If there is one thing you should do this year, it’s go to a technical conference.
Ben had previously written a quick note from our trip to OSCON. It’s hard to explain the sort of impact that a good conference can have on your career and even your life, but we can’t express how much you should go to one in order to gain inspiration, have fun and learn a whole bunch of new stuff you can take back to your workplace.
Here’s a summary of the trip and some links to explore further. OSCON is the largest open source conference in the USA (FOSDEM holds the crown in Europe) and this year consisted of three conferences in one (Data, Java and the main OSCON itself), plus a couple of pre-conferences (Community Leadership Summit and the JVM Languages Summit).
I spent the Saturday before OSCON at the Community Leadership Summit. CLS 11 was a 2 day un-conference organised by Van Riper of Google and Jono Bacon (Ubuntu Community Manager). There were plenty of great discussions about the art form of running communities which are summarised in the CLS 11 wiki at http://communityleadershipsummit.wikia.com/wiki/2011/Notes
Ubuntu, Google, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Adobe, Red Hat and many more were all represented here and I got an awful lot of useful knowledge from some of the best community leaders around.
JVM Languages Summit
This one day un-conference was hosted by Stephen Chin, who cleverly roped in our own Ben Evans to facilitate much of the discussion (I suspect Ben was bribed by the great coffee and specialist doughnuts ;-p). There were a couple of really interesting debates about topics such as “What a future programming language will look like” but the hot topic of the day was centred around “language interoperability for JVM languages”. The key difference being that the language designers want their languages to interoperate with each other as opposed to having to go through Java.
This is understandably a non-trivial problem space :-). Luckily, the room was filled with the Who’s who of the JVM languages world including:
- Charles Nutter (JRuby)
- Martin Odersky (Scala)
- Ola Bini (more languages than you can shake a stick at)
- A bunch of other experts
- Some bemused enthusiasts such as myself.
By the end of the day, some glimmerings of a solution were being thrown about and armed with some optimism from the day, Ben arranged for a round table to hash out the details on the following Tuesday (more on this shortly). It was a great privilege to meet these experts in person and to be involved in a truly interesting discussion on some of the great problems facing the JVM today.
The quality of the talks at OSCON were truly excellent. On the Java side, some of the talks included:
- Some candid statements from Oracle about recent controversial happenings in the Java ecosystem,
- A healthy discussion that Ben and I hosted about the JCP and the future of Java standards
- The always entertaining Java puzzlers from Josh Bloch
- A mesmerizing “Future Java Developer” talk by SouJava which involved time travel!
- Plenty of hard core talks about the JVM, performance, concurrency and more.
On the Monday night the Oscon Ignite talks are always a highlight. You can see these fast and furious talks at http://www.livestream.com/oreillyconfs/video?clipId=pla_2da1e879-afb5-44be-a538-b697ee24c58a). For those of you who want to see the Diabolical Developer again, he makes an apperance at 6:40
JVM Languages Interop
On Tuesday, after the keynote a small group of us representing a bunch of languages including Scala, JRuby, Clojure, Java, Ioke, Seph and more sat down to try and work out some of the JVM language interoperability details. To cut a long story short, the introduction of invokedynamic and MethodHandles in the JVM as part of Java 7 really comes in to save the day and for the first time makes it possible to interoperate between the dynamic languages such as JRuby and the static languages such as Java.
Ben is tracking the efforts to turn theoretical discussuions into reality. For those who want to join him, please contact him via twitter @kittylyst or join the jvm-languages google discussion group. Hopefully as his work on the book wraps up, he’ll be getting more cycles to devote to languages work.
The hallway track
The other amazing aspect of a conference like OSCON is the people you meet in talks, over drinks or dinner, or just randomly roaming the halls. Ben and I caught up with old friends and colleagues, and made some great new connections. A quick shout-out (but by no means exhaustive) to: Jeff Genender (Apache), Selena Deckelmann (Postgres), Aaron Bedra (Clojure), Noirin Plunkett (Apache), Joe Darcy (Oracle), Stuart Sierra (Clojure) and Patrick Curran (JCP) as well as everyone we’ve already name-checked.
And finally, a very big thank you to Stephen Chin and Laurel Ruma – the chairs of OSCON Java. Thank you so much for the invitation to come and participate – and hope to see you again next year.
Some random notes
- Ben and I also helped out with Java 7 hacking workshop (and saw some great ways to make workshops run more smoothly), attended a few great parties (the PuppetLabs party was epic to say the least) and engaged in a monster sized game of chess in the exhibition hall (thanks to some crowd support, I eeked out an honourable draw ;p).
- For those photo fiends out there you can see the mayhem at the Official Photos on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/oreillyconf/sets/72157627279363746/
- Some other reviews of OSCON can be found at http://www.oscon.com/oscon2011/public/content/news-coverage
OK, so that was a long post – but we hope it gives you a taste of why conferences can be career changing (even life changing) experiences. Luckily you don’t have to travel too far for your next conference fix!
We have JAX London 31st Oct – 2nd Nov, which promises (like OSCON) to be an event packed with great talks and a high ratio of speakers/industry leaders to attendees. As Mark Hazell mentioned in a recent mail to the list, it also has a healthy representation of speakers from this community, which really showcases the great support and mentoring the LJC gives.
Later on this year on Nov the 26th (save the date!), we have our very own LJC Open Conference. This little conference punches well above its weight with lots of high quality sessions and is also a fantastic place to give your first presentation at in a supportive environment.