Some Thoughts on the springOne 2GX Conference
It’s been a very long time indeed since I went to any conference. For quite some time I simply did not have the wherewithal to advance my employers that amount of cash. Hard to believe perhaps but true nonetheless. So this was my first conference in quite some time and therefore my first 2GX. Yes yes i know it’s springOne 2GX. It would not surprise me if Rod Johnson and SpringSource at some point drops the 2GX name. To me it was mostly about Groovy and Grails. Spring is not a paradigm shift. Groovy and Grails is in my opinion.
Let me get this out of the way, I am opinionated. If you are easily offended, then you should move on to another blog. However I am also quite capable of stating I was wrong. So feel free to comment. I get the feeling SpringSource would prefer springOne 2GX be more about Enterprise’ish Spring. I love Spring… kind of… like most Java/XML/Annotations gorging technologies, it is a love/hate relationship.
Whoever decided to hold 2GX in New Orleans ought get a raise! Keep those ideas coming! Fabulous city. My wife and I were very lucky to spend 6 non-conference days as well as the four conference days there. We barely scratched the surface of places to see and thing to do We loved the architecture, the fabulous food (we are foodies), and the great party atmosphere. Oh my goodness did we adore the restaurants!
First Impressions of the Conference
Well can I be frank? Or Jeff? Here comes the first controversial comment… Was putting Rod Johnson on the T-shirts a good idea? Really? Come on. Maybe it was supposed to be funny, idiomatic, but to me, it’s a egotistical misstep – even if it was not Rod Johnson’s idea. And the Rod Johnson bobble-head? Give me a break. Again, maybe it’s an inside ‘SpringSource’ joke, but if so, I don’t get it. Maybe someone will explain it?
So I have a collector’s item t-shirt cause I am not wearing Rod Johnson on my chest just like I would not wear Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison on my chest. A shirt with Groovy on it would have been better. :)
I don’t go to conferences for the SWAG of course. However the presenters got nice tasteful springOne 2Gx golf shirts which would have been a nice memento. We got ‘Rod Johnson’ t-shirts and bobble-heads. :P And the stated backpacks were no shows. Oh well. The portfolio is ok. All in all, I’ve seen others come back from conferences with better. :)
Excellent. ‘nuff said. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were included. That was awesome. I am not sure if that is how all conferences go, but given the conference cost, it was quite nice. I will admit though I did not partake of dinner as I’d be damned if I was going to eat a buffet (albeit a good one) when there was world class food within walking distance!! And of course my wife was with me. My one critique was the last day there was no more coffee for the final sessions and was unceremoniously told that by one female attendant.
Excellent. Kudos to the organizers. I thought it all went off splendidly. Almost transparent to the attendees. Things just seemed to work. Bravo!
Well I don’t remember much other than thinking, “Note to keynote speakers: Do not do demos in your speech!!!!!” It is the fastest way to bore your audience. When you lose your audience you lose your impact. Speaking 101. Leave the demos for sessions or ‘technical keynotes’. I ducked out after the second demo. It was getting late my wife and I needed to get to dinner before things closed (which they do on Mondays). It would have been a non-issue except the speech went longer than stated in part because of the demos! Also, though I left early, I do not think Guillaume Laforge was called upon. In my opinion, if you call on Graeme Rocher to talk, which is great, you should call on the Groovy Project Lead as Groovy is the great enabler. And far more important I think, than a chat program written in FLEX. :D It’s not that I am putting down FLEX… okay… lied… I am… :P
I can’t say enough about how good the speakers were. I do know how hard it is to prepare… which brings me to several points, I suppose true of most conferences, but this was my first in a long time…
There were obviously a hierarchy of presenters.
- Those that prepared
- Those that did not
The first group fell into two classes.
- Those that rehearsed or had given their presentations beforehand
These speakers were fluid and never dwell too long on any one slide. They knew the pace of their presentation and what it would take to get through it. I assume some used timers on their phones or screens. Well done!! (In fairness one presenter was honest about not being able to get through every slide as the presentation was meant to be more than 1.5 hours.)
- Those that prepared but did not rehearse.
These presenters knew what they want to say, had prepared slides, but had not thought about how long it would take to get through them. They would dwell upon items too long and too early in the presentation. This caused them to only get through a third to two thirds of their presentation. This resulted in the final third being whizzed through in the last 5 to 10 minutes. Also, please don’t read off the slides. :) Have notes in front of you that explain the points.
The second group fell into two classes
- Those that did not prepare because they are completely natural speakers. They have such a rich background in the subject matter that they can ad-lib their way through and be totally coherent. Several of the Groovy Rockstars obviously were in this realm.
- Those that did not prepare, thought they knew what they were going to say and type, thought they were natural speakers, thought they could ad-lib, spent lots of time looking at their screens, and lost their audience. There were only one or two of these. They were rare.
Take away… should I ever be a presenter I will :
- Have slides because in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do.
- If I am going to live code, make sure I have working and tested code in another project as a ‘backup’ and test it again just before my talk just in case ‘something goes wrong’. Don’t depend on network connectivity. ;)
- Make sure I rehearse back at my company and get the timing of the slides right.
- And, I won’t read off the slides!!! :)
Oh and don’t spend a lot of time talking off topic unless you put in the conference summary you tend to go off topic. It’s not fair to the attendees.
I have a few comments.
- I’d love to see more depth. Who wouldn’t want to be taught by the domain experts?! Now I know people make good livings consulting, (or at least make a living). I am not asking anyone to give away that which they could get paid for, but I’d love to have seen some 3 or 4 hour deep dives for those that were willing to forgo ‘overviews’. I called this the “more depth, less breadth track’.
