janssen (of DevOxx): Java Posse Podcast #197, I was initially reluctant. But open spaces is about seeing what will happen, and there were others to learn from. In addition, I’ve learned a lot since then with Codemash. We decided to go for it.

The two conferences couldn’t be more different, in spite of the fact that they are both developer-organized. CodeMash attracts a diverse group of developers, intent on learning other technologies in order to improve what they do with their own. DevNexus focuses mainly on Java developers. CodeMash is in the sleepy town of Sandusky, OH, meaning that pretty much everyone has to drive (or fly) to get there. DevNexus is in the heart of downtown Atlanta, which draws an audience from the metropolitan area.

We talked a lot about what it takes to organize a conference. I think that the real key is that there is someone who is willing to put his or her neck out without knowing whether or not it will be a success. Signing a catering or rental agreement with a venue is a scary thing and I’ll be forever grateful to Jim Holmes for taking on this risk for CodeMash.

Other user-organized conferences that people might be interested in checking out:

That Conference

Strange Loop


Stir Trek

After the Organizing your own Conference session, I joined Andrew Harmel Law in a discussion on Variations in Pair Programming. He had originally intended it to be a lightning talk, but 5 minutes is really short! When he told me a little about the rules his company had come up with around Pair Programming, I immediately challenged one of his tenets: that pair programming should be 2 people, 1 keyboard, 1 mouse. We’ve been effectively programming with 2 people, 2 keyboards, 2 mice, 2 monitors, facing each other rather than sitting next to one another, for a few years now. He was intrigued by the variation, and we convened a session to see what others thought.

Like both of our companies, many of the participants said that they do not pair program 100% of the time.  The developers decide when and where to pair program. Our programmers have wide latitude around self-organization. Some teams have a dedicated “pairing computer” in addition to their own laptops. Andrew was thinking that he might take that back to his company as well. I’ll be intrigued to see if he does. And I can’t wait to expose our team to Andrew’s Tarot Cards of Pair Programming.

Others expressed concerns about teams of various skill levels in pair programming. Mainly these concerns seem to have come from people who were thinking about pairing, rather than those who were actively doing it. Those who actively pair program see it as a way to bring a new team member up to speed on a project quickly, and also as a way to take advantage of the individual strengths of team members to build a better overall solution. It was a fun session, and it should be interesting listening once it becomes available on the podcast.

The last session of the conference was a wrap-up session where we all talked about what we got out of the conference and what improvements can be made. This is the 6th Java Posse Roundup and it became obvious to many of the old-timers that the newbies are becoming integrated into the group more quickly. Apparently, they just have more mentors. It was also interesting to learn that at least 2 of the attendees this year had never heard of the podcast but decided to come to the conference anyhow.

On Friday night, many people head home. Those of us who have attended in previous years tend to stay until Saturday, because flights on Friday often mean missing the last session. This has led to a variety of experiments around Friday night activities. For the past several years, a group has gone up to Mount Crested Butte to a very nice (star-rated) restaurant called (appropriately for this crowd) Djangos (Geek humor alert: There’s a python web framework called Django). They have small plates and wonderful wine. The groups have tended to order “One of Everything” which is a great way to try their wonderful food. But we also found out that we could rent a yurt, accessible only via nordic skis or snowshoes. We didn’t have time to organize it last year, but this year, a group expressed interest and we were able to organize catering at the yurt for a group of about 25 people (20 others went to Djangos). This was a fabulous experience, in spite of the bad trail conditions. We hiked out to the yurt, and had a wonderful meal catered out there, complete with tiramisu for dessert. It was so much fun that it seems likely to continue in subsequent years.

People filtered out of town throughout the day on Saturday. About 30-40 people showed up for a departing breakfast. Barry Hawkins organized it and cooked up endless amounts of eggs while many others chipped in to help, such as cooking bacon on the grill, and making biscuits and gravy. It was a great way to use up the food that people had bought for their week in town, and way more fun and interactive than the smaller group that a restaurant could accommodate.

So now the Java Posse Roundup 2012 has come to a close, but the git repository remains and the projects that were started will continue to be developed. Even more significantly, the knowledge and energy that everyone took away from the conference will spread throughout our companies over the next several months until it’s time for the Java Posse Roundup 2013. I’m planning to be there, of course.

Finally: a CodeMash trip report (and some upcoming community events too)

Finally starting to feel a bit human after CodeMash.  While I scaled back my volunteer time this year, SRT was still pretty busy at the conference this year, with scaling up to a Platinum sponsorship and MobiMash! But I found a lot of time to attend sessions this year, which was great.  It's been a few weeks since the conference, but I did want to highlight some of my favorite moments.

