Thursday, November 8, 2007

Qcon in Review: November 7th

Summarizing November 7th, for those not following my tumbl'd thoughts.

Kent Beck's opening keynote was well-presented, but I didn't take much away from it other than the reason behind his shaved head.

A panel discussion on Architecting for Performance and Scalability was good, but it's hard to cover that kind of topic in an hour, particularly with a panel. Of particular note was Ari Zilka arguing that scaleout for relatively small scale should focus on load-balancing rather than partitioning.

After lunch, I attended Designing for Testability, with Cedric Beust and Alexandru Popescu. This was perhaps a mistake for me, having done a lot of pervasive testing and having used TestNG, I didn't really learn very much. This was the second time I felt that way, so I realized I was going to have to watch which topics I attend -- the ones I'm most interested in are often the ones I know the most about, and am least likely to learn something from an hour-long primer. TestNG contributed a great deal to the world of Java testing, but I feel like JUnit has been revitalized by that competition and the choice between the two is less clear than it was between TestNG and JUnit 3.8.1. Cedric also showed his usual bias against agile and TDD: which is fine, as far as I'm concerned, you use the process that works for you.

Next up was Eric Evans on Strategic Design. This was a good talk, although he's a measured speaker rather than overflowing with energy. Still, he's a clear communicator, and there were some interesting points. I particularly liked the metaphor of maps as models. His anecdote about pudding, which relies on the language context (american pudding: goey custard-like dessert; british pudding: any dessert) was also entertaining. Some of the detailed elements seemed vague, but it was still enjoyable.

I followed that up with Cameron Purdy's Java Scalability and Reliability. I'd seen this presentation (or a heavily related one) before, but he's such an entertaining speaker, I didn't mind seeing it again. He's also not afraid to stir up a little humorous controversy: taking a shot at Bob Lee and calling FTP the precursor to SOAP.

Finally, a panel discussion on What will the future of Java be? was really great. There was a lot of hunger in the room to see Java evolve in some fashion, whether or not it's part of its current platform, or in the shape of a new platform on the JVM. The panel was well-comprised with different viewpoints, and there were some pithy comments and good debates.

Joshua Bloch opined that Java is mature, and shouldn't go around in a pink miniskirt and pierced navel, but rather continue to evolve in a very measured fashion, making room for a new platform on the JVM, one that solves some of the existing fundamental problems. This was an interesting perspective, but I wish I could see evidence that there was serious effort being put into this concept (sorry, Charles Nutter, I don't think JRuby's that solution, as interesting as it is). A fair amount of time was spent talking about static/dynamic languages and backwards compatibility and the size of the Java download. Erik Meijer concluded with an interesting statement about DSLs: a disaster waiting to happen. This was probably my favorite session so far, both the topic and the speakers were great. Well worth watching when InfoQ puts it up.

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