Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Interview and Hacking session with Stephen Chin

On Monday, Stephen Chin from Oracle visited me at the 10gen offices as part of his NightHacking tour.  In the video we talk about my sessions at JavaOne and the Agile presentation I'm giving at Devoxx, and I do some very basic hacking using the MongoDB Java driver, attempting to showcase gradle at the same time. It was a fun experience, even if it's scary being live-streamed and recorded!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

NoSQL is a Stupid Name

So, I've finished my first full week in the new job and I've learnt lots of new stuff. Which is great, because that's usually why you change jobs.

I'm learning a lot about these new-fangled NoSQL database thingies. The LMAX architecture was based on keeping everything in memory and reducing the waits for IO - messages were journalled to disk, and reads and writes to the MySQL database were off the critical path. Therefore doing anything radical to the storage side of the architecture was just not high on the list of priorities.

Everything I knew about NoSQL I learnt from the various conferences I've been going to in the last year, and even then that's limited - without a business reason to pursue knowledge I know it'll just leak out of my brain, so I avoid sessions with no immediate applicability to me.

Let's summarise what I knew about NoSQL databases before last week:
  • They don't use SQL. Who knew? 
  • There are different flavours.  There's a graphy one and key-value things and... others...
  • They're "scalable" (yes, yes, it's web scale). 
  • Some/many/all(?) embrace the idea of eventual consistency 

I was suspicious of the hype surrounding NoSQL, partly because it's associated with the meaningless marketing term "Big Data" and partly because I'm a cynic that sneers at things that get too popular. Here's what I think when I hear the following terms:
  • Cloud - Fire your systems people and ditch your comms room!
  • Big Data - Parse Twitter in order to learn how to read your customer's minds!
  • NoSQL - Stop paying Oracle!
  • Functional - We couldn't get good enough at mainstream programming languages so we switched to something more difficult!

I don't know if it's healthy to be this cynical, but I'm too old to jump on every bandwagon that comes along.

Anyway. Back to the people who now pay my bills.

It's unfortunate that the lack of SQL is the thing that captured the imagination, rather than the lack of tables and a relational structure. SQL was never (in my mind) a particularly evil thing, it's a pretty good language for saying "I want this stuff from this place that fits these criteria", and that's something we're going to have to do at some point whatever the technology.

It's rather more important that it's the structure of the data that's different in NoSQL databases.

In a traditional relational databases you have tables, and relationships between those tables are achieved with foreign keys. I'm starting to think of these as something kind of grid-shaped with links between them:

Series of database tables and their relationships.  Honest.
(Yes, I'm experimenting again. This time with my shiny new iPad, a stylus and Penultimate. It's good for ad-hoc drawings, but lacks the precision of the graphics tablet and flexibility of GIMP).

At the very high level, it seems like there are four (ish) types of NoSQL databases:
  1. Column Family 
  2. Key/Value 
  3. Graph 
  4. Document 
Column Family
Column family databases feel to me, as a newbie to the field, similar to key/value, which I'll come on to. I've mostly heard Cassandra used as an example of this type of NoSQL database. I guess the way I think of this, and of course I could be wrong/over-simplifying, is a unique key linked to a set of key/values:

Which I'm translating into groups of key/value pairs, with a the ID as a sort of header:
Key/value pairs grouped by ID
You need the key in order to look up all the details about me. The way I hear it, it's great for writing data, but it's less flexible for ad-hoc queries.

These types of NoSQL database (e.g. Riak) are pretty much as schema-less as you get - just dump key-value pairs into them. To be honest, the best description I found was on, so I'm not going to re-write that with my (at this point) limited understanding.
Never ending lists of key/values
From what I've heard so far, both Key/Value and Column Family databases embrace eventual consistency. I don't know how much of that is a function of their data model and how much is decided by the individual products. For some people eventual consistency is deal-breaker, but in many cases it seems to me that it's just a matter of getting your head around this and designing your application appropriately.

I came across graph databases when I stumbled across Neo4j, chatting to some of the very smart guys there. A graph database lets you model you data as a series of nodes and relationships. And if I think about it, this is not a massive step from either relational models or object models. It doesn't just apply well to the social networking domain (where it's very easy to think in terms of users and their relationships), in actual fact lots of things we design could be modelled this way. Not having used it, I'm not sure just how much of a mental leap you need to take to start thinking that way, but it seems like it might be a good fit for many problems.
Graph of nodes with annotated relationships
I'd be interested in what the architectural trade-offs in using this model are.

