Jugging in Place
Where can you snack on free pizza, get some freebie books, mingle with other Java knuckleheads, and bone up on the latest fashion trends in Javaland - all these being just a drive away from your home? If you answered JavaOne, then you weren't paying too much attention to the question. Give yourself a wedgie and say "Jumanji".
The answer, of course, is your local JUG, which is the usual acronym for a Java User Group.
I have to admit that in all the years I've been coding in java that I've never ever thought about visiting the local JUG, and given the usual attendance at such events I bet ya most of you haven't either.
In this age of internet forums, and email lists, and webinars, it seems almost an anachronism for people to actually meet face to face with others of their kind. I interact with Java developers daily, but not one of them even knew there were such things!
I've gone to two JUGs the last month or so. In fact, I just came back from the Princeton JUG, which is headed by Yakov Fain, who seems to have a bad case of Flash Flex Fetish (I dare you to say that 3 times in rapid succession!), but seems like a nice guy anyways.
The topic was Java ME, and Sun's Jonathan Knudsen gave a cool talk to about 14 or so Javanuts about the latest APIs coming out and the new Java Wireless Toolkit 2.5, which I've always thought was a great example of the axiom "less is more" - it's simple, fast, and now brimming with tons of new demos of Java MIDP apps doing some really cool stuff with the new APIs (can you say, SVG?).
The evening ended with some of the participants gabbing away excitedly in the dark parking lot about Java ME, most clutching their copies of Java books and exuding the contented sighs of people stuffed on pizza and carbonated soda.
It was a cool way to spend the evening, and I met some other guys from the other JUG I had attended earlier, including Michael Redlich, who heads the JUG at Scotch Plains, a group that for some unknown and mysterious reason likes to hold their monthly meetings at the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad 2nd floor meeting room. Elliotte Rusty Harold, whose Java Network Programming book was one of the first books that helped me on the way up, made an appearance for that meeting. Hey, call me a newbie, but I had to stop myself from bringing that old dog-eared book for him to sign!
So, how did I find out about such wild and elusive critters as these JUGs? Well, I was so inspired by the push for CDC that I ended up creating a project for it, which I found out could be a "virtual JUG". I later discovered that there were actual live JUGs around the area, some larger ones in NY City, but some small ones here in Jersey as well! Here's the Java.net page for JUGs if you are interested in learning more about them.
All in all, the local JUGs are pretty interesting because you get to meet new people who share the same enthusiasm for Java that you do. Sure, I meet my co-workers all the darn time, but that's WORK, buddy! So, if you like free food, the possibility of free books, and entertaining and informative talks in a casual atmosphere, then perhaps you should check out whether a species of the genus JUG might be hiding nearby.