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Third Floor Heaven

Posted by editor on September 4, 2006 at 6:56 AM PDT

Making conferences and unconferences more useful

Do enough conferences and it's easy to get pretty jaded by the PowerPoint slides... oh, excuse me, StarOffice Impress slides... along with the hard sells, big promises, and presentations that are more valuable to the speaker than the audience. Do enough sessions and it's not hard to finally snap. For me, that would be at the JavaOne 2006 Blu-Ray session (oh yeah, I blogged it).

Personally, I've found that I've tended to enjoy and get more out of JavaOne's birds-of-a-feather sessions (BoF's) than the technical sessions, and then again more from the tech sessions than the keynotes.

In contrast the "agile" conference -- the loose, spur-of-the-moment type of confab -- is gaining traction as a means of organizing get-togethers. FOO Camp is among the best known, but the concept is spreading. Earlier this year, Disney held an internal "Pooh Camp", which probably suits that company's increasingly progressive attitude towards technology and new media.

Thing is, the FOO-style approach, or the unconference in general, is thought to be optimized for smaller gatherings, and isn't thought to scale beyond more than a couple hundred participants. Would you want to show up for JavaOne with 15,000 other Java developers and all of you not have any idea where to go or what to do?

In other words, are there new ideas that can improve the conference experience, and where are they applicable? Two of today's featured Weblogs take on this question.
Tim Boudreau has one concept that might suit a BoF or tech session, as he describes the proposed "Fishbowl Debate" at NetBeans Day Seattle. What's a Fishbowl Debate? Tim explains that the idea comes from Simon Phipps:

  • You have a table with 6 chairs onstage (well, ideally it's done in the round, but in Seattle the chairs will be bolted down)
  • At any time 5 people are seated, discussing a topic of interest to all of them
  • One chair is always empty; when someone in the audience hears something they strongly feel they have something to say about, they get up and go sit in the sixth chair; at that point one person who was already seated gets up and takes a seat back in the audience

Do you have other ideas for JavaOne? Jim Driscoll wants to hear them. In JavaOne meetings starting up, he writes:
"It's that time again... JavaOne time. What? Barely over the parties from last year? That's ok - it's in May. But meetings are starting to determine the content for May."

Elsewhere in the blogs, Rémi Forax has a Garden thought about closures and their uses in GUI code:
"Why [isn't it permitted] to define a closure using a reference to a method ? It could greatly simplify UI code by enabling definition of listener in a simple way."

This week's Spotlight is on Subversion, one of your choices for version control when starting a project. Now, CollabNet, which powers the project hosting and collaboration facilities on, has posted a one-hour webinar on Subversion Best Practices, hosted by CollabNet's Chris Clarke and Garrett Rooney. "In this one hour web seminar, you'll get an insider's view of how best to use Subversion's most important functions, how to create new branches, what should be under version control, how to make atomic commits, and more."

In Java Today,
the jdk-jrl-sources project has been released to the general public. This is a Subversion full source release of the JDK6 and JDK7 source tree under the JRL license. JRL licensed sources are now available as either a tar ball or from a repository. The advantage of the repository is that each build of JDK 7 and the last 10 or so builds from JDK 6 are available to developers. Igor Kushnirskiy has more details in his blog Readonly subversion repository for JDK sources under the JRL license.

The ninety-second issue of the JavaTools Community Newsletter is online, collecting tool-related news from around the web, celebrating the graduation of the UTF-X project, welcoming new projects to the community, and featuring a Tool Tip on finding code samples in open source projects.

Artima's Frank Sommers writes of The Death of the General-Purpose IDE and the Last Java Developer: "As modern IDEs are becoming larger, IDE projects cope with entropy by creating versions of their tools aimed at specialized developer communities, for instance, around popular enterprise frameworks. What does the segmentation of the IDE market place along the lines of developer micro-communities say about the future of IDEs?

In today's Forums, robilad
has some thoughts about open-source Java licensing in
Focus on real, current issues:
"The reason why Apache Harmony has not attracted GNU Classpath developers lies in ASF's inability to make sure the resulting work is under a license suitable for *all* VMs and use cases, rather than the VM made within the context of the Harmony project. Putting the class library under the Apache license does not work for GPLd VMs, and it does not work for ahead of time compilation of GPLd Java code, as in both cases using Apache Harmony would lead to an undistributable result. That's all there is to it: people will work on code they can use, and they won't work on code that they can't use."

pago considers the GUI developer's use-cases for closures in
Re: Closures and Swing:
"The cool thing about the second example is that you could have a hole lot of fun with it by switching the "implementation" (=closure) for specific events at runtime. Most of my MouseListeners would probably benefit from something like this, because the resulting code would be much clearer. Let me repeat this: A closure shouldn't have a state at all (except for the state of its context - the method/class where it is declared). If there's coupling between mouse-enter and mouse-exit, then you'll want to go for an object that has a state of its own.