Last wednessday was the NL-JUG J-Spring 2008 conference, which is probably the biggest Java event in Holland by now. The event was packed with over 1100 visitors, but organized very well and everything went smooth. NL-JUG co-lead and collegue Bert Ertman was awarded the very prestigious Java Champion title which makes him the one of two Dutch champions at this time! The conference pavilion was packed with all kinds of companies doing stuff with Java. The Info Support blondes strolled around and took pictures for a bluetooth virtual keyboard contest. See the photo gallery for a huge amount of pictures, personally, I don't think most people really cared about winning a keyboard. 😉
I started the conference with a session on Gridgain. The presenters had this funny idea to create a grid by using laptops in the audience. Unfortunately, this meant that a lot of time went to seeing someone waiting on console output and messing around with configuring stuff, instead of telling something about Gridgain. Gridgain seemed like an interesting product, though the lack of dashboards and decent admin tools will make it difficult to run a more complex grid.
Next I went to a session on iBatis. On my current project we are considering adopting this data access framework. A very nice presentation which showed hands-on examples of most iBatis concepts. iBatis is a simple and flexible framework that will keep you in control of the query creation, while automating the boring data mapping stuff. Alternatives like Hibernate/JPA automate more, but on our data model this would be horrible, as these are complex, inter-related and large data sets.
After the break I visited a session on Kanban. An entertaining speaker told about the Kanban concepts using some examples. I guess people ran out of English buzzwords, so now we are getting Japanese buzzwords! The speaker did not have time to tell a lot about the underlying "Lean" development theories (if you want to know more about lean, I can highly recommend watching this Mary Poppendieck talk). Without understanding the theories on systems planning and just-in-time flow, Kanban can be perceived as quite stupid, so a part of the crowd immediately switched to asking all kinds of defensive questions. For me, Kanban seemed a simple and practical way to introduce some lean concepts, but I still don't get why I should drop iteration-based planning for it.
The session on annotation processing was informative, although a more practical example might have helped. Java 6 certainly made annotation processing a lot cleaner and easier to do. Still, you can create all kinds of evil bugs doing annotation processing, so be careful.
The session on code reviews was stimulating. The speaker was very original, doing some car jokes and handing out code examples to be reviewed by the audience, but he did had some messy slides and complex definitions. I completely agree that code reviews are an effective learning tool, and I will follow up on some book references on the slides on how to make this efficient. Interesting stuff.
Finally I went to a MDA session using all kinds of Eclipse modeling projects. Although the session was a great overview on all the available frameworks I kind of missed the practical examples and in-depth explanations of the different aspects of doing MDA. When answering questions he went a bit more in-depth on how they implemented MDA which was much more interesting. Basically the story was: don't try to model every detail, but keep hooks in to code very specific details by hand, and don't expect 10x productivity improvements promised by some vendor.
All in all, the conference was full of interesting sessions and a great way to meet up with fellow Java developers I worked with in the past. See you at J-Fall 2008!