Tuesday, November 23, 2004

No Fluff...

Here's my opinion of NFJS held here in Calgary last weekend. Overall pretty good stuff!

2004 “No Fluff Just Stuff”
Western Canada Java Symposium

Alan Biggs
Senior Java Developer
Treetop Tech

The conference was a good mix of presentations by ‘ground-level’ developers and software professionals who really know their material. If there was a theme to the conference, to me it would be “Software Craftsmanship”. As well as having many sessions to hone our skills and introduce us to new working techniques, there were also some refreshing topics to do with the Art of Software Engineering and the challenges of progressing as a professional in the workplace.
There was a welcome absence of Sales Presentations by marketers and sponsors. The content was principally technical in nature.
Most of the presenters have written software development books in their area of expertise. Dave Thomas and David Geary were the most notable of these, having co-authored the acclaimed book “The Pragmatic Programmer”, and Sun’s “Core Java Server Faces” respectively.
A very entertaining part of the conference was the Panel Discussion on Saturday afternoon, where the speakers were asked questions “on any subject whatsoever.” Questions about their biases, what new technologies excite them, their opinion of what’s on the horizon unearthed some surprising answers. A shift towards dotNet is inevitable but Java is not going away – conclusion? We will be managing dotNet front-ends to J2EE back-ends increasingly in the coming years. It will not be a bad move to have both technologies in one’s repertoire. No question was outlawed, and so a question to a panel of techno-geeks asking if they “Have a Life” returned some interesting responses!
The main threads of the conference were Agile methods, including test-first development, refactoring and implementing continuous builds. There was a detailed overview of Sun’s significant, (but already dogged,) new technology “Java Server Faces”. Open source software and honing our software engineering skills were also key topics.
Some of the more interesting topics were some views of some interesting new technologies inside and outside of the Java space, including Ruby, Spring, Tapestry and Seaside (a Smalltalk-based web application framework).

The conference was very enjoyable and represented excellent investment of our time. The topics were all current, but were not just about tools, APIs and technologies. This conference was for those developers who are serious about their profession and making continuous improvement in their field. There was plenty of meat on the menu to keep our brains churning – mixed with a good dose of humor and a chance to step back and evaluate the tasks we perform from day to day – why we do what we do, and to take pride in doing it better.

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