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The Network is the People

Posted by erikhatcher on July 3, 2004 at 11:18 AM PDT

The title of this blog entry was dreamed up independently and before I read Dion's blog entry "The Network Is The Conference". I agree completely with Dion's entry, yet add that it really is bigger than simply the JavaOne conference. In fact, had we all gotten together in the same time-space without JavaOne going on, many of us might not have even noticed a difference. I am, however, very thankful to the conference organizers for giving us an excuse to get out and meet one another face-to-face.

Chronologically
Saturday I arrived in the morning. On the flight from Atlanta to San Francisco, I built a Tapestry-based web application to demonstrate during my Lucene presentation. The application has a similar search and results interface to Google's image search. After arriving, I hopped online quickly and spotted James Duncan Davidson on iChat. He had not left for WWDC yet, but was leaving soon. I asked him where the alley way Mexican restaurant was that is near Moscone (that I had been to last year). [If you're curious, it's El Balazo at 54 Mint Street - don't miss it if you like enormous authentic burritos]

After a siesta and more catching up online, JDD called and we went out to dinner. His report of the events after dinner leaves some details out, but here's my version: we leave Chevy's and walk between Moscone North and South towards WWDC at Moscone West and a BMW pulls up beside us with a very attractive woman in the passenger seat waving and yelling "James!". We get to Moscone West and all but one door was locked (it's around 8pm) and we go up to the registration desk where two attractive women are unpacking and organizing. Duncan asks if he can register and we're told they are closed and they wonder how we got in since the doors should have been locked. Duncan says "I'm going to the all day class tomorrow and wondering if I can register tonight". One of the ladies agrees and asks for his ID. When she reads his license, she screams "YOU'RE JAMES DUNCAN DAVIDSON! YOU'RE FAMOUS! I see your name everywhere. I'm so glad I got to meet you!". At this point, Duncan is blushing. To clarify, Duncan was teaching the class on Sunday, not just attending it. What a great way to start JavaOne - with the one guy who I can directly attribute to a great deal of my success in the past couple of years. Remember, it's the people!.

Sunday started when my gracious roommate, Cos Difazio (nudge - blog sometimes will ya?!), and I went out to breakfast near Union Square and then he bolted to his Java University class. I went to the java.net Javapedia session where I caught up with Malcolm Davis, Jonathan Simon, Daniel Steinberg, and some others. Last year I was a member of the java.net blogging and Javapedia team to prime some content. This year we discussed the lack of Javapedia adoption and how to rejuvenate it. Unfortunately, even though having an all-things Java wiki seems like a great idea, there are finer grained wikis for tons of Java projects which, to me, makes it tough to drive relevant content to Javapedia. Java.net in general is a great resource for articles, blogs, news, and a growing number of high quality open source projects - it's just the wiki that is hurting. Jonathan and I escaped to get some lunch (nice Thai food near Moscone) and register for JavaOne. At registration we ran into "Crazy" Bob Lee and Pat Niemeyer.

I caught up with my good friend Joseph Hannon (a rocker from Iowa who I first met at NFJS St. Louis last year, and hung out with a lot at JavaOne '03) and Mike Clark for dinner (later joined by JDD after his all-day course) at Uncle Vito's. Sunday night brought the invitation-only O'Reilly party at the Thirsty Bear.

Despite writing for Manning, I'm very much a FOO, Friend Of O'Reilly. It was great catching up with familiar people, and meeting some new ones. I ran into many notables, including Mike Cannon-Brookes, Gavin King, Kathy Sierra, James Strachan, Bill Bumgarner, and many many more. I also ran into a few Apple folks, one of whom is working on Java WebStart and the Mac JVM, and another who is working on "stuff" he could not mention (to which all I can say is "keep up the great work, whatever it is"). O'Reilly gave out gift bags to everyone there, which included a copy of the quite interesting book Hackers and Painters, half of which I read on the trip home. Did I mention that The Network is the People?

Monday started the JavaOne frenzy. I attended the morning keynote by Jonathan Schwartz. The Java Studio demo was lame - Tor didn't break the demo this time because he didn't actually do anything with it, but then again, who would want to with your boss threatening to fire you in front of the world (geez!). What's up with the numbering scheme? Java 2 (Enterprise/Standard/Micro) Edition 5.0. Why the 2? Come on Sun, help us truly make our lives better, faster, and lighter from the top, not just with technologies like EJB3.

Mid-day I met with Kevin Burton and talked about Lucene, NewsMonster, and other very cool ideas he's got cooking - very very impressive stuff. I had to cut our discussion shorter than I would have liked to review and tweak my Lucene in Action slides for my presentation the next day thanks to Sun's stringent control of the slides and tight window of opportunity to change them.

