Saturday, October 28, 2006

NFJS Dallas Retrospective

I just finished the No Fluff Just Stuff Dallas Symposium. First, let me say that I am exhausted. Two and half days of in-depth sessions wears me out. Second, this was my third (or fourth, I can't remember) NFJS and this one was business as usual:
  • Excellent (for the most part) sessions focused on a core set of topics - agile, Java, Ruby, Spring, testing, etc.
  • Laid back atmosphere. It doesn't feel like a conference, but more like one big BOF. And you can tell that most of the speakers have a good relationship with one another, probably from spending so much time "touring" together. Overall, it's a really friendly atmosphere.
  • Well organized and well run.
Here are my general take aways regarding specific technologies and the industry in general:

  • AOP is here to stay. Duh! I know this sounds obvious, but most Java developers aren't using aspects. Even so, some speakers said it is mainstream. I don't think it is mainstream - to me people still don't get it or get it but fear it. But it is clearly well rooted and will keep seeping into more and more companies. This is great news.
  • We, as an industry, are still learning web services. I attended a couple of web services sessions, and the questions from the audience indicated that there is still a lot of confusion in this area. Even the speakers at these sessions provided more "guidance" in this area rather than concrete solutions. Unfortunately, I don't think much in this area is black and white with many lessons still to be learned. C'est la vie.
  • Groovy is making a comeback. A few years ago, Groovy exploded onto the Java landscape. For a while, you couldn't read a Java website or blog without seeing Groovy being discussed. Then...silence. I don't know exactly what caused this or where Groovy went. To me, it seemed like Groovy wasted a lot of initial momentum. But Groovy appears to be popping up again in several places, or it has always been there and is popping up on my radar again :-)
  • People are interested in Agile, but people aren't practicing Agile. This is a huge generalization, but the agile sessions are packed yet many people haven't adopted some basic agile practices - unit tests, CI, simple-enough-to-work design. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps some of it is the typical "management" distrust. But I think part of it is Agile's dirty little secret - Agile is hard. Not hard as in confusing or complicated. Rather, agile practices require a lot of discipline and a lot of developers/teams just aren't that disciplined. I could be wrong.
Lastly, at the risk of sounding like a geek groupie, but there are a couple of speakers I feel are a can't miss if you get a chance to see them. First, Glenn Vanderburg is just freakin' smart. His peak deep inside the rabbit hole that is the inner workings of JavaScript made my brain hurt (which is a good thing I think). His talk on Java Performance Myths was also fascinating. If you have been in Java for some time, none of this information (e.g. GC really isn't slow any more) is new, but it is still worth attending. Second, Ted Neward is worth seeing no matter the subject matter. The depth and breadth of his technical knowledge is truly impressive - he always seem to have an answer (real, not faked) to any question, no matter how complex or obscure. Oh, and try to start an argument with him for fun.

Congratulations Jay on another great conference.