Devoxx UK 2014 Conference Review!

Ok, so the review of this excellent conference is probably about a month overdue, but time just seems to have flown by! Anyway here it goes…

Life on the Program Committee

I was fortunate enough this year to be invited to sit on the program committee and review submissions (thanks Mark et al!). I’ll create a separate post about this experience later, but I wanted to start this review by mentioning that the number of submissions for Devoxx UK was very high, and the quality was outstanding.

According to my fellow Program Committee members, the job of picking which talks to include in the conference gets more difficult each year! As many committee members mentioned, we could have easily picked talks to fill an entire week of conference, but the difficult thing was that Devoxx UK was only running for 2 days!

The Conference Itself

The conference began in style with a live beatbox session from the UK Champion ‘Reeps One‘. Check out some of his stuff on youtube, but this guy needs to be seen live to get the full experience!

After a great introduction to the conference from the steering committee (Mark Hazell, Ellie May, Stephan Janssen, Dan Hardiker, James McGivern) Dan North opened up the with the keynote “Deliberate advice from an accidental career”. I enjoy most of Dan’s stuff, due largely to his story-telling skills and the fact that I can relate to most of the experiences he talks about, and this presentation was no exception. The key takeaways can be summarised in the photo below, but if you get chance to watch the complete presentation then I strongly recommend you take the opportunity 🙂
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Notes on good sessions

The first official session of the day for me was Andrew Harmel-Law’s “The 5 whys: Counter Intuitive Solutions to (all too common) Problems”, which was a great discussion of key problems in relation to the DevOps movement. The central theme to the talk related to a book on Japanese farming, and how the concepts could be mapped onto continuous delivery and DevOps, and as a fan of Eastern philosophy I enjoyed this metaphor very much 🙂

During the next two sessions I was dropping in and out of talks, and also catching up with other presenters and friends who I hadn’t seen in a while. Talks that looked interesting were Graham Allan’s “How switching to Scala made me less productive, and why that matters less than I thought” and Dick Wall’s “What have Monads ever done for us?”

The final conference session of the day that I attended was John Smart’s “It’s testing Jim, but not as we know it”. This session was a personal highlight of the conference for me, and the discussion of BDD really hit home to the projects I have recently been working on. John also has a MEAP book ‘BDD In Action’ which I can highly recommend.

In the evening Mani Sarkar, Richard Warburton, Martijn Verburg and myself presented an OpenJDK BOF session, which was well received, and generated plenty of great questions. If you want more information (or want to get hacking yourself) then please pop along to Mani’s excellent ‘Getting Started with OpenJDK document’

Roll on to Friday…

Friday began with Simon Brown’s “Software Architecture and the Balance with Agility”, which was another personal conference highlight. As part of my program committee role I had invited Simon to Devoxx UK, as not only am I a big fan of his work, but I also think the topic of architecture is often neglected in developer conferences. Simon didn’t disappoint, and key takeways for me included; developing software in an agile way doesn’t guarantee that the resulting software architecture is agile; a good architecture enables agility; there could be a sweet spot (architecturally speaking) somewhere between a monolithic architecture and SOA (but no-one want to hear this?); sketches can be maps – the key thing is creating a shared vision. Simon has a great website www.codingthearchitecture.com and also a book entitled “Software architecture for Developers”, both of which I can recommend. I definitely am a strong believer that all developers should be aware of architecture (and also that all architects should code!)

Next was an interesting talk ‘Groovy DevOps and the Cloud’, which touched on many of my favourite DevOps topics, but with a Groovy theme. I also couldn’t help noticing that a lot of the tools developed already existed in a non-groovy form, and so I wondered in some of this was vulnerable to the ‘not invented here’ argument, but the presenter did seem aware of this fact, and gave some great recommendations for resources and books at the end of the session

The third session of the day was my turn to present with Steve Poole “Moving to a DevOps mode: Easy, hard or just plain terrifying”. Here is an action-shot of Steve and I on stage…

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It’s safe to say that both Steve and I had a great time presenting, and the feedback and questions after the session were great. You can watch the recording of the session here (subscription required, but free to all who attended Devoxx UK). You can also find the slides in another blog post here

After our talk both Steve and I stayed in the same room to listen to the panel session “What does the Oracle/Google shenanigans mean to the Java Developer”. This talk was not only very funny (almost guaranteed when you create a panel containing Ted Neward with a lawyer…), but also quite pertinent, what with all of the interesting IP/patent issues constantly flying around.

The next session of the day “Modern web architecture” by Ted Neward was great. Ted has his own brand of ‘edu-tainment’, and this session lived-up to his usual billing. I’m not going to spoil his punchline, but I’ll simply say that watching the recording will be well worth your time!

I spent the remainder of the day in the Hackergarten, chatting to many people about OpenJDK and various JSRs (and also answering a few DevOps questions). I also managed to catch up with old friends in the hackergarten, and Anatole Tresch and I also planned our upcoming JSR-354 hackday which we ran at OpenCredo.

The conference was drawn to a close with an ensemble keynote, which was awesome. Martijn did a great job reviewing the conference content, Dick Wall shone an interesting light onto the technological present (including lots of details about wi-fi enabled dog Dotty!), and Arun and company covered (a hopefully very exciting) future, especially relating to the work everyone is doign in Devoxx for kids

The Saturday after-party

A few of us managed to continue the party into Saturday, with John Stevenson from Salesforce offering to run a Devoxx UK themed ‘Hack the Tower’ event. I had great fun here as well, and managed to get a few more people hacking on OpenJDK 🙂

In Conclusion

The conference was awesome, and built upon last years success. Devoxx UK is still one of my favourite conferences in terms of atmosphere, and the ‘by developers, for developers’ mantra really does ring true. Everywhere I went I overheard interesting conversations, saw impromptu hacking, and people taking the time to connect with one another. The quality of speakers was also excellent, and the range of topics nicely balanced (although I may be biased here… 🙂 )

I would also like to say a big thanks to all of the organisers, the volunteers, the speakers and the attendees for making the conference so great. Thanks also to all the friends (both old and new) I managed to catch up with, and I’ll see you all at another conference soon (maybe JavaOne?)

On a final note, Devoxx UK has already been confirmed for 2015, and so please book space in your diaries for a 3 day extravaganza (yes 3 days, not 2) between 17th-20th June!

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