the-best-1-day-conference-i-know

This Tweet came up in a conversation I had with Gerrit Grunwald (world-famous Java Champion) a few weeks before J-Fall. I really liked the fact that the biggest Dutch Java conference is quite popular across the borders. And with J-Fall approaching fast I couldn’t wait to experience ‘the best one-day conference’ for myself.

So the 3rd of November came, and finally it was J-Fall time. Armed with my notebook and a Devoxx sweater (I can’t think of a better day to wear it) I drove to Ede to experience the magic that was promised.

Facts & figures

J-Fall boasts even bigger figures than last year. An extra room with capacity for 350 people has been assigned at the venue, to arrange extra parallel sessions.

So let’s get to the hard numbers:

  • 1500 attendees
  • 4 keynotes
  • 4 hands-on labs
  • 56 speakers
  • 70+ parallel sessions
  • 38 information booths

More than enough reasons to look forward to this action-packed day!

Keynotes

No less than four keynotes were scheduled for this conference. I liked the talk of Sven Petersen the best, who pointed out that each repeating task that takes at least half an hour a week can and should be automated. Frank Wammes added to the fun by addressing augmented reality and asking if this ‘rise of the machines’ should be stopped at some point, or if it will all be good. Great stuff to mull over in my opinion.

Another keynote was delivered by René Boere and Pascal Snip who built a Raspberry Pi cluster consisting of 40 nodes, and even dared to take their cluster to the test in front of a 1500 people audience. Respect, guys.

jfall

 

Parallel sessions

With more than 70 parallel sessions, it was virtually impossible to attend everything that looked interesting. At Devoxx UK last June I attended some sessions on ‘hyped topics’ like Docker, microservices and Internet of Things. So this time I wanted to focus a bit more on in-depth sessions of topics that I have some basic knowledge of. So I attended the Early Bird session by Martijn Dashorst on Java serialization. I’ve learnt a lot about the more advanced features of serialization, including the best way to use the ‘transient’ keyword and how to customize the serialization by implementing the hook methods writeReplace(), readObject(), readResolve() and validateObject(). The session on cryptography by Angelo van der Sijpt was also very interesting; especially his explanation of the widely used RSA algorithm. I can recommend this to anyone: take a deep-dive into a subject that you are a little familiar with, and you’ll learn lots during the process.

There is one other session I want to mention here, because it was so… different from the other ones. It was “Documentation avoidance for developers” by Peter Hilton. In every other session we were encouraged to do the best we can. But not here. Peter told us to postpone writing documentation for as long as we can. He didn’t think documentation isn’t important at all; he just thought that documentation that is never read is worse than no documentation at all. So with every bit of doc you write (be it JavaDoc, code comments or a wiki), ask yourself if the stuff you write will actually be read by someone. Are people asking for it? If no, then don’t write anything at all and focus your efforts on writing self-documenting code.

Having fun

Of course, conferences are not all work, work, work. There were plenty of opportunities to chat with (former) colleagues, get some goodies from the information booths or play a game of foosball. There were programming contests all over the place, offering prizes such as drones or hoverboards. And getting some decent food was fun, too. There were quite a few booths that offered freshly baked pizza, french fries, ice cream and there was even a great coffee machine with a barista serving the best coffee I’ve tasted in months.

Aftermath

So to conclude: I had a blast at J-Fall this year. It was great to meet so many friends and colleagues, and to learn some interesting things along the way. So that leaves the question: is J-Fall really the best one-day conference we know? Well, we can’t be sure until we visit all one-day conferences in the world, can we? But J-Fall comes a long way. With its smooth organization, charming venue and intensive program, it is the place to be for a Java developer. Add to that the fact that #jfall16 was a Number 1 Trending Hashtag on Twitter, and you can be sure you’ve got a record-breaking conference on your hands.

Official aftermovie

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