What was the last conference you went to where you felt like you actually had a positive impact on the larger technical community? A lot of conferences feel like corporate marketing where companies (usually the ones that pay the big sponsorship $$$) are pushing you to buy services or product. Other conferences feel like brainwashing where the message is constrained by a “Ministry of Truth” that limits the topics and speakers to those that align to their world view. No matter how many big parties and aging rock stars they truck in to woo the masses, you leave the conference feeling like you have been sold a technical lemon.
If you were fortunate enough to be at OSCON Java this past week, you were able to experience a different type of conference first hand. Here are some of the ways in which OSCON Java was not just another technical conference…
Hacking for a Purpose
What was the last time you got to sit down side-by-side with a conference speaker and technical guru such as Joe Darcy, Stuart Marks, Bob Lee, and Jeff Genender, and hack out some code? We setup and experimental hacking session where we did exactly this, pairing up attendees 1-to-1 with expert hackers to convert an open source codebase to use Java 7 features. For this project we chose Google Guice (no surprise) and by the end of the session had converted several source files to use new Java 7 features such as strings in switch, the diamond operator, and try with resources.
In addition, we also had a follow-on event after the very successful OSCON JVM Languages Symposium to work through a technical solution for JVM language interoperability. Normally this is something that could take months of technical debate to come up with a few possible solutions, but with the collective brainpower of several compiler authors and some technical herding by Ben Evans, they came up with a solution after only several hours.
No Corporate Shills
At OSCON Java you got to see leaders from across the industry standing side by side up on stage, and being transparent about how their corporate strategies affect technology and open-source. Steve Harris, SVP at Oracle, was bluntly honest about his corporation’s failings in communicating to the Java community and made the point with some funny, self-deprecating slides, such as the “Oracle Threat Level” diagram:
However, he ended his speech on a high note with enthusiastic support for the Java community and Java User Groups in particular:
“Java User Groups Rock!”
And Some Geeky Fun
A good technical conference would not be complete without good, geeky fun. For this, we converted one of the exhibition halls into a giant carnival, complete with clowns, games to test your strength, obstacle courses, and of course plenty of carnival food. It was quite a stark difference from being in a tech conference surrounded by screens and computer, and was a great break from typical networking events.
My money in the above race is definitely on Fabiane Nardon (center), Brazilian Java User Group Leader. Once she sets her mind on something, she is extremely determined!
As you can see, OSCON Java is not your average technical conference. I owe the O’Reilly folks a huge debt of gratitude for being supportive of doing a different style of conference. They have a great culture of innovation and are far enough away from the corporate politics of Java that they can bring everyone to the table or the mutual benefit of the community.
While you may have missed out on one of the greatest Java events since the collapse of Sun, you can still catch some of the best parts on the OSCON video site:
Also, all the speaker slides are now available for the presentations:
See you at OSCON Java next year!!!