Tag Archives: Roundup

Winter Tech Forum 2016: A different kind of conference

Nine years ago, the Java Posse and Bruce Eckel teamed up to create a conference devoted to the listeners of the Java Posse podcast. Because of Bruce’s experimentation with Open Spaces conferences, he convinced these accomplished speakers to give a wacky idea a try — let the attendees of the conference create the schedule and participate in the conversation. This format’s success surprised many, and the longevity of the conference, held in the middle of the winter in Crested Butte, Colorado, surprised many more.

Last year, the conference evolved in part because the Java Posse’s technical interests diverged and in part because a weekly podcast was a bit too much of a burden on this group of friends, who had spent a decade volunteering their time to provide content to Java developers. But the conference went on, newly dubbed the “Winter Tech Forum” (yes, we know the acronym) and the dedicated folks who had traveled to Crested Butte for many years … showed up with that same enthusiasm for creating a conference and for sharing ideas.

And it keeps on going. This year, the Winter Tech Forum will be from February 29 – March 4, 2016. But if you’re going, do yourself a favor and travel in the previous weekend if you can. Not only can travel be challenging (it’s really best to drive from Denver, given that flights into Gunnison are often canceled due to snow), but also because there will be a warm welcome party at Bruce’s house on Sunday night. It’s a great way to meet your fellow attendees!

If you have heard about the Java Posse Roundup or the Winter Tech Forum, you may know that attendees often get together to rent houses in town. This conference can be an immersive experience, but many attendees also choose to stay at the hotels or B&Bs in town.  Once you register, you will gain access to a group where discussions about rental housing, gatherings, etc. take place.

Wait — I forgot to mention the schedule! Sessions are scheduled for each morning, and then there’s a break for lunch. Here’s the overall theme and some ideas that may be discussed, copied from the WTF information page.

Theme: Creating Adaptware in the Information Continuum
From Big Data to Responsive Systems

  • Reactive Programming
  • The Enterprise as a Scriptable Large-Scale Computation Engine
  • Tradeoffs in Software
  • The Internet of Things
  • Libraries vs. Frameworks
  • Front End to REST Endpoints to Library APIs
  • Java 8 vs. The Next Big JVM Language
  • Distributed Big Data Systems
  • Platforms for Big Data
  • The JVM in the DevOps World
  • Commit To Production, Without Human Intervention
  • Erlang for Building Servers
  • And lots more
  • Plus anything else anyone wants to talk about, of course
  • And our business track

Although the theme sets the general tone of the conference, it doesn’t preclude session topics that might be considered “off theme.” The goal of the theme is to stimulate ideas, not to prevent discussion.

But what about the snow?

Many people trek to Crested Butte for the conference because they also enjoy wintertime activities, like downhill skiing, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing. There’s time each afternoon for those activities, if you care to do so. But if you’re not into winter sports, you will find that a large number of the attendees spend that time hacking on projects, individually or in groups, or preparing for the evening lightning talks. Attendees tend to get back together for dinner and then meet up for lightning talks each evening.

If you’re intrigued, I definitely recommend checking out the information page. And maybe I’ll see you in Crested Butte!

Looking forward to Java Posse Roundup 2013

I’m always excited to attend the Java Posse Roundup, but this year more than ever! The Roundup is in its 7th year (if I’ve done the math correctly) and I’ve made it to every one, so why is this one so appealing?

First of all, our private google group, for attendees, has been hopping with ideas about what sessions people are interested in, and what the open hacking day will be. People are talking about hardware this year: Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and 3D Printers. And there’s lots of excitement around programming NFC stickers. Software excitement is in the air as well: lots of discussions around Javascript and Node.js and Coffeescript. And of course there will be discussions about Groovy/Gradle, Java, Scala, and Go.

Many of the veteran attendees share houses in the town so that the geekery doesn’t have to stop when people go back to hotel rooms. The number of repeat attendees at this conference is very high, but it offers a good mix of newcomers each year as well. I see the newcomers offering great suggestions on the group, so they’re jumping right in too.

As far as I know, there’s still time to join in, although time may be getting tight to arrange travel. The conference is February 25 to March 1, and it’s held in Crested Butte, CO. Registration is at http://www.mindviewinc.com/Conferences/JavaPosseRoundup/. Hope to see you there!



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.

