Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Review of the Gateway Java Symposium '04

I spent this past weekend at the Gateway Java Symposium. This was my second time at the conference and overall I had a good time. After the show last year, I posted a review. This year I thought I�d do the same.

Since my review of the show last year, I�ve kept up with each of the presenters, reading their blogs regularly as well as a few of their books. Over the course of the year my opinion of some of these authors changed. Two of the speakers I looked forward to seeing again this year (James Davidson, and Ted Neward) didn�t speak at the conference this year.

Last year I spent the bulk of my review talking about the quality of the speakers (which was pretty high). This year I don�t have anything especially interesting to say about the speakers (they were all pretty good). Instead I would rather talk about the content a bit.

Last year there were a few topics that popped up in almost every discussion (dynamic languages were discussed a lot). Two major topics that seemed to pop up at every turn this year were AOP and the Spring framework. I had heard at least three presentations on AOP before the Symposium (we have two local JUGs here, so there is often overlap), so the buzz over AOP wasn�t new to me. I don�t expect to get to use AOP in a work environment for quite some time, so I�m trying not to get too excited about it.

Spring, however was completely new to me. It was presented as a lightweight replacement for J2EE. There wasn�t enough time to get a good handle on the Spring Framework�s implementation, but the concept is great. Although it wasn�t brought up at the show, the Spring Framework reminded me a bit of Microsoft�s solution with .Net (only the Spring is a bit more centralized still). As you need each new enterprise feature, you plug that feature in. There isn�t a single monolithic application server providing all services from a single place (you aren�t required to configure services you won�t ever use). Since I�m not working on a J2EE-scale project right now, I�m not in a huge rush to learn about alternatives (it would have been useful two years ago, however). I�ll probably just wait until June and read more about it from Bruce Tate�s new book.

There were some interesting sessions on testing web applications, using JSF (which IMHO, seems to barely leapfrog Struts, not even coming close to WebForms), CVS, Swing, SWT (the session was waaay too basic), coding practices (decoupling, TDD, etc), and at least 5 sessions just about persistence.

My biggest complaint about the session topics (and I may very well be alone here), is the lack of �fun� sessions. Last year my favorite sessions were on �Using Java on the Mac�, Objective-C, Ruby and Java vs. .Net. Quite a few of the speakers at the show took the time to stress diversity in learning, but for some reason the show�s topics were anything but diverse. I might be the odd man out here (I pay my own way to the show, and attend more for fun, than professional development), but I would have really liked a break from all the persistence sessions. A session on the Java Speech API, Batik, or JFreeChart between �Persistance with Hibernate� and �Hibernate vs. JDO� would have been nice. And although it would have been off topic, a session on Mozilla development or Mono would have been even better.

Overall I was happy with the Symposium. It was worth the price of admission (and worth my time). I do think it was a small step down from last year, and I�m on the fence about attending next year, but overall I recommend the experience. If you haven�t been to the �No Fluff, Just Stuff� show, then you really should give it a try.

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