Monday night was the second Thirsty Bear gathering for me - the Java bloggers meet-up. Once again there were many good friends, as well as many of the online blogging personalities whom I had not met in person before. The gathering was in a tight corner, much too tight for the number of people. I could barely move in the crowd. I briefly chatted with Tim Bray, a familiar FOO friend who mentioned that Jonathan Schwartz was going to be the next Sun blogger. Not a moment later, Schwartz himself appeared. My pal Joe snapped a photo of Schwartz and me (sorry, my cell phone camera resolution is not great).

I had to duck out for a bit for dinner and to do a technical rehearsal to ensure my laptop worked properly with the presentation equipment for my demonstrations of Lucene. After my rehearsal, I went back to the Thirsty Bear and caught up with the remaining blogger crowd, including Matt Raible and some others for an interesting JSF/Struts/Tapestry conversation and I also got to chat with the SourceBeat folks, who are really doing some interesting things in the book publishing business. After staying out a bit later than I should have, I went back to the hotel and watched Steve Job's WWDC keynote via Quicktime and tinkered with my presentation demos way into the night. As much as I've spoken at conferences, symposiums, JUGs, etc, I didn't think I'd be nervous, but somehow the JavaOne aura got me a bit nerve rattled, and I didn't sleep well and got up far too early to continue tinkering with my demos and going over my slide flow.

Tuesday - my JavaOne debut. In the morning, I sat down in the lobby of Moscone South to relax and go over my slides. As I was reviewing them, a guy sitting near me saw the word "Lucene" on my papers and introduced himself. It was Kevin Jones, someone I was very interested in catching up with anyway. Kevin is a DevelopMentor instructor, one of only a handful of elite technical instructors who really have no rival. Kevin attended my Lucene presentation, but unfortunately we lost track of one another afterwards - although we continue to stay in touch via e-mail. My presentation started with only a small crowd - although it filled up dramatically over the next 15 minutes (I later heard the keynote went longer than scheduled - ouch!!!). It is near impossible to do a technology like Lucene justice in a single hour. My nervousness and being rushed to get started when I saw folks still coming in flustered me a bit and I didn't introduce myself until a few minutes into my presentation, and my image search engine demo was to include me uploading the photo of Schwartz and me, keywording it, and then searching for it, yet I somehow forgot to do those steps. But, my demos worked flawlessly, the presentation seemed to go well, and I was mobbed with questions afterwards. None other than the extremely cool creator of Lucene, Doug Cutting, was also in attendance. After all the questions were answered, Doug, John Mitchell, Jonathan, Joe, and I went to lunch and then made a quick pass through the show floor to collect freebie toys for our kids. What a great feeling Doug must have to know that probably half or more of the vendors there use Lucene embedded in their products. We owe Doug a great deal of gratitude for his creation and his openness for sharing it with the world. Doug is also one of the nicest and most enviro-friendly guys I've met.

With my presentation over, I now relaxed a bit. Joe and I played some foosball (but not nearly enough!). I went over to WWDC and roamed the vendor floor a bit, and went back JavaOne and caught the first few minutes of the Groovy session. I ducked out to visit with my old Core J2EE Patterns pals, Crupi and Malks (and Deepak, whom I had just met). I had dinner with Joe, and then off to the Borland "Rock On" party with the Near Infinity gang. The Borland party was pretty darn impressive, with the largest collection of female "Java developers" I've ever seen. The party degraded once the band started - although perhaps thats because I was (probably the only one) sober. It was great seeing more good friends, even getting to see Blake Stone again. I wanted to end the night with the theme of this blog in mind... Jonathan, Joe, Stu Halloway, and I all left the club and wandered around a bit and chatted. This was my last day at JavaOne, and it ended perfectly.

For a humorous (perhaps even corny) elaboration on what I mean by this post, I refer you to Love is the Killer App. This is, in my opinion, required reading especially for those that feel its more about what you know than who you know. From an article by Tim Sanders for FastCompany:

The most powerful force in business isn't greed, fear, or even the raw energy of unbridled competition. The most powerful force in business is love. It's what will help your company grow and become stronger. It's what will propel your career forward. It's what will give you a sense of meaning and satisfaction in your work, which will help you do your best work.

[...]

Even in the digital era, when the Internet connects hundreds of millions of computers around the world, the power of love in business is rooted in the centrality of the human factor. Success is based on the people we know. Everyone in our address book is a potential partner for everyone we meet. Everyone can fit somewhere in our ever-expanding business universe. And the value of our network is a function of our willingness to share it.

We collect marbles, baseball cards, and antiques in order to hold on to them while they increase in value. The purpose of collecting contacts, however, is just the opposite: to give them away -- to match them with other contacts. So don't screen people out. Those who appear powerless or insignificant may be stars waiting to rise. Someday, they may become key nodes in your network -- and create a huge opportunity for you. And they will remember that it was you who was on their side before everyone else was.

I apologize for not having or making more time at JavaOne to catch up. Here's an extra special shout-out to Joseph Hannon (yeah, you do rock!) and Jonathan Simon, both of whom I spent the most time with during my time at JavaOne.

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