The modest duo

Interview with Adam Bien and JetBrains


We speak to the winner of the Top Java Ambassador award and a representative of JetBrains, the winners of the Most Innovative Java Company award in the JAX Innovation Awards.

German born Adam Bien has been a major influence in the Java space for many years. Last month Adam was rewarded with the Top Java Ambassador title at the JAX Innovation Awards in San Francisco, an award that he fully deserves. We interviewed him after the event; find out what he had to say:

This is quite an honour as the communities worldwide have voted for you to win this award, how do you feel?

I really wanted Bruno Souza to win; he’s one of my Java heroes. I even nominated him! I still cannot believe that I am the winner, beating Bruno! To be an Ambassador is such an honour, which I’m not sure I really deserve. Whenever I go about my work, I never think about the “Ambassador” aspect of it, I’m just trying to improve the way we do things one step at a time.

Tell us about your work with JEE and how you have played a part in its growth.

I have been using J2EE and Java EE since their early days. I have always enjoyed working with Java EE and consider it the most productive and effective platform you can currently get. Parts of the community consider Java EE as a bloated and outdated technology. I never understood this — in my projects Java EE was never a problem, I always struggled with ivory tower driven architectures designed in a top down manner. I hope I contributed something to eliminate some popular, but crazy cargo cult practices.

Java EE is a very popular technology — there is no evangelism necessary. Every day I get more and more requests for Java EE 6 consulting from small start-ups.

When many were against JEE6, you were extremely interested to prove that it was a good tech stack. What was it about JEE6 that you saw before a huge majority of other developers?

What I saw in Java EE? That’s easy: simplicity. In “lightweight” projects, developers often reinvented the wheel by implementing parts of Java EE in a home grown fashion. In extreme cases 500 MB WARs were deployed into 10 MB web containers and the result was called “lightweight”. I never got that.

I use Java EE successfully in my projects and my clients like it. I didn’t want to convince anyone about the good parts of Java EE, I usually talk about what I do and why it works. At one of the conferences I forgot to create the slides (it was JAX Frankfurt / Mainz!), so I had to open the IDE to present how Java EE feels from the source code perspective. The audience liked it, so I was fortunate, it could’ve gone the other way.

You are part of a variety of communities from NetBeans Dream Team to an Expert Group member of the JCP, tell us about some of the major projects that you have worked on in the past that have had an impact on the ecosystem.

I’m actually a lazy contributor! I’m just a synchronized singleton shared between conferences, workshops, articles and projects; as a result I’m a lousy contributor. I try not to waste my time on unconstructive criticism instead I try to improve the world in a step-by-step process.

NetBeans is also an interesting story. It is a great Java EE IDE. You can install it in a few minutes by downloading a file with a single click. You will get not only an extremely productive IDE, but a whole Java EE 6 environment with GlassFish, fully configured DerbyDB without any plumbing. I usually use NetBeans during my talks and workshops to explain Java (EE). People always assume that I work for Sun because I use NetBeans that often :-).

What are your plans for the next year?

No idea about next year, but when I retire (if it ever happens) I would like to still spend my time hacking. Software development is the best job ever.

Thank you to everyone for the votes. I really appreciate it! The prize money is going to be donated to “Doctors Without Borders” or similar organization.

Thanks for interviewing me!


When it came to the Most Innovative Java Company category, the number of votes for each nomination was extremely close. However, JetBrains just beat the other companies to the post. We spoke to the JetBrains representative, Eugene Toporov, about the honour of winning the award: 

Thanks for representing JetBrains today, how do you feel about JetBrains winning the Most Innovative Java Company category?

This is a great honor for us, and an indicator of us being on the right track with our efforts and values. This kind of recognition motivates us like nothing else to continue making software development a pleasure.

Tell us about JetBrains and why you think it has such a vast community following

There is indeed a great community around JetBrains. We like to think that is because we never stop improving, staying open to our fans and keeping a ‘human face’ no matter how small or large we are as a company.

Since 2000, JetBrains has been committed to creating highly intelligent, easy-to-use productivity-enhancing tools. Our innovative solutions enable professional developers to adopt advanced technologies and work faster, better, and more efficiently.

JetBrains flagship product is IntelliJ IDEA, one of the most advanced Java IDEs which provides superior facilities for rapid, effective development on all Java platforms.

JetBrains continues innovating with technologies like Language-Oriented Programming, projects like MPS (Meta Programming System) and Kotlin, a new statically typed programming language compiled to JVM byte code and JavaScript.

What technologies and projects are JetBrains currently pursuing?

Our products already cover a whole spectrum of technologies, and we expect it to keep growing.

Teamwork facilitation and more effective collaboration are among the goals we’ve always had in mind, and we’re planning to focus on these two even more in the nearest future.

Where do you see JetBrains this time next year?

It may be too much to hope for, but can we say, holding this valuable prize of the year again? ;)

What sets JetBrains apart from rivaling companies in your opinion?

We have a lot of respect for all the finalists: ZeroTurnaround, Gradleware, and JFrog. These companies are our friends and companions of JetBrains. We probably just had a bit more luck.

What impact will winning this award have on the company?

As we said above, this award really motivates us to pursue the directions we’ve already chosen and to stay loyal to our mission: To be a leader and innovator in building professional software development and teamware tools.

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