Now MongoDB falls into category four, the document database. And as a NoSQL n00b, this is now the product and area I know most about, and am clearly going to be more excited about since 10gen are indoctrinating me in the MongoDB way.

Documents are a familiar structure for developers, especially if they've been working with JSON. So, a document might be:

To me, this looks like it maps onto to my domain-shaped Object Model more easily than a relational database, which always needs some sort of O-R mapping (whether you do this with hibernate or use Spring to do it yourself, you're still mapping tables into objects and vice versa). What I like about the document format is the nested sub-documents for data that belongs together. In relational databases you often end up denormalising for performance anyway, so why not just accept that up front and have it as part of the thing you're storing?

A document with sub-documents.    Think XML/JSON.
This does have a cost, of course - nothing is without trade-offs. Every time you request this document, you get the whole lot. You can't have the person without the address. So, you do need to understand the relationships (still) and whether you're usually going to want to get all that data at the same time or whether you might want to make two separate calls.

Which brings me on to another thing which is familiar from relational days - foreign keys. A field in your document can be the ID of another document, so you can follow the links through and retrieve other documents associated with the starting one. Again, there are trade-offs here - each link you follow is a different request to the database. These database requests can be very quick, but if you wanted this data every time, you'd probably want it embeded in your first document to save the additional call. I guess it's a latency vs throughput question really - a single query which returns a chunky document, or multiple queries that return smaller ones.

Documents can link to other documents.
So schema design is still important in document databases even if you don't have a relational schema. No new technology is an excuse to stop thinking about the problem you're trying to solve and understanding the tradeoffs in design.

One of the advantages, it seems, of something like MongoDB over some of the key/value databases is the ability to write ad-hoc queries and to tune for those queries. The data is structured (it's in a document) and it doesn't have to be in the same structure every time - not every document relating to a person needs all the fields that another person might have. But you can still query for people who have blue cars or people who live in London, or people who's surnames begin with G. If you find yourself doing the same query a number of times, you can add indexes to MongoDB the same way you would a relational database.

Semms like I'm getting into more of the nitty-gritty MongoDB details, so I'll stop there and leave that for another time.

In Summary
Classing a whole swathe of products as "NoSQL" is misleading and confusing.  The only thing they all share in common is that they are not traditional relational databases.  Other than that, some of them are as different from each other as they are from relational databases.  I haven't even mentioned caching technologies - these products have functionality which overlaps with NoSQL databases as well.  But even then, the purposes are somewhat different, and not even mutually exclusive.

As with anything, it's really important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a technology, and the demands of your domain.  These different ways of organising data, and different products, are going to perform really well in certain circumstances, and pretty poorly when used in others.  Getting an understanding of what those strengths and weaknesses are is going to be important in making the correct product/architecture/design decisions.

None of this information is new, there's a lot of material on the web about the different types of NoSQL databases. I'm writing it more for my own benefit than anything else, my memory is notoriously shocking.  For more in-depth (and probably more accurate reading) there's:
  • Martin Fowler's NoSQL Distilled
  • ...and his introduction to the subject
  • Tim Berglund (@tlberglund) did a great overview of three types at JAX London last week.  There's a video of the same content (different conference) here.
  • appears to list all the products that fall under the massive umbrella, but isn't the most usable of sites.
  • And yes, I used Wikipedia.  Which is probably where I went wrong...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Upcoming Events

Time for another ad-hoc update on what I'm up to:

I'm also going to be in New York for training from the 5th - 9th November, but I can't swear to my availability during that time - apparently training is going to take up the days, and the evenings I'm going to try and get a jump start on some actual code.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

JAX London 2012

Seemed like a quiet conference this year.  Not really sure why, maybe it was the layout of the massive (and extremely dark) main room; maybe it was the awkward L-shape of the communal space; or maybe this year people were more interested in listening to the (really very good) sessions rather than participating or meeting other people.  Whatever the reason, it felt quiet and almost low-key.

