SoCal Code Camp Los Angeles II

Posted in: Software Development Best Practices

SoCal Code Camp is back, November 21st & 22nd

Code Camp is a place for developers to come and learn from their peers. This community driven event has become an international trend where peer groups of all platforms, programming languages and disciplines band together to bring content to the community.

Who is speaking at Code Camp? YOU are, YOUR PEERS are, and YOUR LOCAL EXPERTS are…all are welcome! This is a community event and one of the main purposes of the event is to have local community members step up and offer some cool presentations!

JavaOne 2009 – (Mostly) Important Questions (Mostly) Answered

Posted in: Enterprise Java

A few days before JavaOne I posted some questions that I was looking forward to finding out the answers too. Here is what I found out.

Has Hudson Killed CruiseControl?
I saw a couple of presentations on Hudson. I also saw Kohsuke Kawaguchi at the Thirsty Bear and he was drinking the good beer, so clearly Hudson is verging on world domination under his guidance.

I never saw Cruisecontrol mentioned anywhere. Not in the conference catalog and not in the pavilion.

I am now even more convinced that Hudson is the way forward for open source Java Continuous Integration.

What Will Be The Volume Of The Twitter Noise Coming From Inside The Conference?
There was definitely a strong stream of Tweets around the #javaone keyword all week. I was able to get a different perspective during the General Sessions by watching the Twitter stream go by as people Tweeted about what was being said on stage.

But what I will say is that I was able to keep up with the volume of Tweets. I mention this because I started to try and follow the #wwdc keyword this week as the Apple conference was going on and I simply could not keep up, not even close. Every time my TweetDeck was refreshing, I was getting more than 100 Tweets during the opening keynote. I gave up in the end and turned the live search off.

Also, while I saw some people Tweet about “is there a Tweetup?“, I never actually saw anyone take the bold step to be the organizer of one.

So definitely more Twittering going on, but nothing earth shattering. I was also hoping to see a vendor try and use Twitter as a medium for some kind of viral promotion during the conference, but I didn’t see anything that creative unfortunately.

Will AJAX Presentations Be THE Place To Be Seen For A 3rd Year Running?
So there were definitely a lot of AJAX based presentations. There were also a lot of REST presentations, which (at least in my experience) seem to always stray over into the AJAX world.

But there were also probably an equal number of JavaFX presentations. Although I would take the amount of JavaFX presentations and other buzz with a grain of salt as it is Sun’s pet project and it was their conference.

There was even an AJAX vs JavaFX presentation to round things out on that front.

But I do think my prediction of all topics related to the cloud as being the hot topics of the conference was probably correct – probably only outnumbered by speculation related to the whole Sun/Oracle situation. There was a track on the Monday morning related to the cloud, there was an unconference on the Monday afternoon called “Cloud Camp”, Sun showed off cloud related provisioning in the Tuesday morning keynote and there were a whole pile of regular sessions either related to new cloud topics, or just repositioning old topics to add the buzzword cloud to their repertoire.

What Will The Oracle Presence Be?
So a bit of a mixed bag on this front.

As most people who care already know, Larry Ellison made an appearance at the keynote on Tuesday morning. I was actually rooting for him to not show up at all – I think that would have been the best play for Oracle. I think McNealy played it well, but it was obvious that both men were a little uncomfortable and they stumbled on some awkward topics during the time they shared the stage. I don’t actually think Larry really cleared any of the FUD related to the situation even though he tried to reassure people that Oracle “likes” Java.

Beyond Larry’s appearance though, Oracle’s presence was actually less than previous years. Most notably, Oracle had absolutely zero presence in the pavilion this year. You can speculate to heart’s content as to why that was. I believe there was at least one session from Oracle personnel, but I did not make it to that one.

I didn’t see any Oracle signage around the conference, it pretty much was business as usual from that standpoint.

What Will The Reaction To The Microsoft Keynote Be?
This turned out to be a dud when compared to the chatter leading up to it.

There was little reaction from the crowd, although from my quick eyeballing of the room, it seemed to be the smallest attendance for keynote during the week.

Basically Microsoft told us that integration is import – wow, thanks for that, welcome to the party. The rest of it was a thinly veiled marketing pitch, which never goes over well at a technical conference.

Will Jonathon Schwartz Look As Uncomfortable And Awkward As Usual?
Believe it or not, I actually think Schwartz did a reasonable job on the Tuesday morning. It didn’t feel quite as stiff as usual. His interaction with partners etc. was still a little cumbersome but nothing worse than I have seen elsewhere.

