Technical Sessions at the Java Posse Roundup

I'm a month late in posting this, but better late than never.

The Java Posse Roundup was an Open Spaces conference in Crested Butte, CO.  It was held March 4-8, and this was the second (hopefully annual) conference.  The non-technical sessions, about which I already posted, were great, and the technical sessions were great too.  I didn't keep really great notes, because it's hard to take notes and participate at the same time, but here is my re-creation, from my chicken scratch.

The night before the conference started, most of the conference attendees were in town, so we got together at Bruce's house.  We badgered Dick Wall about Android, and he spent some time walking us through his application (WikiNotes), which has been (recently) open-sourced. 

Joe Nuxoll, of the Java Posse, convened a session on Component Based Systems.  Many different systems and libraries were discussed, including Swing, Flex, Boxley, and Thermo.  The consensus was (pretty much) reached that Swing is a library and is not component based.  Flex is component based.  Boxley is an AOL component based application development environment whose lead architect was hired by Adobe to work on Flex.  And Thermo is a design-oriented tool that provides the missing link between FlexBuilder and PhotoShop, allowing designers to build an application that a developer can drop into the production app.

Barry Hawkins convened a session on "Why is Agile Hard?" (note: audio released this week on the Java Posse podcast).  Barry is an agile coach, from Atlanta, and I always enjoy his sessions.  He always seems to come up with some good one-liners, that stick with me.  Like "Agile exposes the dysfunction endemic in software development, whereas other approaches mask it".  He also pointed at some great sources for future "research", including Scott Ambler and Kevlin Henney's podcasts at  Also Alistair Cockburn's podcast on IT Conversations: Agile Software Development, and of course  Mike Cohn's blog "Succeeding with Agile". A few people who participated in the discussion were looking for answers about how to bring agile into an environment which is hostile to it.  The consensus of the discussion is that until the business respects agile, you're giving up a lot of the benefits, but there are some benefits that can be gained by heading in that direction.  Another reference that came out of the discussion was the book "Waltzing with Bears: Managing Risks on Software Projects".

I think that it was Ophir Radnitz who convened a session on "What does Scala Need".  Many people were interested in Scala at the Roundup (myself included), and this was a lively discussion.   It ranged from how to leverage what we already know (about Java) for Scala to what it will take for the language to be successful.  Toward that end, the group determined that books, community, and tools were important to success.  The books are getting there, with Martin Odersky's Programming in Scala book and others likely on their way.  Community is building both at and The plugins in development for Eclipse, NetBeans, and IntelliJ's IDEA will help a lot with adoption.  It's hard, these days, to learn a language without code completion. Sounds silly, but I doubt that I'm the only one who has started to depend on that support.  During the session, Carl Quinn and Tor Norbye came to an agreement to work together to help advance the NetBeans Scala plugin.

One nice thing about Open Spaces conferences is the ability to mold them to fit the needs of the actual attendees, at the event.  Last year, there was a discussion about how cool lightning talks are in other environments, and so we added lightning talks to the Roundup.  This year, people wanted to go a bit more in depth on some issues, so we added some very informal workshops.  A few people were worried that the workshops didn't fit the model of Open Spaces, which are interactive, but there really wasn't a conflict.  People who were interested in the workshop format showed up!  Others did not.  Joel Neely and I did a workshop on Scala for Java Programmers, followed by a several hour Scala hacking session the next evening, where we worked on a functional implementation of a problem that we had come across.  You can read more about how far Joel has taken this on Joel's blogChet Haase did a really cool lightning talk where he demonstrated how he was able to implement some of the examples from his Filthy Rich Clients, but in Flex.  We wanted to know MORE so we recruited Chet to do a workshop to do a deeper dive on this.  It was fantastic.  I think that his blog will serve as great reference material for building apps in Flex.

I think that we will see an increase in workshop time at future Roundups, if the attendees want them.  We slid these into the dinner time, after the ski hill closed and before the lightning talks started.  It was time that people were using to socialize anyhow, and it fit well into many schedules.

 Once again, the Java Posse Roundup is over for another year. I had a blast, and learned a lot.  I met some really great people, and also enjoyed seeing some familiar faces.  I'm already looking forward to Roundup '09.