During the precompiler, I went to Ruby Koans, given by Jim Weirich and Joe O'Brien.  What a great way to learn!  Joe and Jim even brought a little humor to their teaching, with the exercises reflecting "enlightenment".  Love those guys! I completed my precompiler day with Mary Poppendieck's workshop on Competency and Leadership in Software. I worked with a small group, created a fictitious company that we could use to analyze for effectiveness. Great fun! Very instructive!  I've been fortunate enough to spend some time with Mary and Tom during 3 of the last 4 CodeMash events.  I definitely hope that they make it next year!

For the Wednesday night panel discussion, the Java Posse invited Bill Wagner (representing C#) and Chris Smith (representing F#) to join them.  It was a great group, with lots of interesting discussion.

The variety of talks at CodeMash this year was impressive.  Jim Weaver's JavaFX demo was thought-provoking, and I suspect that Bill Venners' Scalatest demo spoke to more than just Java developers.  Andres Almiray's enthusiasm for Groovy/Griffon was contagious.  And Chris Smith's "Evil Genius with F#" was well-planned and interesting.  We were also really lucky to get the Java Posse to come to CodeMash, both for their panel discussion and their sessions.  Joe Nuxoll's Photoshop for Engineers and Engineering vs. Design sessions were well-attended and offered insight that I haven't previously seen at CodeMash.  Dick Wall did "Funky Java, Objective Scala" which was both fun and interesting, offering functional aspects of Java and object-oriented aspects of Scala.  Carl Quinn rounded out the Posse talks with his on Tools in the Trenches.

Of course, there were many sessions that I regret missing, such as James Ward's Agile Toolchain for Flex and Barry Hawkins' "User Stories: Closing the Agile Loop".  I also missed various iphone and Cocoa development sessions, by both Chris Adamson and Daniel Steinberg, and Nick Siegler's talk on JRuby. And many more.

I'm already looking forward to CodeMash 2011. In the meantime, there are some interesting community-driven conferences coming up.  On March 13, you can attend "2010 Michigan: Agile and Beyond" in Dearborn.  The early bird rate on that ends soon (February 10!), so register soon to get $29 registration rather than the regular rate of $99.  After the very successful 1DevDay in 2009, I've heard rumblings of that conference returning in 2010.  Watch the Detroit Java User Group for announcements there.  And, of course, don't miss the Java Posse Roundup in Crested Butte, CO.  It runs March 15-19, with the first day dedicated to "Alternate Languages on the JVM".  There's graduated pricing on the Roundup, so the sooner you know you want to go, the better!

This week, being the first of the month, is a busy one for user group meetings in Ann Arbor.  Tomorrow night, the Ann Arbor Study Group features Django.  This interactive learning experience will be led by Darrell Hawley, and hosted at SRT Solutions ( 206 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 200, Ann Arbor).   The Ann Arbor Computer Society hosts Aaron Thul for Postgres SQL on Wednesday, February 3.  On Thursday, join the Michigan Python User Group in their monthly meeting/discussion.  Both of these events will be hosted at SRT Solutions as well. 

Another Java Posse Roundup comes to a close

Well, I've been here in Crested Butte since Sunday afternoon, for the 3rd Java Posse Roundup. It's been an amazing experience, as always.  I blogged earlier in the week about how this conference evolves to match the interests of the attendees. Of course, I should have anticipated that it was still changing.  The attendees really take charge of this conference, and that's part of why it's so great.

In addition to the new (optional) hackathon day, there were several other changes this year. First of all, the size has exceeded the capacity of the Posse House and so the evening events were held at the conference location.  This gave everyone a bit more breathing room and was just as fun.

The lightning talks offer a wide variety of topics, not all of which are Java-related. I enjoy the non-technical talks and tech talks alike.  Some of the more amusing sessions from this year include Barry Hawkins' "Introducing Change" and Andrew Harmel Law's "Zombies".  The lightning talks will make their way to YouTube at http://youtube.com/javaposse.

The sessions, as always, were fascinating. Ranging from the very specific to the very general, they were all great. Of course, they will be released on the Java Posse podcast channel, and it will be interesting to hear the reaction of those who didn't attend. But I did realize that if you're not here, you miss out on a lot.  Not only will you likely not get the jokes, but you also miss out on the opportunity for "free consulting".  People are very generous with their time and ideas.  I have met some amazing people here over the years, and I do keep in touch with them throughout the year.  We bounce ideas off of one another and I benefit immensely.  I hope that I offer at least a fraction in return. 

The afternoon activities were varied. Some people gathered at houses around town to hack together, while others "networked" (aka, skiied and snowmobiled).  I was thrilled yet again to leave my downhill gear packed because of the interest attendees had in learning how to cross-country ski.  We went out two days (so far; I suspect we will go tomorrow morning as well) and the groups were great! Some footage may make its way to the internet; we'll have to see.  Fewer people downhilled this year than in years past, and I suspect that was a combination of the weather (it was grayish without new snow) and the fact that Bruce had broken his leg a few weeks ago.  I think that his mishap may have spooked people.