Performance seemed pretty high on the agenda, as you'd expect from a London conference, with a number of things on offer:

  • A great keynote from Kirk Pepperdine and Martijn Verburg, covering a massive range of things to care about when thinking about performance on the first night
  • A high-level talk about Java Performance from yours truly (which I may run again for the LJC if there's interest, but it's more likely to be a one-off)
  • A deep dive into writing lock-free coding by Mike Barker
  • And a talk from Kirk exploring your GC logs.

It was great to see a number of LJC regulars presenting, especially as my own schedule has been so crazy I haven't seen many of them for a long time.  So I missed sessions from Bruce, John, Sandro, Russell, James & Richard, but I heard good things about the sessions and was really pleased to chat to all of them.

The highlight of the conference for me though was Brian Goetz's keynote and subsequent session on lambdas.  I've been looking into lambdas because I think it's a really interesting addition to the language and I've heard a lot of noise about them.  What I thought was most interesting about Brian's talks though was less the information on what they were and how to use them, and more the challenges that face language designers when they have a language which is used by 10 million developers and has been going for nearly 20 years.  Ouch.  It's amazing they get anything done, let alone something like lambdas which the language was never designed to support.

In keeping with the new job, I went to a few sessions on the Big Data Con - frankly an unfortunate name I feel.  Brendan's Mongo & JVM talk was useful, especially given that I might actually be presenting that at some point.  What I'd love to see though is a more interesting story around the Java driver.  It seems people believe the Java driver needs a little love.

The other interesting NoSql talk was from Tim Berglund's NoSql Smackdown, which was a really great way of highlighting that the NoSql databases are not all solving the same types of problems.  The room was packed and the questions were intelligent, so it seems there's still a lot of interest in this kind of introduction to the technology.

Lessons learned:
  1. Commuting through Victoria Station sucks.  I knew this last year but it's just got worse.
  2. The iPad + stylus combo is not as precise as the graphics tablet, so I'm probably going back to that for illustrations.  But I'd still love to do free-drawing with the iPad on the projector at some point.
  3. Not everyone can follow the deep-dive tech talks, but they still prefer them to introductory talks, maybe because they feel like they're learning something (well, that's my opinion).
I took practically no photos because I kept forgetting I had my camera.  I think it's the weird subterranean effect of the hotel basement.  Either that or I've turned into a conference zombie - not an unlikely suggestion.  And I've still got Devoxx round the corner...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

And for my next trick....

The time has come, and I'm moving on from LMAX.  I've had an incredible (nearly) four years working for one of the most radical finance firms in the world, during which time I feel I've learnt more than the rest of my work experience put together, and had the pleasure to work with some of the smartest and most interesting people I've ever met.

I've been invited to join 10gen and their MongoDB driver team, a challenge I am really looking forward to.  After years in finance and in the IT departments of other organisations, I'm finally working for a product firm, and an open source one.  I expect it will be very different from anything else I've been involved in.

I hope this means I will be blogging even more, and that I'll have opportunities to abuse my graphics tablet producing more ridiculous scrawlings.  I also hope this will give me an opportunity to meet more people as I travel around.

So, as if this were a goodbye e-mail to the company or an out-of-office reply, I should finish with: any further enquiries about the Disruptor should be addressed to the Google Groups list - there are people on there waaay smarter than me anyway.

Lots of shiny new goodies!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Introduction to the Disruptor Slides

I've produced a very cut down version of the presentation I've been giving at a lot of conferences, giving a high level overview to the Disruptor.  This serves as a quick intro to the concepts behind it.

My slides are usually pretty useless without me (or someone else) talking over them, so for more context don't forget there's always my original blog posts (the Magic Ring Buffer, Reading from it, Writing to it, Wiring it up), which are now pretty dated, and the Java Magazine article I wrote at the start of the year.

Friday, 5 October 2012

JavaOne: The Summary

So, JavaOne.

Taylor Street Cafe
I'm going to be controversial.  I think this was my favourite conference of this year.  I know that's not trendy, and that Oracle-bashing is still a popular pastime.  And I know I've also made a big deal about how much fun it is to meet people who program in different languages.  But there is something very special about being surrounded by thousands of people from all around the world who use the same technology as you, some facing the same problems, some solving very different issues.

