JavaOne Wrapup

by William Grosso

On Thursday, I sat in on five sessions, and gave a talk at 4:00.

I'm not sure that there was anything at all interesting in the sessions I attended, but that might have been my pre-talk focus (the day of a talk, I tend to have a one-track mind).

I was struck by how much nicer MIDP seems these days. 2.0 is significantly more friendly. I really like the Push Registry; it seems like a very nice bit of useful functionality. I'm less clear about the timer service that's coming in EJB 2.1; that strikes me as a little too special-purpose for a spec. In both cases, the question is: did this need to be in the specification. For MIDP, the answer is clearly yes. For EJB? It's less clear.

Maybe the interesting thing is that, in both cases, we're thinking about the platform as a container, managing code. Which, in a very real way, is the Java revolution in a nutshell.

I also spent some time trying to find out where AspectJ is (it went unmentioned at this year's JavaOne) and why IBM was almost completely absent. No-one seemed to know the answer to either question.

I didn't go Friday, because the value I was getting from most talks was close to zero. Other people have said it (including Sue Spielman in these very weblogs) but it's worth repeating: Many of the speakers this year were awful.

More generally, JavaOne also raised the question about the utility of conferences. Do they, in this age of webs, hyperlinks, and readily accessible technical documents, make a lot of sense? Do presentations that focus on specs make a lot of sense? My guess is yes, but that we should start screening talks differently. The barriers for a talk at a major conference should include:

  1. The speaker should have demonstrated expertise in the subject area.
  2. The speaker should have significant speaking experience.
  3. Sitting through the talk should give the attendee more, or significantly different, information than they could find out in a comparable length of time searching the web.

I have no idea how to enforce these (especially the last one), but it's clear that many of the talks I attended wouldn't have passed these criteria.

Lest this seem too grumpy, let me hasten to admit I enjoyed JavaOne. I did learn a fair amount, speaking is always fun, and running into people I don't see often enough made the week worthwhile.

How would you improve JavaOne?


2003-06-14 16:56:43
Conference speakers
I agree with you entirely, William. A speaker at a software conference, number one, should have a mastery of his or her subject. And it shouldn't be heavily influenced by the marketing department, either - you sort of want the sense that the presenter prepared the material.

Speaking experience is critical. This is self-evident. Perhaps more novice speakers should take courses, or join Toastmasters.

As for your third point, about the information already being on the Web, I think the key is that the speaker provides a synthesis of available information. That is the entire point of a session at a conference. A good 30 or 45 minute synthesis, that reflects the many days of work that the speaker put into it, saves *me* the time of doing the googling.

As for enforcement, I think it is inherently self-enforcing. People attend a conference or convention, develop their impressions, and pass them along to their coworkers. If things were bad at such-and-such event # X, less people will go next time. And that in turn hopefully influences people who are hoping to speak at that next event to improve.

2003-06-15 20:41:53
Speakers at J1 v8
I agree, this year was pretty aweful. I was very glad I had heard about the rogue Eclipse conference Wednesday evening from 7 - 10 at the Marriot. That doubled the value of the trip for me. I probably should have taken the day and gone to the parallel jboss conference instead of the javaone for that day.

The two speakers who I could a) understand and b) follow and that c) offered material more chalenging than the most basic materials were Josh Block and Blake Stone. There were times when I think Josh was wrong about things. Especially metadata. He is missing something there that could easily destroy Java one day. But at least he speaks clearly and is very bright.

I beg of sun, PLEASE treat the speakers ability to speak and their knowledge of the material at least on par with their subjects and their abstracts. Get folks that know how to speak! Get Martin Fowler. Get Rusty Harold. Get Bruce Eckel.

Every single black diamond (difficult) talk I went to was trivial in difficulty and rehashed things from or There were a few others that were marked as intermediate and one beginner that were actually interesting and presented new ideas and insights.

As an experiment I will probably order the voice over slides from the conference so I can see if there are good speakers that I just missed. I can take the names down for next year I guess. It would be interesting to see a general ranking of a) difficulty of material, b) knowledge of material and c) presentation of material for the conference. On the whole I think it would be the worst year yet. Bleh.

But the new logo is COOL. Sigh.

2003-06-16 08:00:49
Re: Conference speakers
Perhaps you could name the speakers you found lacking?
2003-06-16 09:18:19
No, I'm not going to name speakers I didn't like
The point of saying many of the speakers weren't very good, and of pointing out that the sentiment is, if not ubiquitious, widely shared (for example, "I haven't been impressed with the talks so far. It seems to be a lot of Sun employees, many of which obviously don't seem comfortable talking, and would much prefer to be in a dark room coding" from Dion Almaer's weblog) is not to point fingers and name names. As far as I can tell, doing that would be unproductive and hurt people's feelings.

The goal is to diagnose the problem, and then work towards a solution. Or at least generate some discussion about how JavaOne could be improved next year.

2003-06-30 08:41:08
Re: No, I'm not going to name speakers I didn't like
Then how are those individuals going to improve, if no one tells them? As for 'hurt feelings', please remember we're talking about grown professionals, not little kids. I mean, no one's suggesting you verbally open a can of whupa** on anyone.