I was super happy to see Scott McNealy make an appearance – it was clearly the highlight of the keynote. I also think Sun made the right call to have McNealy be the one to address the elephant in the room. The standing ovation he received when he left the stage I think was evidence of that and was also the highpoint of the whole keynote.

Will James Gosling’s Toy Show Seem Overly Long And Desperate Again?
The toy show was the same old story as expected. I sat through it and there are some interesting niche type Java things going on, but I still left the session with overwhelming sense of “meh”.

I think the most interesting part of the Friday morning keynote was the fact that there was absolutely no acknowledgment of the Oracle/Sun situation at all, nor was there any acknowledgment that this was probably the end of JavaOne, at least as we know it today. I had predicted the Friday morning keynote to be somewhat emotional with a bunch of farewells and look-backs, but as it turns out, the Tuesday morning keynote was the one that had the emotion in it.

Will The Lunch Lines Be Under Control?
Nope, lunch lines were ridiculous as usual.

I am always impressed at how megalomaniacal the event staff get at Moscone during these big conferences.

Will It Be Crazy Cold in Yerba Buena Gardens on Thursday Night Again?
I was way off on this one.

The weather was forecast to be horrible on Thursday and so the event staff moved the party to the ballroom at the Marriott on 4th street. As it turns out it was perfectly dry on Thursday and it could have easily been held outside, but it was certainly cold.

The party was actually pretty good and the band was excellent for the setting IMHO and the food was significantly better than last year’s corn dogs and popcorn.

Will The Bookstore Be Given More Space?
Nope, exactly the same space, exactly the same pushy-shovey experience trying to browse the books.

Will Enough People Use me As A Reference So I Can Get The Better Swag?
Unfortunately no. :(

Why are the A’s and Giants both playing away all week?
The MLB has declined to comment on this obvious conspiracy.

The view from the floor at JavaOne

Posted in: Enterprise Java, Personal Branding

ZDNet UK spoke to people on the show floor, to get their reaction to JavaOne and to find out what they make of Ellison’s plans for Sun and Java.

Spoke to @ABridgwater at JavaOne and he included some of my thoughts in this article.

http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,1000000121,39659859-1,00.htm

JavaOne 2009 – (Mostly) Important Questions

Posted in: Enterprise Java

JavaOne 2009 starts in 5 days. Here is a list of questions I am looking forward to finding out the answers too.

Has Hudson Killed CruiseControl?
Seems like it has based on the number of mentions of Hudson vs CruiseControl in relation to the content at JavaOne. I lost my interest in CruiseControl when ThoughtWorks spun a for-profit version out of it. The only company I have seen be successful at this strategy is JBoss/RedHat where they develop the open-source version first and then roll the for-profit version out of that. The other times I have seen this attempted, all of the effort goes into the for-profit version and the open-source version ceases to progress. There is something fundamental about that 2nd pattern that just smells bad and doesn’t really seem to be in the spirit of open-source.

What Will Be The Volume Of The Twitter Noise Coming From Inside The Conference?
I have been tracking the hashed keywords related to the conference for a couple of weeks now. The volume has been slowly increasing and took a big jump on Tuesday morning when everyone got back from the long weekend in the US. I expect it to keep building up until Tuesday morning, but then what? Does it slow down because everyone is busy, or does it kick into a whole new gear and my trusty Twitterberry will just meltdown in the middle of the opening keynote?

Also curious to see what ad-hoc social activities get incubated in the Twitterverse during the conference?

Will AJAX Presentations Be THE Place To Be Seen For A 3rd Year Running?
The last 2 years have seen crazy interest in anything AJAX related. With Ben Galbraith and Dion Almer (spelling from memory there) being the focal point in their always entertaining presentations. But it feels a little like AJAX is getting to be slightly old news, at least in this forum.

My guess is that anything cloud related is going to be the hip place to be seen this year.

What Will The Oracle Presence Be?
AFAIK, the Oracle/Sun deal has not gone through yet, so technically Sun is still an independent entity. But of course I am also not naive enough to think Oracle won’t be pushing to start getting their hands on the “goods” at this conference. Will there be an Oracle presence in the keynotes that are traditionally Sun’s (the 2 on Tuesday and the 1 Friday morning)? What about signage around the conference? Oracle always has a booth in the pavilion, but will it be bigger, better positioned etc. this year?

What Will The Reaction To The Microsoft Keynote Be?
So the Twittervese exploded earlier this week when it was announced Microsoft will be presenting the Thursday morning keynote. Anyone who has been playing with Java long enough knows that Microsoft has not really been Java’s best friend. So, will the Java community accept Microsoft on the main stage? It would be nice to think that there will be some passionate reaction, either outrageous clapping or hateful booing, whatever, as long as there is some definitive reaction I will be happy. I fear the Java faithful might not be the kind to wear their hearts on their sleeves quite that much though.