Maybe it's because since I first spoke at JavaOne last year I've met a lot of people in this ecosystem - Oracle Java people, other conference organisers, Java User Group leaders, speakers and attendees from all sorts of places - and seeing many of them in one place is fun and makes you feel like you're "home".  I'd be sat in the Taylor St Cafe area and people would sit down and hang out with me.  I'd be hiding somewhere trying to write a presentation and people would say Hi.  I'd be separated from the other LJC guys while I grabbed a glass of water and someone would stop to chat.  It was awesome.  I even managed to get a tiny bit of work done between socialising.

Personally, I have learnt very valuable lessons:

  1. Doing two conferences back to back is exhausting.  If I do it ever again, I really need to optimise my travel between them (i.e. not fly from St Louis to London and then to San Francisco 48 hours later).
  2. Especially if I have two conferences back to back, but almost definitely as a rule, it's best to have the materials for presentations complete before the conference.  I probably would have enjoyed myself even more, and definitely had a chance to see a lot more sessions, if I hadn't had one presentation to finish.
  3. Presenting four sessions in one conference is extremely challenging.  Technically I only had two full-length presentations (the Disruptor presentation I've done at OSCON/GOTO/QCon etc and my Technical Approach to Women, which was more like a very structured BOF), a short 20-minute talk and a panel.  But I think one full-length presentation and a couple of other bits is probably a much more sane amount.  Especially given 1) and 2) above.
So I didn't get a chance to really see many sessions.  I'm sure the blogosphere will be full of good summaries of them, and they will be available for free via the schedule builder (audio and slides only).

There will be a bunch of other blog posts mentioning the inconvenience of having it in three hotels, the poor suitability of some of the rooms, the difficulty of sharing San Francisco with Oracle Open World, the mediocre food.  But you don't spend the money to fly halfway across the world to San Francisco for the crappy box lunches.  You fly here to meet - face-to-face - some of the people who created Java, those who are steering it now, and the community that continues to make it relevant and fun.

Highlights for me:
James Gosling talks about Robots!

I already mentioned the technical keynote in my summary of Sunday, but I forgot to talk about Dr Robert Ballard's section, which is crazy because it was so inspiring.  What I got out of that was how much fun technology can be, and how kids are really ready to be amazed and engaged with science and technology, provided you get them young enough.  I also really loved that the photos of all the scientists showed great diversity, something he seems to take very seriously.  His comment was "A child needs to see their face 20 years out to know they can play in the game. Don't sell science, sell scientists and engineers".  The point I took from that was that by focussing on "science" and "technology", we could be losing people - by showcasing the people, the talent, the passions, we are much more likely to engage children.  And I think that stands for adults as well.

A robot!
And this nicely fits the message I was trying to get across in my session on Wednesday (which I know I've already blogged about) - it's dead important to address the failure points when it comes to diversity, but I think we forget to push the positives - the reason we don't understand why some groups of people are under-represented in technology is because we all love being here, it's a great industry to work in.  I'd love to see our passions more widely showcased than simply at conferences where we're a self-selecting audience.

The LJC panel about our involvement in the Java Community Process
Not only was this a great JavaOne for me personally, it was a real triumph for the London Java Community.  Last year there were only two of us here, and Martijn was working hard to introduce me to the other JUG leaders and the people on the JCP committee that we were going to be working with over the next 12 months.  This year, there were five of us here, spreading the word about our work as a member of the Executive Committee of the Java Community Process (the Java standards body), primarily our Adopt a JSR program.  We also wanted to talk to a load of people about the Adopt OpenJDK program as well, we've found lots of developers are really keen to develop the language itself, Java at the fundamental level, and we really want to help bridge the gap between the guys who work on the OpenJDK project and the developers in the community.  But all our hard work over the last year, kicking off these programs and working with other user groups and Oracle to really harness the power of the community, has been recognised.  We've won not one, but two awards - woohoo!  Fame, glory, girls/boys, money etc await us!  Well, not quite... but it's certainly nice to be the "Award Winning London Java Community".  

The LJC in the Community Keynote
Our two shiny accolades are:
So, a really great JavaOne.  I'm not sure, if I'm honest, who reads my summaries of conferences - I know lots of people do read them, but I don't know if that's those who went to the conference or those who would have liked to have gone, or those who don't know what it's like at conferences.

