Tag Archives: Java Posse Roundup

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.


Android in Crested Butte …

Last year, at the Java Posse Roundup in Crested Butte, a few of us got together the day before the conference for a pre-event.  We talked about Django and TurboGears. It was quite interesting, and people filtered in throughout the evening, as they arrived in town.  So I figured we needed something similar this year and had been sort of thinking about what might be a good topic, but hadn't really given it much thought until TODAY, when one of the attendees (waving at Mike Levin in the Swamp) mentioned that he and Robert Cooper had been talking about Android quite a bit and were looking forward to seeing what they could do with it.  No sense them having all of the fun, all by themselves.

So, for this year's Roundup (March 4-7), a few of us are going to get together the day before the conference starts to see what we can do with Android.   Should be fun.  I already have all of the development tools on my laptop, from CodeMash. I'm looking forward to it, and several of the attendees have already emailed me saying that they are as well!   Fun!


Java IDEs at the Roundup

Discussions of IDEs, and the special challenges of having choice

The Java Posse has released yet another session from the Java Posse Roundup. I attended the Roundup in March, and we had a lot of great sessions, all of which were recorded and will be released over the next few months. They’re releasing about one a week so that they don’t overwhelm their bandwidth restrictions. Most of the sessions that have been released to date, were sessions that I had missed. The session that was released this week #115, on Java IDE’s, was one that I not only attended but also was responsible for convening. That simply means that it was a topic that I hoped that people would want to discuss, so I put a post-it note on the board, and people came. We had a great session, and I learned a lot.

If you want to download the recording for the session, you can get it at http://media.libsyn.com/media/dickwall/JavaPosse115.mp3, or from whatever you usually use to download such things (I subscribe with iTunes).

Oh, and yes, there’s a little bit of Microsoft-bashing, but also some accolades too. For one thing, it occurred to me that this is not a conversation that Microsoft developers would be having (i.e., which IDE to choose). Most people use Visual Studio, and that’s an appropriate choice. Yes, there are plug ins, but my bet is that 99% of the community doesn’t bother installing them. I suspect that useful things make their way into Visual Studio, much as useful things make their way into MyEclipse and NetBeans. And yes, I’m sure that there are enterprising developers who customize their environments, but I seriously doubt that Microsoft programmers face quite the same number of choices that Java programmers do when configuring a developer environment. That’s not a bash; that’s actually a compliment. Out of the box, Visual Studio is not only usable, it’s quite useful. With the Java tools, there’s not simply “a box”. There’s “the web”. Go forth, young (wo)man, and find your IDE. Then decide how to customize it. This approach is self-selecting, I think. The types of people who have been drawn to Unix and Linux aren’t put off by this approach. They see it as an advantage. I’m not exactly put off by it, but if you listen to my comments during the session, you will realize that I do struggle with the sense that it’s a waste, some of the time, but then again, I love the fact that people are so motivated to build cool tools that can be easily plugged in.

My biggest concerns with this approach are:

1.It’s hard for new developers to get started
2.Young developers, who expect an IDE as part of modern software development practices will be put off and not choose to develop in Java
3.Time spent evaluating and selecting an IDE, and choosing customizations for it is time that I don’t spend solving problems for my clients.

I haven’t looked at NetBeans in a while, and I will (soon) spend some time looking at that again. I’ve been pretty happy with Eclipse and in the spirit of getting work done rather than once again evaluating tools, I was pretty happy to stay with it. But with some of the new features that NetBeans 6 will provide, I’m thinking it’s time to look at it again.

In any case, what I got out of this session after experiencing it both in person and later, as an observer, I took away the following:

1.We all like (and alternately hate) our IDE's. Even if our "IDE" is vi. 😉
2.Everyone struggles to find that sweet spot of plugins to use with their IDE of choice.
3.If you are a plugin "developer", write good docs and promote the tool wisely so that others can learn about it. Don't produce a 1 hr video (not kind to searching). And make sure that the Java Posse knows about your plugin/tool.
4.A rating system would go a long way toward helping the mere mortals among us to help find cool and useful plugins, and shorten our own individual evaluation cycles.
5.nbextras is a good place to look for plugins for NetBeans.

I think that *** said it best. It really comes down to community. Active participation within the community, sharing about tools, etc. is really essential to knowing what you can do better.

Stable Release (5.5)
NetBeans in Progress
Milestone releases

IntelliJ's IDEA

Plugin for Eclipse, discussed in the session
Plugin, discussed in the session

Swag at the Java Posse Roundup

Cool swag

Is it rude to brag about the swag at a conference? Ah, well, I’m gonna do it anyhow. Next year, I’m convinced that the Java Posse Roundup 2008 will sell out during the early bird registration period, and it won’t be just for the swag.

But it was cool swag.

Cenqua and Google and O’Reilly sent t-shirts. There was a serious lack of shirts in small sizes. Kathy Sierra would NOT be pleased. She’s right … it DOES matter. Even the guys were amused at the number of XL and XXL. Not a small or medium in the bunch of Google or O’Reilly shirts. I didn’t check out the Cenqua shirts (I like their product, though).

O’Reilly sent some books and notepads. But they made the mistake of labeling the box “Dark Chocolate”. OK, the notebooks were great, but the expectation of chocolate kinda set the bar!

Google also sent some really cool flashy pins. Bruce’s company (Mindview) has great floaty pens.

Adobe sent a training video for Flex and a nice travel mug too.

Sun sent developer tools. I hope that I didn’t forget anyone. The swag table was quite laden with goodies. We have some cool notebooks that I could have taken, but the thought didn’t occur to me.

But next year, someone better send chocolate. I definitely know what SRT will take to its next event. Hmm, we’re sponsors of the Michigan Celebration of Women in Computing in a few weeks. Maybe I should see if we still have time to get chocolate!

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.