Does the Oracle deal have something to do with Microsoft’s presence? Why does Oracle not have a keynote instead? Curious indeed.

Will Jonathon Schwartz Look As Uncomfortable And Awkward As Usual?
I will admit upfront that I am a Scott McNealy fan. He was passionate, and engaging to listen to on a stage. I was not happy when he was ousted from the top of Sun.

But even if I temper my anger over that situation, can anyone really be interested in listening to Schwartz talk? His stage presence is awful and he is robotic in his delivery of obviously scripted lines when guests are on stage. And don’t get me started on the pony tail, sport coat and jeans look! Bring back McNealy for the last one please!!!!

Will James Gosling’s Toy Show Seem Overly Long And Desperate Again?
I have a lot to thank James Gosling for. Most of my career is based on the technology he invented. I would like to have a beer with him at some point no doubt. But man, he is only marginally better than Schwartz on stage.

And I do not really understand the point of the Toy Show in the Friday morning keynote. You are at THE Java conference, and so the audience has self selected itself as resoundingly pro-Java. So why do we need a 3 hour carnival of Java applications trying to prove to us that Java is cool. We already think it is cool, that is why we are there. A lot of it just feels like they are pleading with us to please, please keep thinking Java is cool for another year until the next conference.

Will The Lunch Lines Be Under Control?
Getting your “free” lunch at JavaOne is an exercise in forgoing your basic right to not be hearded like livestock and yelled at by over zealous minimum wage event staff. It is like they are surprised by the number of people that show up for lunch each day, like there was no way they could possibly have guesstimated how many people might want to eat that day. Seriously, it is your last chance to get it right, please make an effort.

Will It Be Crazy Cold in Yerba Buena Gardens on Thursday Night Again?
Why is the Thursday night party outside now? I can’t possibly imagine it is much cheaper is it? It is San Francisco, it is cold on the hottest day of the year. I froze my ass off last year. The long range weather forecast looks like we are in for the same again.

Will The Bookstore Be Given More Space?
Doubt it. There is a whole convention center, and the bookstore gets jammed in a 10 by 30 square. Why? Why do you hate people who like to read?

Will Enough People Use me As A Reference So I Can Get The Better Swag?
I know 3 people who did, I think I need 2 more. I will even buy you a beer. My number is W1302019. Go ahead and earn yourself some karma points.

Why are the A’s and Giants both playing away all week?
A big boo to the MLB for having both teams out of town this week. It has become somewhat of a tradition for me to take my team to the baseball during JavaOne and you have destroyed that cherished pastime. Shame on you Bud Selig.

See you in San Francisco!

The Last Hurrah – JavaOne 2009

Posted in: Enterprise Java

Only about 2.5 weeks until JavaOne 2009. I think this will be my 5th or 6th time around.

There is no doubt that above all of the hot technology and vendor clamoring and free swag, the one thing that will be the biggest topic will be the Oracle takeover of Sun. And seeing as the deal hasn’t been consummated yet, the specter of the deal will be looming over the conference all week. I am expecting the signage to still be Sun branded (I hope), but I am curious to see what the Oracle footprint will be.

Hopefully Oracle will do the right thing and keep a low profile this one last time. The worst possible thing would be to have Ellison trot out on the main stage that first morning. I would prefer to hear McNealy speak over Schwartz no doubt, but I will take Schwartz over Ellison hands down.

If you are a fan of Java and the technology eco-system that hangs off of that central keyword, then I encourage you to come on out. Beat your boss into submission if necessary. Who knows if JavaOne will survive to see another year. Even if it does, will Oracle have sucked all the fun out of it by then anyway?

I am concerned that the buyout announcement may damage attendance this year. I hope I am proved wrong. I think the Java community needs to send a strong message to Oracle and vote with their feet by attending this year. Let Oracle know in no uncertain terms that the Java community is vibrant, engaged, innovative and will not go gently into the night.

If you haven’t registered yet, you will have the opportunity to credit someone as referring you to the conference. If this emphatic plea has inspired you to go, my registration number is W1302019 and you can fill it in in the appropriate space on the form.

I will be Twittering while at the conference. You can follow me here http://twitter.com/craigsdickson.

See you in San Francisco.

Are you hiring a hacker, a coder or an engineer?

Posted in: Software Development Team Leadership

There are many types of developers who work in the IT industry. When it comes time to hire a new developer it can be tough to figure out which kind of developer you are interviewing. When I do an interview I try to place the candidate in one of 3 categories – hacker, coder or engineer.