Day 1 at the Java Posse Roundup 2012

I’m in Crested Butte, Colorado, for the Java Posse Roundup 2012. This is my 6th Java Posse Roundup, which means both that I have perfect attendance and that my husband is extremely tolerant of my travel.

The Roundup is a 4-day open spaces experience, dedicated to exploring technologies and open discussion. The mornings are set aside for discussion. Broken into 3 1-hour sessions, with 30 minute breaks in between, these are highly interactive sessions around a variety of topics that the attendees themselves identify and propose.

On Day 1, we held an intro session followed by 3 discussions.

For the first discussion of the day, I chose Tools that Make you Productive. Some tools that I thought were interesting included:

CamScanner – turns your Android or iPhone into a portable scanning device. Most notably, people are using it for high contrast whiteboard images.

Evernote – I already use this for notetaking on the web and mobile devices, but I learned  about its browser extension (click to copy) and that you can take notes by voice on the mobile version.

Livescribe smartpens – allow you to record what you write and hear for later playback. Uses special pens and paper.

There were many suggestions for todo list management, including Asana, Workflowy, AnyDo, and Do It (Tomorrow).

Desk.com was described as effective for help desk management (integrates with Salesforce!), and Trello and AgileZen were both discussed for agile software project management boards.

Boomerang, a gmail/google apps plugin, was highly regarded for email management and scheduling.

The Pomodoro technique was described (and has high participation in this group), and there was a strong emphasis on providing a distraction free environment with a comfortably large monitor and good keyboard/mouse/trackpad.  Communication between team members (and customers) is essential and tools such as IRC, Yammer, HipChat, and Campfire promote communication with off-site staff. Google Talk (particularly with the “go to voice” option) is also highly regarded.

For the last session of the day, I attended a discussion on Continuous Deployment. We contrasted the term with continuous delivery, where you build artifacts and deliver to point where it could be deployed. It is critical that there are no special (different) steps for production. We discussed the challenges around achieving that, both technology and people, and delved into metrics that can be monitored to determine success.

Unlike the first discussion, only a few tools were mentioned (Splunk and AppDynamics) while much of the emphasis was on the process of getting to the point where tools would be meaningful.

Core to the discussion was a mindshift of a release as a big (and scary) event, but rather a regular occurrence of a small bit of functionality rolled out to customers. Spreading out features over time reduces risk and provides value to customers.

Following these sessions, I went to an “off-the-record” session around team dynamics. The off-the-record sessions are held offsite, and are not recorded. This enables attendees to be frank in their discussions without concern about who might hear the podcast. I have personally benefitted from these sessions every year, and their inclusion  is one of the many advantages that in-person attendees have over those who stay at home and listen to the podcasts.

Another advantage, of course, is the hallway conversation. While open spaces conferences are organized to make hallway conversations accessible to all, I find that we’re all in non-stop communication mode, and the ample minute breaks between sessions encourage this. Various discussions from work-life balance to pair programming to languages all happened in these “breaks”.  We also talked while at lunch, while out snowshoeing, and while at dinner. Others did some more hacking.

In the evening, we all got together for lightning talks (recorded and will be released on YouTube). For some reason (maybe we didn’t post the list fast enough), the list for lightning talks was only half-full when we arrived. Several of us kicked it into high gear and developed lightning talks on the spot, and soon the schedule was full.

I spoke about Raising Geeks, with the key message that we should all buy “cool toys”. My favorites are Snap Circuits Jr (and I saw a bunch of parents in the audience nodding in agreement) and LEGO WeDo. I had been talking about the WeDo to a few other parents at the conference, and they suggested I do a lighting talk, because its availability is not widely known. Kids can build things (like an alligator) with LEGOs and sensors, and then “program them” with a LabView-like visual interface. It’s sold through the LEGO Education division, and it’s been a huge hit at my house.

There were many other lightning talks on a variety of topics, some software related and some not. They’re always enjoyable to watch!

Many of the Java Posse attendees share houses in town and discussion doesn’t really stop when the sessions end. Every year, I go home from this week both energized from the ideas that arise and exhausted from the interaction.

Stay tuned for a summary of Day 2 …

Insight into the Java Posse Roundup: Why I Go

The 3rd Java Posse Roundup was held last week in Crested Butte, Colorado.  As I flew back home on the plane, I reflected about why this conference is my favorite conference to attend, and why I start looking forward to the next event as soon as the current one concludes.

