The Year In Review

Java Review of the Year 2011 – the rise of the community


John Stevenson reflects on the year that was for the Java community – focusing on the rise of certain languages, the best events and conferences of the year and his own personal highlights.

2011 was the most exhausting, crazy, fun-packed year I have ever had in this amazing world of software development.  Over the last two years my community involvement has gone exponential, there is just so much stuff happening in the UK. 

I also started a new job thanks to this community involvement, spoke and attended a bunch of great conferences, organised plenty of events myself and learnt so much that not even all the TV I watch over the holidays can wash it all away.  Here are just a few of the highlight of 2011 for me: 

Community, community, community

There has been a huge rise in developer involvement with the community over the last few years.  In London alone we have the largest Java user group in Europe and many other technical communities have seen their members rise exponentially.  Much of this community activity is supported by the likes of SkillsMatter and Techub, community friendly organisation.

These communities are usually driven by a handful of passionate people who really invest a piece of themselves to make that community fly. 

Its not just individuals that appreciate the power of the community.  Atlassian created an ambassador program this year to help technical communities grow.  The ambassador in each country reaching out and encouraging aspirations of continually improving software development, so it is fun and effective.  Working in software development can be one of the best jobs on the planet after all.

Functional programming re-imagined

Just as BattleStar Galactica was successfully brought up to date and made exciting for the modern times, so has functional programming. 

Scala has seen a huge adoption and London is a hotbed of activity, both commercially and in the community.  With its powerful type system and amazing Akka framework for managing concurrent state its easy to see the appeal for highly scalable system development.

The Clojure language has helped bring lisp style language fully back into fashion and unlike the Scala approch, Clojure encourages a very powerful simplicty to software development. 

This renewed interest in functional programming is encouraging developers to think in different ways about their designs even if they remain with a procedural language.  One of the best examples of thinking differently about design is the Disruptor from LMAX, a highly scalable system with incredibly low latency all written in Java. 

2012 will definitely see more people getting in touch with functional programming languages

Online persona more important than ever

With many top class developers getting new roles via the work they do, lots of developers have been encouraged to share their work.  There have been many stories of companies headhunting through open source projects.

With online DVCS repositories like Github and Bitbucket making code sharing a trivial task, bravery is the only barrier to making your development skills part of your online presence. Sharing your own project is also a great way for people to get help work you are doing and is an excellent opportunity to achieve more that one person can alone.  It worked for Linus Torvald after all!

There has also been growth in quality blogs from the developer community, with writing on all aspects of software development, politics, philosophy and human interaction.  A very diverse example is the LJC aggrity blog roller that pulls in posts covering Java community process, concurrency, functional programming and software craftsmanship.  

Its also great that more people are speaking at technical community events.  Getting used to speaking is very valuable when it comes to interviews and groups like the London Java Community helping developers start public speaking via lightning talks at their events. 

There is so much more that can be done to develop your online persona for fun and profit.

Conferences and events

It has been another great year for events, with much of the event footage available on YouTube or Parleys

In the UK there are a great pair of conferences, JAXLondon and QCon.  There is such an intense level of learning possible at each event, its a good job that they are 6 months apart next year!

Some of the event highlights this year included 

●     JAX London – this year was my first opportunity to speak for JAX London, on topics including Clojure, kanban and continuous deployment.

●     Functional Programming exchange – excellent talk by the Haskell expert Simon Peyton Jones on managing parallelism

●     XPDays – where I experienced the Extreme Starup workshop for the first time.  Its one of my favourite coding session formats so far.

●     London Java community conference – around 150 people came out to learn from each other on a Saturday

●     Clojure exchange – the first community conference for Clojure in the UK

Not forgetting all the Scala & Clojure coding dojos and the range of diverse talks held through the year at SkillsMatter.

Getting real – understanding the business

There is a far greater appreciation by developers of what a business needs really needs to be successful, much more than ever before.  

With startups this is almost a given fact, although even this year there has been much more interest in the lean startup approach, encouraging you to understand every aspect of the business and measure how successful or not a decision has been.  An amazing exampleof this is the company called Forward, who esentially build thriving web-based businesses from ideas – investing in a business just enought at the right time to explore the potential market and quickly ramp up if that market takes off.  Developers here typically deploy to production 25 time per day, working hand in hand with people who understand the business potential and how to measure it.

This greater understanding is helping to drive the DevOps community and make the whole of software delivery as effective as possible.

John is the UK ambassador for Atlassian and active organiser of several communities in London. He runs workshops and speaks on technical topics including open source projects, developer tools, continuous delivery, TDD & BDD practices and declarative (functional) programming (Clojure). John also presents on kanban as a way to help individuals, teams and organisations become more effective. He is a strong advocate of group learning and encourages others to get involved with the community for their own personal growth.

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