But in case this is useful to anyone who is reading this, next year come to JavaOne if:
  1. You want to know what's coming up for Java the platform or Java the language
  2. You want to meet, or at least see presenting, the people who are actually making these changes
  3. You want to meet other Java developers from around the world - whether you want to find someone with the same problems as you, or want to see different issues that face people.
  4. You want to see the Power Of User Groups!
  5. You want to understand how decisions are made with regards to the future of Java
  6. You want to meet like-minded people
The Exhibitors Hall was like Vegas! But there was a buzz which was infectious
Oh there's millions more, and even if you only tick one of those reasons, I personally think it's a great way to get a better understanding of the language we use every day as developers.

And finally, some of my sessions will be available, audio and slides only, via the content catalog.  Look for the following:

  • UGF10467 - Benefits of Open Source
  • CON3732 - Concurrent Programming with the Disruptor
  • CON5130 - London Java Community: How to Change the World
  • CON11338 - The Problem with Women: A Technical Approach

Thursday, 4 October 2012

JavaOne: The Problem With Women - A Technical Approach

Yesterday dawned, with a sense of foreboding (actually it dawned with me coughing my lungs out, but we've heard enough about the sub-optimal state of my respiratory system this week).   On this day, I was giving the talk I was dreading when I got asked to do it.  It's the talk I actually put more work into than any of the other sessions I was presenting at this JavaOne.  It was the Women In IT talk.

It's timely, given that conference season has one again led to cries of sexism and discrimination.  So although I really hate banging on about the subject (you'd never believe it from my blog) it's still necessary to cover.

I feel, and have felt for a long time, that the way we're approaching the "problem" of the lack of women techies is just wrong.  Obviously painting stuff pink is just not going to cut it (I hope that's obvious).  I think the fundamental problem is that we keep thinking about women.  While that should be great for someone like me, it actually triggers a whole bunch of gender stereotyping in our poor human brains which prevents us seeing the big picture - the fact that we're not attractive as an industry for women suggests we're losing a whole heap of talent because of some sort of image problem.  We just don't see the other missing minorities, or we're not comfortable talking about them.  I mean, can you image running a session about attracting more black people into programming?  I suspect there would be uproar in singling out a minority based on something as arbitrary as skin colour.

To be fair, even before the session there was a tiny bit of controversy:

It is nice though to see guys (because indeed this was someone of the male persuasion) getting upset at the thought of someone taking a shot at the girls again.  I think it probably would have been a little more helpful to the session if they'd put my name on it...

Maybe the publicity helped, because there was a really decent turnout for the talk.  I'm terrible at estimating numbers, and of course I completely forgot to take a photo of my lovely audience.  But I'd say there were... 60? 80? people there?  Between 50 and 100 anyway, and seemed like a roughly even split of men and women, and there were people of different backgrounds.  Which is great, it's more women than you normally see at a conference, and more men than you usually see at an event talking about "women's issues".  I really love running sessions about this subject with guys there, I'm of the opinion that talking about this with just women is almost completely useless, and isolates us from the rest of our community.

I took the novel approach of actually trying to treat the problem the same way coders treat any problem: break it down logically.  So I had the problem, the requirements, a retrospective, and the aim was to come up with a list of tasks going forward.

Georges Saab from Oracle was great as our "Business Analyst" - not only did he outline the business value in increasing diversity in the workplace:
  1. Greater pool of talent to hire from
  2. Happier and more productive employees
  3. Greater retention rates
He also gave examples of how this is a bigger problem than just "Women in IT" - he spoke about being the outsider as an American who had relocated to Sweden, and how he benefitted from being in a country that recognises a father's rights when his daughter was born there.

At LMAX we're super-Agile (something we'll actually be talking about at Devoxx this year), so the logical thing to do is to have a retrospective.  The question was somewhat fluffy - tell me about working as a techie, specific points about being female not essential.  So as with all our retrospectives, we covered good points, bad points, questions and ideas.

<aside>Incidentally, loads of people there knew about Agile methods and many were using them at work. Does this mean that agile is now more-or-less the norm?  Does it mean that companies that encourage people to go to conferences are agile or agile-friendly companies?  Or does it mean that people who care about people (i.e. those that go to a session like this) are more drawn to Agile methods? </aside>

(Yes, I'm wearing trainers to present, for the very first time! Thanks to Cecilia Borg for taking the photo)

((Also, special super-thanks to Stephen Chin who saved my presentation by sneaking in with a flipchart, stand and pens literally seconds before I needed it))

Everyone in the audience came up with really great points about working as a techie.  The thing I found most interesting was that very little of it was gender-specific.