The contributing factors include:

1. The people

2. The format

3. The location


The people.

The Roundup attracts some new faces and some diehards. Some come back after missing a year for whatever reason.  Even before the conference begins, an online group is created which starts communication among attendees about housing, flights, what to bring, etc.  This communication is not driven by the old-timers.  Sure, they answer questions, but the new attendees are pro-active as well.  This year, one newbie set up a google map of the areas of interest (houses, etc.) while another set up a list of things to bring.  Discussions were started long before we ever met one another, and houses were shared by complete strangers.

It also helps immensely that the people who drive the conference (in particular, Bruce Eckel, Dick Wall, Carl Quinn, Tor Norbye, and Joe Nuxoll) are all really approachable and inviting.  They invite people into their homes for dinners and for hacking sessions and for discussions that extend long into the night.  Their approachability sets the tone for the conference, and the attendees reflect that with one another as well.  I have never felt intimidated about going up to ANY roundup attendee (including industry luminaries) to talk.  They've all been very nice and generous.  This sense of approachability was described by attendees all week, this year.

Through our online group, the attendees continue to maintain contact throughout the year.  As one attendee put it, there's a lot of benefit in having a personal connection to the other attendees, in setting up that network.  I have certainly made long-lasting friends and those relationships continue to grow.


The format.

The open spaces format of the event is announced/described on the registration page, but even before people experience open spaces, they act in an open spaces way.  The self-starting attitude that the attendees, old and new, bring to the conference is apparent long before we all touch down in Crested Butte.  It doesn't take long for the attendees to understand that pretty much anything goes.  The first day or so is often a bit driven by concerns about where the boundaries are, with newbies asking "should we do it this way", "is it OK to do this".  The answers typically come back as "Sure, go ahead" (when it's an idea that someone has, or "Let's just let things happen" (when someone is trying to impose some additional order on the process).  Quickly, people learn that for the most part, things will happen, but that this is their experience to help mold and create, and they go with it.


The location.

The conference is held in the remote mountain town of Crested Butte, CO.  A town of just 1200 residents, CB is a great place to hold the conference for many reasons.  For one, Bruce Eckel lives there.  He helps to organize the conference with the Posse and holding it in his town certainly simplifies things.  The prior-year attendees are comfortable with the town and with the rental housing there, and that has a bit impact on the interactivity among the attendees. And I think that it's a really big deal that no one (other than Bruce) is close enough to their homes or their jobs to be able to move in and out of the conference.  For the most part, people are on a retreat (or as several people called it "Camp"), and spend the entire week together.  The retreat from "real life" in a region unfamiliar to most encourages the attendees to eat together and to form groups to hack or to ski. I strongly believe that if this conference were held in the Bay Area, we would have a boatload of attendees, but the experience wouldn't be nearly as rewarding.  And the town reflects a casual welcoming attitude as well.  By policy, there are no chain (stores or restaurants) in Crested Butte. That means that visitors are "forced" to local hangouts, where they quickly learn that they are welcome.  People stop and talk, and seem genuinely interested in a conference coming to their town. A few locals have stopped by lightning talks to see what it's all about.  After a while, several of us recognize some of the locals, and we even turned the tables on one of them, with 15 of us visiting his restaurant.   We chatted him up, and he knew who we were.  In addition to being a fabulous town, Crested Butte offers the perfect backdrop to such a friendly conference, but being an approachable town.


What I've decided is that it's hard to separately analyze these factors.  While I definitely think that the Roundup would succeed in another location (because of the people who organize it, and because of the format), I do think that care has to be taken to choose a location that reflects its intimate nature.  On the other hand, I believe that the people and the open spaces format are the key ingredients to the Roundup's success.   And if I had to pick only ONE component that really described why I like to attend the Roundup each year, why I count it as my favorite conference, I would have to answer … the people.  It's really all about the people.

Looking ahead to the Java Posse Roundup (next week!)

The Java Posse is a group of guys (Dick Wall, Carl Quinn, Tor Norbye, Joe Nuxoll) who love Java enough to dedicate time to staying up on the latest in the Java world and reporting it for the rest of us.  I suspect that I'm not the only one who is only able to keep up on the news because of the time that these guys spend each week.  Two years ago, they teamed up with Bruce Eckel to host the first ever Java Posse Roundup Open Spaces conference.  Participants decided what they wanted to talk about, using the very lightweight process of placing a post-it note up on the conference schedule.  Voila! Conference born! The Posse (as we call them) was dubious at first.  Would people come?  Would they get something out of it?