The Hacker

How to spot one:

  • Has been coding since they were 12, but have no notable credentials (no college degree, no professional certifications etc)
  • Believes all problems can be solved with some kind of “script”
  • Is unable to answer questions related to emerging industry trends
  • Appears uninterested in training opportunities
  • Their answers will be 1 or 2 words in length and no matter how much you coax them, they will not expand on them
  • Has an unhealthy fascination with the game World of Warcraft, to the point it will probably affect their performance as an employee

When to hire one:
Hiring a hacker is always a gamble for a development role. Often they make better sys admins than actual developers, since they are quite comfortable working all-nighters in dark rooms (as long as there is a supply of energy drinks and pop-tarts). They can also thrive in a QA role where automation of repeating tasks is a key skill (hackers also tend to like to break things).

When not to hire one:
A Hacker can become a rogue and distracting element in your development team. If you are looking for a team member that will have a focus on quality and meeting deadlines, a Hacker is not for you. If you want an employee that will work a regular schedule that doesn’t include them showing up at 11am looking like they have had no sleep, then a Hacker is not for you. These are the kinds of employees that you find out have been running a personal ecommerce site piggybacked on one of your corporate servers for the last 6 months.


The Coder

How to spot one:

  • Probably has a degree, but has no professional credentials (no certifications etc.)
  • Can answer common programming questions, maybe even understands Object Oriented principles, but probably struggles to answer big picture architecture questions
  • Probably cannot answer questions related to emerging industry trends
  • Doesn’t have a strong interest in getting training, attending conferences or expanding their skills in general
  • You will have to work to get them to expand on their answers beyond 1 or 2 words
  • Their references are probably positive
  • They like to play World of Warcraft at least a couple of nights a week

When to hire one:
A Coder is usually a good hire if you are simply looking to increase your development bandwidth. They will be able to contribute to a project in terms of pumping out code, but will need a solid design or requirements to follow closely. You will also need to make sure there is an Engineer close by to keep an eye on them.

When not to hire one:
If you are looking for a people leader or a technology leader, a Coder is not for you. Also don’t expect to be able to have a philosophical discussion about the state of the software industry with a Coder.


The Engineer

How to spot one:

  • Has a degree, maybe even an advanced degree, but is not a new graduate. To be an Engineer, some real world exposure is needed to shake off the bad stuff they learned in college and develop their own ideas.
  • Has a strong opinion about industry trends
  • Asks questions about training opportunities and budgets for attending industry conferences
  • Can name some tech authors they like or industry luminaries they agree with
  • Asks questions about what development processes and tools are used at your company
  • May not be able to answer every low level code or syntax question you throw at them (this is not a concern, Engineers are usually thinking at a higher level and know how to quickly find the documentation about the API they want to use if they need to)
  • Is reasonably articulate and their answers are usually more than 1 or 2 words in length
  • The interview will be much more of a conversation than an interrogation
  • Are aware of the game World of Warcraft, but don’t seem to have time to play it because of all of the tech books and journals they are trying to keep up with

When to hire one:
In general, the Engineer is the employee you are looking for. Just like in sports where you have franchise players, a good Engineer or two on your team can make or break a whole company. They are going to push the envelope in terms of the pace of development, introducing new tools, technologies and ideas and also the basic way in which the team operates. If you are working on projects that require novel solutions to be created, you will need an Engineer, as a Coder will not bring this kind of skill to the table. Also if you want to be able to increase the number of tasks you can delegate, the Engineer is for you.

When not to hire one:
Depending on the project you are working on, an Engineer can sometimes be a bit like having a sledgehammer in your hand when all you want to do is tap in a small nail. If you are working on small simple projects, or the work is generally a matter of taking a set of pre-defined requirements and pumping out a solution that requires little thought, then an Engineer may become bored quickly and you will find them moving on soon. Also expect an Engineer to have a solid idea of how things should work to be effective. Do not expect to mold an Engineer – you should be hiring them to help evolve your team, not to persuade them to the way you do things now. Additionally an Engineer will be aware of the going pay rate for someone with their skill set, so do not expect to get them cheap.


Conclusion

Not all developers are created equal. When you have an open requisition for a new developer, be aware of what kind you are truly looking for. If you need an Engineer, but only have the budget for a Coder, you need to take a hard look at what the longer term implications for your team are if you don’t have the Engineer. Once you are in the interview, make sure you have questions set up to help you quickly determine what kind of developer you are talking to. And never forget what an unusual amount of influence the World Of Warcraft will have on your hiring decisions!