Lessons learned

5 key lessons for developers – learnings from W-JAX 2015

Coman Hamilton
Audience members at the W-JAX 2015 (© S&S Media)

Do you think with the mind of a young developer? How do you keep re-educating yourself? What is Flux? And why should programmers be wary of copying patterns? Five IT wisdoms from day #1 at the W-JAX 2015.

This year’s W-JAX kicked off with a wide selection of memorable takeaways for programmers, from the positive developer mindsets to the negative data approaches. Here’s a selection of what we’ve learned so far.

1. Try not to think like you’re older than 35

There’s probably no other profession that requires more constant knowledge updates than with programmers. Opening the conference, JAX program chair Sebastian Meyen used a key Douglas Adams quote to remind us all of what happens to developers as they grow older.

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

– Douglas Adams, “The Salmon of Doubt”

To stay on top of microservices, DevOps and container trends, Developers need to “stay hungry”, as it were, especially mentally, and avoid letting themselves be part of category 3.

2. Experts and beginners: not good bedfellows

To find real engineering talent, HR departments should always be required to work closely their developers. After all it’s only developers that can really know what is expected of new team members, says opening keynote speaker Henk Kolk, chief architect at ING Bank.

But beyond recruiting, it’s also important to create space for learning in teams. Only then can you educate developers from novice to expert. The last thing you should do is put experts and beginners together. “Experts don’t like novices,” Kolk explained to the audience of 1,400 programmers at the W-JAX. They speak different languages, and will only end up being mutually frustrated.

Kolk left his audience with a final request: “Let’s fix the profession of software engineering.” We can no longer allow programmers to remain stuck in one area for years on end. There needs to be a steady progress and healthy mixture that allows developers to learn and experiment, while helping enterprises overcome the legacy beliefs that still exist in too many an IT team.

henk kolk

From legacy beliefs to modern IT – Henk Kolk at the W-JAX 2015

3. Don’t copy patterns

For various reasons, distributed computing is soon going to become the norm. And that’s why we need to supplement our repertoire and solutions with reactive architectures and tools, says Roland Kuhn, Akka team lead at Typesafe.

But here it’s important to remember that mindlessly copying designs won’t bring you any success. Any relevant templates should be applied with sense and reason and with a good knowledge of the characteristics of distributed systems.

4. Traditional architectures are under big (data) pressure

“With regard to data access we have limited insights,” says Hadoop and HBase pro Lars George. Power users struggle with a lack of usable data, while many users even have no access to data, because it’s buried in storage somewhere.

Meanwhile, when it comes to data sources, many enterprises are still limited. It’s not efficient to hold onto existing data, let alone handle new data sources. And it’s also time consuming to transform data for analysis in existing systems. All the while, there’s more and more complexity being added into the mix with security and governance, which needs be balanced with business agility.

By taking advantage of a solution like Hadoop, there’s no need to break the old system, says George. Hadoop, HBase and its large ecosystem of tools, can help teams unlock new value from data, while managing their compliance. There’s also the possibility to keep unlimited data from disparate and limited views.

Referring to a shift towards new layered big data systems, George concludes that “we’re witnessing a move from big data spaghetti to big data lasagne.”

5. ‘Flux’ is the new hot architecture

Flux has appeared at Facebook (followed by Mozilla and Yahoo!) as a response to difficulties in the development of its main application. Due to the many dependencies between different parts of applications, it’s often no longer possible to adequately manage data flow. Certain classes of errors might be noted several times, and yet still not permanently fixed.

As Oliver Zeigermann and Stefan Toth explain, Facebook’s contribution to UI architecture is an architectural idea that calls for a very clear separation of components involved in the application and a very clear flow of data and control. This kind of architecture promises to make the application easier to understand and helps maintain a clear guide for future development.

Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

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