  • "Pink it and Shrink it" marketing campaigns, allegedly for women.
  • How do you get into the job?  Entry and career paths unclear
  • Micromanagement
  • The hours
  • Lack of mentoring/role models
  • Booth Babes (they are bad for women, but they are bad for men too - very demeaning to assume that guys as bright and successful as techies are drawn only to boobs)
  • Salary discrepancies
  • Brogrammers stereotype
  • Education pipeline – women doing "computery" subjects decreasing from about 13 years old and onwards (UK numbers)
  • Pressure to be visible when you're a woman/minority
  • You're seen as a woman first and a techie second
  • Time drain to keep current, 90% of what you do is learning new stuff not using skills you already had


  • Being different makes you stand out
  • The hours
  • The salary
  • Woman's perspective is a positive for the team (Later agreed that diverse teams generally were more interesting to work in)
  • We've seen an increase in the number of senior women
  • Balanced teams are more productive
  • There are lots of jobs in IT, always hiring
  • Flexibility and meritocracy
  • Women Are Exceptional (rare to get in as a girl so you're either really interested, or really good, or both)


  • I don't understand this, my CIO is a woman?
  • Is there a correlation between gamers and professional programmers?
  • Does the wider availability of technology (e.g. Facebook) lead to a wider appeal (of working in the industry) to people?
  • As parents should we be doing more to encourage our kids into technology?
  • Is the image of techies changing? 

We can replace the word "Woman" with person pretty much everywhere, and it becomes clear that we shouldn't be trying to work out the problems that face women, but instead be working harder to attract more awesome people into the job we love (I asked who in the room really hated the job, and one person half put his hand up.  So as techies, we generally like what we do), and to look after everyone who's here already as well.  So that lead on to the actions we could do to help this.


  • Look elsewhere for technical talent (e.g. people with craft skills are creative and practical)
  • We should be more actively networking (join your local JUG!)
  • Get them young - go to schools and show kids what we do
  • Challenge stereotypes - we're not geeks who live at home and code in our bedrooms, we're collaborative and creative individuals
  • We need more role models of all flavours
  • Flexible education - it should be cheaper to make "mistakes" - e.g. to switch degrees or to cross-train from other qualifications, we can't be limited by choices we made so young
  • Work experience to give kids/young people a taste of different jobs
  • Encourage / expect children to ask questions, more than just learning the school curriculum
  • Buy kids technology e.g. raspberry pi, arduino
  • Show our faces, we are all role models
  • Be vocal about our passions.  We love this job, let's tell people.

I felt extremely positive at the end of the session, I think guys saw some of the attitudes that affect women, and women saw that guys were not only sympathetic to our "plight", but that they suffer discrimination too.  Basically we're all in this together, and talking gender specifically is sometimes dividing us.

One observation that I loved was that one guy's wife wanted their daughter to do what he does because he loves his job, and she sees hers as a chore.

I also had a number of spin-off conversations later, as always happens when people are dead interested, and a really good point someone raised is that as techies we're frequently the odd one out, the outsider, in a group of "normal" people.  We're actually quite used to it and pretty much embrace it. So if anything we're an industry which will be more tolerant of your outsider-ness (as a woman, as someone who looks different) than more traditional jobs.  It's a thought, and an attitude we should perhaps publish more.

The three things I think we should do as individuals are:

1. Take The Plunge
Women in particularly, but all of you who don't think you can be That Person - start talking at conferences, start writing blogs, start a new user group if you haven't got one, go into schools.  Be that role model.

2. Don't Point Out Her Gender
I know the guys mean well, and women are guilty of this too, but don't highlight to a women at a conference/interview/meetup when you meet her for the first time that she's female.  She knows this. It's almost always said in a positive way ("Wow, it's great that you're here, we don't see many women in these parts"), and I know you mean it to be encouraging.  But it just highlights how different she is, not how awesome it is she's doing the same thing you're doing.

3. What We Do Is Awesome
We're here because we like what we do, we get paid for doing our hobbies.  Not many people can boast of that.  We need to get out there and tell people how much fun it is to be a techie.  Don't let the Hollywood geek stereotype be the only image people have of us.

