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Notes from TheServerSide Java Symposium

Posted by edort on March 24, 2007 at 12:53 PM PDT

I'm here with more than 500 other attendees at the 5th annual TheServerSide Java Symposium in Las Vegas. It's an easy trip from my house to the Venetian Hotel where the Symposium is happening. Yes, just like Penn and Teller, Wayne Newton, and a large number of exotic dancers who work at our many fine "Gentleman's Clubs," I live and work in Las Vegas. Coming to an event like TheServerSide Symposium gives me an opportunity to rub elbows with real live enterprise developers -- the men and women in the trenches trying to turn entity beans, JSF components, and Ajax into web sites that do something useful.

Even the welcoming session for this event led by Joseph Ottinger, Editor-in-chief of, and Nitin Bharti, Editorial Director, gave me some interesting insights. They took an instant audience poll of a few things related to the audience's use of enterprise tools and technologies. A keypad was available in front of each person in the audience to vote. One question was "What tools do you use most?" The choices included Sun Studio, NetBeans, IBM Rational Application, Eclipse, and some others. It wasn't surprising to me that Eclipse won the vote. But what surprised me was by how much. Eclipse had more than twice as many votes as the other choices. I realize that NetBeans is gaining vis-a-vis Eclipse in mindshare and usage, but at least for this audience Eclipse is still king. Another question was "What tasks have you begun investigating?" Here the choices included Java EE 5, Java SE 5, Solaris DTtrace, and some others. AJAX got the biggest vote here with Java EE 5 and Java SE 5 running second and third.

I liked this instant polling approach. This is something that might be worthwhile to do at the JavaOne Conference.

The welcoming segment was followed by a keynote given by Eric Gamma. Gamma is famous in software engineering circles for being one of the "Gang of Four" authors who wrote the canonical computer science textbook "Design Patterns". Gamma's group at IBM Rational led the design of Eclipse. Gamma devoted his talk to some of the principles that made Eclipse a success. Although there were quite a number of principles cited, the one that stuck in my mind was "Operate like a village" (not to be confused with Hillary Clinton's mantra "It takes a village to raise a child."). In the same sense that in a small village everybody knows everyone else and what they're doing, a project that operates like a village is totally transparent and interacts with customers frequently. Gamma calls this open, transparent development.

Gamma is now working on a new project called Jazz. Jazz is "a joint project between IBM Rational and IBM Research to build a scalable, extensible team collaboration platform for seamlessly integrating tasks across the software lifecycle." What this project is about is distributed collaborative software development. Right now the project involves 50 developers spread across 5 sites.

It wasn't clear to me whether the result of this effort will be a "product" (albeit open-source), a technology, a methodology, or all of these things. Unfortunately, Gamma's network connection wasn't working, so he couldn't demonstrate what they've done/built so far.

One interesting the Jazz team found is that in developing software you can't collaborate closely all the time. When the project started the idea was for everyone to work on the same build. But this total collaboration didn't work well. People were getting in each other's way. So the approach evolved to a hybrid where the entire team was split into individual teams. Each team owned a component and owned their own process. Tools control the collaboration of the individual teams. Interestingly, Jazz recognizes each team's individual process and is able to blend everything together into a workable overall process. If you're interested, you can find out more about the Jazz project at

This event is off to a good start. I've learned a bit and hopefully will learn a lot more. Next stop: a session titled "Ajax and JavaScript: Down and Dirty."