- There was almost no session I did not learn something in. That is after all why one goes.
- Some sessions should be marked, “Must already know Groovy (or GRAILS)”. Why? Because it’s 10 or 15 minutes that could be spent digging in.
I must say many of the presenters gave outstanding content and are obviously domain experts. Paul King, Burt Beckwith, Guillaume Laforge, Scott Brown, to name a few were marvelous. I learned a tasty morsel or more in each presentation just as I had hoped.
Those were people I knew coming to the conference I wanted to listen to. However there were others I had never heard of before. Chris Richardson‘s talk on Amazon Web Services IMO was a real eye opener. In someways his talk was THE wave of the future for scalable systems. Not the cloud. But the concepts you need to wrap your head around to code in a high availability replicated environment.
Then comes the Terminator of Talkers: Venkat Subramaniam! He is an expert and a showman. That makes a powerful and memorable impression! His patterns presentation really was nothing tricky that you could not learn on your own – given time and experience. However his masterful presentation and the way he grabs his audience at the start and never lets go means I had a lot of “‘Ah ha!” light bulb turning on in my head moments.
Bottom line, mostly very good, some good, some could use a tweak or two.
Roo. I did not attend the Roo sessions but my colleagues did. They were impressed to say the least! I heard more about Roo than almost anything else. Though Roo and Grails are siblings, real siblings fight occasionally. I wonder where this will lead…
I was nearly the oldest person in the rooms if not the oldest. That felt weird. It is sobering to say the least. :) I was pleasantly surprised that most of the Groovy and Grails rockstars are VERY approachable and gracious. You all know who you are (if you are reading this). In any community there are always a few that take themselves too seriously. And there are those perhaps that are generally uncomfortable with too much attention and shun the limelight. I think there were a few of those as well. No one was downright rude to me! LOL! And nobody (yet) called me ‘pops’. :)
Happiness and Wishes
When I get out and talk to other developers I am always really thankful for the job I have. Many of those I talk with are locked into technologies because of their corporate policies or their client’s policies. Also some I meet can’t (or worse won’t) explored new items. To paraphrase a Venkat quip, “Does your old technology know you are seeing new technology?”
I am lucky. If I can make it perform (see next paragraph) I can make it to production. Use the best tool (balanced with productivity) for the job.
For all the interesting things I heard at 2GX the issues of performance were the least understood and the least covered. Perhaps that is off topic for 2GX. I think there was maybe a session or so about terracotta. And of course Burt Beckworth’s talk on clustering. However: I work on a site that gets 100’s of thousands of logins a day. 30+ million page views a day. 100’s of millions of service calls. Where does Groovy and Grails fit there? Or don’t they? Where are papers on sites bigger than a big blogging app? Or an internal CRM app? Anything I use either has to be fast out of the box or easily scaled horizontally. That’s why I liked Scott Brown’s talk on GRAILS without a UI. I am all over that, just have to crank up a Faban test and benchmark / load test it.
Finally, should this community lead the charge away from RDBM’s? GRAILS makes CRUD easy. But CRUD is still the bottleneck any high traffic site will get to. And look at all the under the covers cruft CRUD requires. That’s what was cool about Chris Richardson’s session. He was pointing the way. You don’t need real time CRUD. You can design for eventually consistency. And you often don’t need to normalize data anymore. Is that not the next simplify our apps direction? Key Value stores, HBASE, no SQL…
That’s where I am headed. GRAILS in the service layer with multi-threaded, simultaneous calls to DBs (until I can ditch them), distributed read-repair caches (like Amazon Dynamo), and other services. Maybe on to NoSQL. Should be fun. I’ll keep you posted here. Who knows, maybe I’ll be I’ll get my own cool springOne 2GX golf shirt next year!!
You can stop right here as the rest of this is probably even less interesting than the stuff above.
This is going to come as a shock to some of you, but as a 4 star hotel the Roosevelt left much to be desired. As a conference venue it was fine. But as a 4 star hotel the staff has a long way to go.
- After booking me on one floor, they made my wife and I move because the floor was taken by a football team (the Giants if you must know). However when we checked in we were told it was no problem and we should not have to move. So we completely unpacked. After all we were staying 10 days. When we checked in at the front desk surely someone knew the Giants were coming that weekend oui?
- They made us move to a smaller room with broken items, doors that did not shut, and a shower and toilet that were coupled such that using one backed up the other.
- They mis-charged my credit card when the room was already paid for and thus for a day maxed out my credit card. Thus we were cash and carry for a day. Good thing we had enough. Oh and at the time, they were completely ‘unapologetic’ insisting they had done nothing wrong.
- We were charge $31 for the minibar because my wife placed her meds on top of some items where they would stay cool. We used nothing, but they don’t check. They just charge. That got reversed. Cute aside: The front desk told me “The minibar does not get cold.” Precious. It took 2 refrigerators and 3 calls to get a one that worked.
- At first they knew nothing about free internet in the room. Those charges also eventually got reversed.
- Even after that, several times the room went unmade up and took several calls to get someone up to do it. When it was made up sometime things like bathroom tissue were not replenished, dirty glasses left, etc.
- After some rather frank exchanges with my assistant back at the office and their management we were moved to a suite, comp’d a night, and our bill reduced
- So while I kept hearing all this gushing from attendees about how great the hotel was, I could only think, “Well, maybe most conference hotels are generally a lot worse than this?” However this is supposed to be a four star hotel where service is king. Otherwise it’s just a luxurious and expensive Motel 6. I guess people have a different expectation of what a luxury hotel should be than me… or maybe I’ve stayed in a few in my day… ;)