I had a really good time, and I came out feeling very positive about my job, my industry, and the people who do this.  I'd love to run this session again if I get the opportunity.

EDIT: The slides and audio are available.  The content catalog is a little counter-intuitive to use, hopefully that link will take you to a page with this session title on - click on it and there's "media" on the pop up window.  This session doesn't lend itself well to audio because of the audience participation aspect but I do repeat most of the points and you get a feel for the session.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Tips for Presenters

...or, tips-for-Trisha-because-she-has-the-memory-of-a-goldfish.
  • Do not drink too much coffee beforehand.
  • Do not replace coffee with Diet Coke, it is not better...
  • Do not drink too much coffee and drink diet coke and forget to eat.
  • Check skirt length before prancing around on stage.
  • Check desktop background for public-display-appropriateness.
  • Close down applications that have popup notifications.  Do you really want hundreds of people seeing that tweet...?
  • Plug in your laptop power.  Re-typing your password every time the screen powers down is boring.
  • Remember your Mac-to-VGA dongle thingie.  Bring one even if you don't use a Mac - there might be a cute/friendly/senior/cool speaker who needs one, and you can help them.
  • Bring your slides/laptop.  Not that important, especially if you've put it on dropbox.

Monday, 1 October 2012

JavaOne: User Group Sunday

Well this is exciting!  JavaOne 2011 is the first conference I spoke at, so this the first time I've covered the same conference two years running.  I think.

It's very nice to be back at JavaOne.  Last year it was my first opportunity to meet so many people - the guys at Oracle who work really hard to make sure Java has its own identity; the JUG Leaders and Duchess folk; the JCP EC committee members; and loads of people who live and work in the area who I wouldn't normally get a chance to speak to in person.

This year I'm here with several other London Java Community people, and it's great to be a member of the Alumni, to have the privilege of showing other guys around and introducing people to each other.  It's nice to run into people I met here for the first time last year, some of whom I've had a chance to see at other events this year.

Today, Sunday, is an interesting day.  The focus is on community, so I get to hear what other JUGs are doing, some of their pain points, and learn some of the things they're doing that maybe we should think about.

The day started well, with Jim and Richard de-mystifying the business and technology terminology we're bound to come across at this conference.  8:15am is a really harsh time to have to do your first presentation, but it had a good turnout and was a great way to kick off the conference.

I followed this with a talk about why you would open source your secrets, a short presentation detailing the benefits to your business of opening up parts of your codebase.  It went better than expected, given my voice has all but disappeared due to a stupid cold and plane travel and jet lag (and noisy bars).  I had contingency plans on how to present via typing or drawing on my iPad, but in the end I managed even despite the microphone not being turned on.  Doh.

There were a series of presentations on how to make your JUG successful and how to run Adopt a JSR/OpenJDK programmes in your user group, before Ben and I had to dash off to the public EC meeting.  This was not as well-attended as last year, but it meant that I had a chance to talk to all the EC members, and to drink more free champagne than one really ought to in the afternoon.

Next on the packed schedule was a trip to yet another location (seriously, that's 4 different locations just on Sunday) for the keynotes.  Note: next time I say "it's not far, let's walk" in San Francisco, hit me with sticks.  That's the second time in as many days I've been hit with a vertical distance that was further than the horizontal.  At least this time I wasn't wheeling my luggage up the hill like I was on Friday.

The keynotes were definitely better than last year.  I really enjoyed how the technical keynote put the shiny new stuff into an everyday context - seeing JavaFX running on all the platforms, including embedded, and seeing lambdas used in anger, was really engaging.  In my mind, it's much more likely to get "real" developers using these things.  I particularly enjoyed the interplay between Mark Reinhold and Brian Goetz, it's great to see people like that so passionate about what they're doing, it really humanizes them and their projects.

The last trip of the day was back down the hill to one of the many parties scheduled this week.  Of course, it's not in every party that you get given an award, so this was particularly sweet - the London Java Community has been honoured with a Duke's Choice Award.  This is the first year a community has won a "Dukey", and it's amazing to be part of a group of people who are actively contributing to the language I work with daily, and to be recognised for this.  So yes, I was on stage getting an award again.  It's addictive.

So, a really great kick off to this year's JavaOne, and I'm back at the apartment well before my coach (well, Uber) turns into a pumpkin and resting my voice in time for my Disruptor presentation tomorrow.