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.