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Non-Technical Notes From Devoxx 2012

The Java conference Devoxx 2012

It was good. It was really good. It was created by a team who cared. Java developers are not stupid. They see the attitude. Devoxx is for real. It’s not fake.

During the last couple of months I’ve attended two largest Java conferences: JavaOne made by Oracle and Devoxx made by the team of enthusiasts lead by the fearless leader Stephan Janssen. JavaOne 2012 was good comparing to JavaOne 2010. It was not as good as some of the Sun’s JavaOne conferences, but this year Oracle deserves a credit for delivering a good corporate event for promoting one of their products. On the other hand, the Devoxx organizers have the only thing to prepare and promote – it’s Java ecosphere.

With all my respect to Oracle, I have to say that Devoxx became the #1 conference for Java Developers in the world. It’s better. As simple as that. Devoxx already became a brand. There is just Devoxx (3400 attendees), Devoxx France (1200 people), Devoxx Kids, and the next March the Devoxx UK will be launched.

The Devoxx conference can afford not selling you anything. It allows Google speakers. I’ve attended several presentations made by Google developers – they were really good. Devoxx is inexpensive (mainly thanks to Oracle and Google).

The venue is great. It’s the second largest in Europe movie theater called Multiplex. The theater itself has a top notch video equipment, but the creativity of the Devoxx team made it even better. Each auditorium (a.k.a theater) has a large monitor by the entrance announcing the next presentation in an animated form.

After attending a presentation people could vote using the NFC boards embedded into their wristbands. The NFC device would send an HTTP Post request to a little board of the Raspberry PI device which ran node.js server that would saves the votes in Mongo DB. This Raspberry PI device costs $35 and runs on Java.

Unfortunately, the Java community is losing women. Only 4% of the Devoxx attendees were women. It’s bad, but I don’t see any solution for this. In my opinion, the set of technologies that a modern Java developer has to know is too broad and complex. Most of the working Java women can’t afford the luxury of spending nights on self-studying – they have to take care of kids and their husbands that learn Scala after dinner. I can only beg, “Dear ladies! Please, please learn Java programming. The money is here. Money bring independence… if this is what you want. “

All presentations were video recorded and will be available on Parleys for subscribers by the end of this year. By the way, this time all the videos will be delivered using HTML5 technologies: the Flash Player is out.

Here’s more of my non overly technical motesfrom Devoxx. Steven Chin has arrived to the keynote stage on his motor bike. He’s been traveling through 12 countries to get here (see http://steveonjava.com/nighthacking/ for the map and his interviews). But I’m pretty sure that the union-lawyer-controlled USA would’t allow the running bike on stage.

I’ve attended several presentations related to Web applications security. This subject will only become more and more important over the years, and I strongly recommend to get educated in this area.

Chrome beta: JavaScript can access directly Microphone and WebCam API. IMO, this is very important development, which should convince some swingers to go HTML5 as opposed to native mobile applications.

During one lunch I met a strong Flex developer I knew. He doesn’t want to throw away five years of his investment in Flex. I tried to convince him that this was not a throwaway – any new technology you learn makes you a stronger and better software developer. We have to learn something new all the time – this is the rule of our game.

The interest to HTML5/JavaScript is a lot higher in Europe comparing to the US. The fact that a session on JavaScript unit testing fills a 400-seat auditorium speaks for itself. The angular.js talk had people sitting on the steps in the isles. My session “JavaScript for Java Developers” was attended by 300 people. While listening to the questions from the audience at similar presentations at JavaOne in San Francisco, I had a feeling that Java developers were not overly familiar with what’s going on with HTML5.

At Devoxx, I’ve attended a couple of non-technical presentations too. No, it was not about agile methodology – I’m way too skeptical about this whole Kanban/Scrum movement. These were the presentations about software development in general, and these presentations couldn’t fit all the people who wanted to be there. I’m really interested in observing the lives of enterprise software developers, and have an opinion on this subject. I’ll be submitting proposals to speak on this subject next year.

Finally, about the country, where Devoxx takes place. To put it simply, you can’t go wrong with Belgium. Make it a learning vacation. Antwerp is just a short two-hour train ride from Amsterdam or Paris. Ghent and Brugge are one hour away. Be creative! The beer variety is unbeatable, and they have plenty of good restaurants and hotels. Belgians have a good sense of humor too. The hotel I was staying in had a bar. I couldn’t help it and took a picture in the men’s toilet there.

Isn’t it something? At least it’s a very positive way to finish a blog post about a technical conference – don’t you think so?


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More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a co-founder of two software companies: Farata Systems and SuranceBay. He authored several technical books and lots of articles on software development. Yakov is Java Champion (https://java-champions.java.net). He leads leads Princeton Java Users Group. Two of Yakov's books will go in print this year: "Enterprise Web Development" (O'Reilly) and "Java For Kids" (No Starch Press).