Wednesday, 27 March 2013

My First Devoxx

Venue and kick off

I've walked past the venue many times, but had never realised it was even there (standard London). The space feels huge, with plenty power points, great wifi and crap coffee. Perfect for a great conference venue. The space isn't just space, it's been well planned and thought out to enable a fantastic community feel and corridore track. The venue is nothing without setting the right tone and introduction for the rest of the conference, which is what the keynote delivered. Conferences without keynotes and setting expectations really don't ever get going. Right from the beginning Dan Hardiker made it clear that the most important part of the conference was the attendees and helping attendees to find something at the conference to help them improve as a developer. The conference was also supported by a code of conduct, everyone is safe and knows the expectations here. This is also supported by the number of keen volunteers and organisers who have done a fantastic job of making the event in London bring in the community feel of Devoxx.


The keynote by Kevlin Henney bolstered the standard that is expected for speakers at Devoxx. The keynote "The Programmer" was thought provoking about how we see ourselves as professionals and how can draw comparisons between our experiences and other professions. It also explored different types of programmers and how their approaches to problems can be ineffective given the cognitive performance of humans. From the keynote I've taken away that I need to revisit my approach to development and time management, especially with my recent promotion. I also took away the fact I really need to work on one presentation and make it the best it can be rather than lots of smaller presentations. I've got an idea in mind which I am planning to submit to JAX London and Java Zone, not saying it will be even close to this - but a new standard is set!

Talk Highlights and Takeaways

I could write a blog post on every talk that I've been to whilst being at Devoxx, but I'll try and put together my thoughts and the talks that these have come from. Hopefully, if you're interested, you can then grab them from Parleys.

Are some of the people that are jumping to functional programming being immature in their choice? Jumping because it's the Justin Bieber of technologies and OO sucks (awesome quote Sandro). This was a great talk about OO principles and good quality design. It certainly matched a few talks I have given recently about "Is Object Oriented Programming Still Relevant" and why it is important to strike practical balances between OO theory and design.

There have been a few references to "You do write at least unit tests right?" - and I'm quite sure that the people that are at this conference do. However, how do we approach the rafts of developers that are not at conferences that don't write tests and believe that good design, software principles and tests are not conducive to being more productive? 

Charles Nutter's talk on invoke dynamic has taken a concept that I'm vaguely familiar with and got me thinking about how practical this could be to day-to-day Java developers. The one usage I've been thinking of is dependency injection without the need to do reflection. I need to think about this some more, but I'm also wondering if this could have an impact with not requiring to define dependency hierarchies - and effectively lazily load these or parts of these as required. This definitely needs more beer talk time.

Richard Warburton gave an excellent low level discussion of hardware features and how applications can struggle or thrive under certain conditions. I was glad it came with a disclaimer that these techniques won't be for everyone, as there is usually so many other things you can optimise before you'd get down to this level of crazy!

My thoughts have long been out on whether JavaScript is a complete solution for some of the more powerful products you can build in Flex and action script. Angular JS provides food for thought that there is a decent supporting framework to study in more detail. The main benefit seems to be a framework that supports a good separation of concerns and with that the testability that is required by large organised code bases.

I attended a few decent short talks on Mutability Detector and docx4j, both of which I wouldn't have been interested in a full talk, but was good to get an introduction as will potentially use both of these in the future.

Final Thoughts

  • Devoxx really is a community conference prepared and delivered by the community.
  • The atmosphere and friendly nature is something I've not seen outside of the LJC Open Conference at a large event in the past.
  • Thanks to all the organisers and volunteers for a fun and informative few days.
  • The conference is only just beginning, I must have only seen around 30% of what I wanted to see at Devoxx and now need a few more days to catch up with everything else on Parleys.
  • I've learnt a lot about Java, wider technologies and approaches to a wide range of technical problems and challenges. I think this conference would have been useful to developers of all levels.

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