The hacking groups had productive afternoons as well.  Dick was able to rewrite his JFlubber app in both JavaFX and Flex. With both Tor and James to work with, Dick seemed pretty happy.

Bill Venners was here as well, and he was able to find several willing participants to work on ScalaTest.  Rumor has it that he and Tor got the NetBeans build working for ScalaTest, which will certainly improve the developer experience "out of the box". We had a group at our house one afternoon, and most of us were having difficulty getting it to build.  I'm glad that they were able to make progress. Bill's done a great job with ScalaTest!

After lightning talks, groups formed.  I never went to bed early, always intrigued by some interesting conversation at my house or another one, that went well into the night.  As is consistent with the previous 2 Roundups, I found that I spent nearly ALL of my waking time with other attendees.  I had one brief shopping trip alone to buy souvenirs for my kids.  That's it.  So, if any employers doubt the "hard work" that we do at this conference, pass this information along.  Even while we were out cross-country skiing, we were talking about "things", either about Java things or business things or the conference.  It's truly an experience in conference immersion.


Oh, and just to dispel the myth that geeks don't socialize and can't cook, here's a story:

Since several of us had rented houses around town (5 or 6 in total) rather than renting hotel rooms, we got together and organized a progressive dinner.  While Wikipedia describes it as a complex process requiring a lot of organization, we didn't have that experience and it was awesome.  So, if you're going to do one, don't do it THAT way.  Try it OUR way … you might be surprised.  Here's the official (LOL) Java Posse/Open Spaces version of a progressive dinner:

  1. Write down addresses of houses that are interested in participating. Each house will prepare "some food" (we left that open).
  2. Pick a start time.
  3. Pick a house to start at.
  4. Pick the successive houses and write down the order on the paper.
  5. Go to first house, and migrate to the next in line until done.

We announced this on Tuesday afternoon, and simply reminded everyone on Wednesday at noon.  40 people traipsed from house to house!  It was a lot of fun.

Pretty simple. And FUN! Not only did it get everyone moving around, talking to different people, it was a great way to see the other rental houses and to learn who liked to cook. We didn't go to the trouble of telling people what to prepare, assigning a course, or even letting one another know our plans.  Our menu was varied and we had a blast. Try it.

The week was way too short.  There was a lot that I wanted to do.  But, as usual, I'll be returning home with my batteries charged and new friends. Can't ask for much more than that.

Alternative Languages on the JVM at the Java Posse Roundup

The Java Posse Roundup conference continues to evolve to meet the interests of the attendees. This year, the first day was an optional day,  with groups coding on alternate languages on the JVM.  Groups formed to share their collective knowledge and interest surrounding several languages. I chose to attend the Scala Hacking session, as did 13 other people.  In other locations around town, there was a similarly sized JavaFX group, and a smaller Groovy/Grails group.  Later in the day, Fan was added.

In the Scala session, we went through some code that we had developed for an evening session last year, implementing some functionality of LINQ (Language Integrated Query for .NET), in Scala.  We based our work on Bill Wagner's article from Visual Studio Magazine.  We didn't make much new progress, mainly because we were trying to dissect what we had dome both for our benefit as well as for those who had never seen the language.  We're hoping to get back to that later in the week.  You can read Joel Neely's blog that summarizes a lot of what we did along with some insight.

Later in the day at the Scala Dojo, Dick Wall demonstrated some of the work he's been doing with genomics, while another group moved over to another house, to work on ScalaTest with Bill Venners.  We spent some time getting our development environments set up, and started with some assignments.  Bill's talking about a release later this week, and is looking for help on the project.  Several people have expressed interest and working together was a good start.  I suspect that wasn't the last Scalatest hacking session either!

After a short break for dinner, we all got back together at the Posse House (as we affectionately call the house where the Java Posse stays during the conference) for a review of how we had all spent our day.  The Groovy/Grails team demonstrated their work on getting a simple CRUD app to work, and the JavaFX team demonstrated an application that they had built, which included a timer that counted down.  By adding some designer work in PhotoShop, they were able to get a styled app up and running, and even included sound.  It was an impressive demo. Joel Neely reviewed what our team had dome with Scala, and Fred Simon (who endured 48 hrs of travel and delays to get here) did a brief overview of Fan, which is a language that targets both the JVM and CLR.

We're all looking forward to the conference starting today, with open spaces sessions.  This year, we have exceeded the capacity of the Posse House for lightning talks (but not for gatherings), so the consensus is that the evening lightning talks will likely be held at the conference location as well.  It's not as cozy, but it will likely be more functional!  I'm sure that at some point today, people will head off to ski, and that's part of the experience as well.

So, off for another day in beautiful Crested Butte. First stop, Camp4Coffee.  Then, conference kickoff!