The first year (2007) was a huge success, judging from the reactions of the participants and the posse.  We all learned a lot.  Friendships lasted beyond the week of Java immersion.    Everyone embraced the idea of making the conference their own, and lightning talks evolved in the evenings as well.

The second year (2008) saw previous year participants sharing houses, more lightning talks, and a pre-conference day discussing Android (which was hot off the presses last year). And, we added some workshops in the evenings as well.  The conference continues to evolve, and that's really the beauty of it.

This year, a pre-conference hackathon was added.  The pre-conference day is free to anyone who happens to be in the Crested Butte area on March 2, the hackathon will consist of a loosely organized set of houses, each sponsoring a different language on the JVM.  At the moment of this writing, Scala, Jython, Groovy (Grails, Griffon), and Fan have been identified. More may emerge (Clojure anyone?  JRuby?).  We'll kick of the morning with a short intro/orientation at the Posse House (a house in town where the Posse is staying), then quickly spread out to the various houses around town hosting different languages.  People will be free to move between houses/dojo sessions just as they are free (in fact, encouraged) to move about the open spaces sessions that will make up the main conference March 3-6.

I look forward to this conference all year. It's never the same, always fun, and always wickedly informative.  And yes, there's skiing too.  Each day during the week has time for participants to head off to go skiing.  Some people will choose to stay back and code on those days, or just hang out, but the ski hill does see a lot of geek talk that week as well!  I'm hoping to again ditch the ski hill in favor of skinny skis (nordic trails).  Each year so far, I've been successful in recruiting some people to go out with me.  Joe caught Tor crashing on camera last year … hilarious.

If you want to join us, you can still register at http://www.mindviewinc.com/Conferences/JavaPosseRoundup/.


My Reading List

My Reading List

I thought I would share what I’m reading now, and what I’ve been reading recently. And I added some podcasts, for good measure, and even a link to a cool development tool that I learned about at the Java Posse Roundup.


Read today: article on JavaScript libraries



Blogs that I read regularly:

Bruce Eckel: http://www.artima.com/weblogs/index.jsp?blogger=beckel

Kathy Sierra: http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/

Joel Spolsky: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/

Bill Wagner: http://www.srtsolutions.com/blogs/BillWagner/default.aspx

And, of course my own: http://www.srtsolutions.com/blogs/DianneMarsh/default.aspx

Here are some blogs from the Java Posse Roundup, which are sure to become regulars for me:

Josh Marinacci’s blog: http://weblogs.java.net/blog/joshy/

Michael Levin: Swampcast and also Michael Levin's Weblog

James Ward: www.jamesward.org

Others that I used to read have become somewhat inactive. You know who you are …


In progress:

Implementing Lean Software Development, Mary and Tom Poppendieck, 2007.

Comments: good source for lean software, but also draws a lot from lean manufacturing. Recommending to people in other disciplines as well. I’ll post a more complete review when I finish the book.

On my desk, in hopes of reading soon:

Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art, by Steve McConnell, 2006.


Most recent podcasts:

  • DotNetRocks, from 2/19.  Guest: Steve McConnell
  • Java Posse #107, Special from Crested Butte
  • Java Posse #106, News from 3/7
  • Ruby on Rails: Camping, Episode II
  • Several episodes of “60 Second Science”, from Scientific American


Podcasts I follow regularly:

  • JavaPosse – great podcast for keeping current on Java
  • DotNetNukes – entertaining podcast for .NET world


Podcasts in my queue:

  • TedTalks podcasts

Development tool that I’m going to try next


Java Posse Roundup: Day 3

Thursday, March 8

By Thursday, people were really getting the knack of open spaces conferences. Those who had held back in earlier days were right in the thick of things at this point. People were resisting the urge to lecture, and getting into the collaborative exchange of information that really gives Open Spaces its edge.

The first session of the day, for me, was on UI Design. Joe reminded all of us that it’s a huge mistake to have our data model reflect the UI design, and vice versa. Instead, it’s important to really drill down to what the user needs to do, and solve that problem from a user interface perspective (and to solve the data storage problem in a sound, but separate, way. Nods were given toward OmniSoft’s Graffle product, which sadly I can’t use because it only runs on the Mac.

Next, I attended a session that Tor had convened on nice looking fonts, typography, and pretty user interfaces. This was a bit out of my area of interest, and I had actually thought it was going to be a different session. I hung around for a bit and learned some things about font rendering (like that Java has its own font rendering engine, that Apple uses bitmapped fonts to ensure consistency in scaling, and that fonts look fuller on Macs and PCs than on Linux). I also learned that there’s a different gamma setting on PCs than Macs, by default. At some point, I realized that while this was interesting, I wasn’t really contributing and my interest had waned, so I exercised the Law of Two Feet (a tenet of Open Spaces).

The Law of Two Feet is “uncomfortable” to exercise until you get the hang of it. The idea is that it’s not only your prerogative to leave if you are not interested or participating in a conversation; it’s really your duty. The very presence of a bored or disinterested party brings down the energy of the group. By leaving, the overall energy increases because only those who are REALLY interested are in attendance. I probably would have left sooner, but that this session was in the lower level room and it was pretty comfy down there … complete with couches! Anyhow, I did leave and got some tea and relaxed until the next session. I could have joined another session in progress, but I decided I needed a break instead.

The last session of the day was on the GWT, and I was really interested in that. Robert Cooper has written a book on GWT, GWT in Practice, and he has an refreshing, pragmatic perspective. While he’s clearly a power user, he’s not afraid to say where Flex is stronger, and where GWT and Flex, working together, might offer some advantages.

GWT does play well with other Javascript libraries, like Scriptaculous, Yahoo UI, etc. More GWT wrappers will be available soon as well. Mostly, the toolkit works great for replacing desktop apps with web apps.

I have a friend who writes a lot of server side code and I pinged him when GWT was first released. He jumped on the bandwagon and has been effusive about it ever since. He loves GWT and finds the model very convenient.

Evening Sessions at Java Posse Roundup

Java Posse Roundup After Hours

 In addition to the daytime (morning) sessions, we’ve been getting together in the evenings.  Someone suggested lightning talks in the evenings, and posted a signup sheet.  8-10 talks per night were quickly filled up.

The evening talks were a mix of technical and non-technical.  All talks were limited to 5 minutes.  Well, it quickly became apparent that 5 minutes was a bit too short, so we set the timer for 5 mins and gave the person 1 more minute to wrap things up.

The first night, there was an attempt to record the sessions, but they were highly visual, and since no one was really set up to capture the sessions with Camtasia (or the like), listening might not be all that useful.

So, Wednesday night, we had talks on such diverse topics as:

Thursday night, people got a little bit more creative in terms of talking “outside of the Java box”.  It was a tribute to the format of the lightning talks that several people chose to bring their spouses that evening, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Those talks included (not complete list):

  • Yahoo Pipes
  • Flex running with Apollo (and communicating between them)
  • Orienteering
  • Java Docs in the year 2020
  • More racing from Joe (book link: http://tinyurl.com/2bd6vp)
  • Optimal letter spacing from Joel (who does beautiful calligraphy)
  • Right brain vs. left brain

We did the lightning talks at the very large house where the Java Posse was staying.  It was really perfect for this sort of a gathering.

On Thursday night, after the lightning talks, the Java Posse surprised us by telling us their intended format for that evening’s recording of the podcast.  As *** put it, “We provide this show for YOU guys all of the time.  How about this time, we just start it off and then go around the room and ask each of you what you thought about the Roundup?”.  Nice idea, but much stress in the room as we all contemplated actually speaking.  All in all, it was really great (for those present at least) to hear what the others thought about the Roundup, the Open Spaces format, the skiing, etc.

On Friday night, it was even more laid back.  Everyone showed up at the Secret Stash (a unique Crested Butte restaurant, that serves interesting pizza).  The menu is online, so I’m able to share our selections here:

grilled chicken ~ black beans & corn ~ chipotle sauce ~ cheddar cheese ~ fresh cilantro ~ roasted red peppers

Grilled Assorted Veggies ~ Fresh Goat Cheese ~ and our Balsamic Reduction

We also had a blue cheese pizza, but I don’t see it on the online menu.

We sat at a table on the floor, with pillows.  This was a bit uncomfortable for the (inflexible) guys with long legs, but I was OK!  A good time was had by all, and those who drank a local beer called Mojo gave it high ratings.  After that, we all descended upon Bruce’s house and watched amusing stuff on YouTube, Google video, etc. well into the night.



Java Posse Roundup: Day 2

Java Posse Roundup: Day 2

Session 1: Java Development Environments

I convened a session on Java Development Environments (IDEs, tools, etc.). My question was, “Is it a benefit or a detriment that we have choice in our tools?”. For comparison, when programming on the Microsoft platform, developers are given tools that work together out of the box. If they choose to add new tools to their arsenal, they can (especially see Jim Holmes book, “Windows Developer Power Tools”, which includes a lot of open source tools for use on the Windows platform.

In any case, as Java developers, we’re not only free to choose our own tools, but sort of forced into choosing and configuring. Yes, there are packages like MyEclipse and NetBeans which bundle things together, but the IDEs have gone back and forth many times in the past several years. I’ve personally tried at least half a dozen. Currently, I’m using Eclipse, but on the recommendation of the group here, I’m encouraged to give NetBeans another try.

The consensus of the group was generally that we’re glad to have options. I’m still left thinking, however, that we spend a lot of time spinning our wheels, evaluating tools, instead of actually solving problems for our customers (or employers).

Session 2: User Groups

The next session that I attended was on User Groups. Graham, a Crested Butte local, is considering starting a user group here, in Crested Butte. He was looking for ideas and suggestions about how to get started, while others were looking for ideas about how to grow their user groups or to keep people coming back.

I held the position of president of the Ann Arbor Computer Society for 2 years, and I got some great advice from past leaders of that group: DELEGATE. I’m not always good at it, but it’s a good objective. Having a strong leader that can delegate tasks to get done is pretty critical, I think. Several (3) of the guys in the session were from Atlanta, and the AJUG has a dynamic and energetic leader, and it sounds like he does a phenomenal job of keeping their user group going. In addition to an annual DevCon, which is well attended, they offer Job Postings for both potential employers and job seekers (JRecruiter). The Ann Arbor JUG also has this, but I want to look at what they’re doing in Atlanta, because it sounds more effective than the blog-like postings on the AAJUG.

Remote user groups (Taos, Crested Butte) face different challenges. There are few area users, and having a JUG may be too restrictive. It sounds like Dean from Taos and Graham from Crested Butte may create a more encompassing group that serves all software developers, rather than limiting to a JUG.

Chris Adamson was also in attendance. He is an editor for java.net, and he offered to help solicit updates for the JUG list that they maintain. GREAT IDEA, since they really have gotten out of date.

The basic “take-aways” from the session were:

1.Start small. None of the big groups started big. We all started with 2 or 3 people who wanted to get around and talk about cool stuff.
2.Have a compelling reason for people to attend meetings. Good content, opportunities to learn about jobs, etc.
3.Mix in local and national speakers, if you can. National speakers provide visibility to the group, while local speakers get experience talking to a group of people.

Some groups charge dues, while others are free. Some are corporate sponsored, others are not. You just have to find what works in your area.

I would love to create a “meta-group” of JUGs or other user group leaders who might communicate on an eGroup or such to toss ideas back and forth. Maybe we can start with the list on Java.Net?

Java User Groups on Java.net: http://tinyurl.com/36r2ku

Here’s a view of what Sun coined as the Top 50 JUGS:


Session 3: Convergence of Desktop/Web/Mobile

Joe Nuxoll convened a session on the convergence of desktop, web, and mobile application development. Questions were raised about how to determine which platform to develop for, or if it made sense to sometimes build a web app that could be used on a desktop. Mobile has its own set of challenges, but even so, we’re becoming more demanding about what we expect in mobile apps.

One real key is that a lot of time users don’t even know where they’re running up against web/desktop boundaries. One good example of this is Google Earth and Google Maps. Google Earth is clearly a desktop app but it accesses the web to get data that Google maps also uses. Sketchup is a nice application that also pushes these boundaries, in connection with Google Earth.

Joe’s pretty adamant about good user interface design, regardless of desktop or mobile or web. Everyone pretty much agreed that we have to use the right tool for the job, and that it’s not always clear what people need when looking at what people are CURRENTLY doing. Sometimes we need to mix stuff up and come up with a new way of interacting with the user. There are some really cool demos from demo.com that really push this envelope.