TSSJS Impressions - We won; Now what do we do?
I had intended to write a running blog at the TSSJS, but that didn't happen. Initially, technical glitches with my PDA and the wireless network held me back, but as I began to attend sessions and talk with my peers I found myself at a loss to effectively blog my impressions.
I'd never been to TSSJS, but I found it to be very similar to the No Fluff Just Stuff conference that I attended here in Austin. Perhaps more attendees, but it still doesn't feel like a huge production. More like a JUG meeting on steroids. Lots of the same faces, both presenters and attendees.
I came away with a lot that I would like to blog about... many of the topics are interrelated, but they're also all over the map so I won't try to cram them all into a single blog entry.
I think that one thread of the conference was the following:
"We won; Now what do we do?"
Nobody actually said this phrase, but it was implied by many of the speakers.
Many of the past articles and discussion threads on TSS have been focused on how horrible J2EE was (primarilly focussed on EJB), and many of these former critics were presenters or attendees at this year's TSSJS. Unlike past years, these folks are no longer the voices of reason railing against the unreasonable establishment. In some cases these folks now are the establishment (for example, Gavin King is now a member of the EJB3 working group).
In some ways, it was almost dull. On some occasions folks tried lobbing hand-grenades to get a heated discussion going, but with few exceptions nobody would pull the pin and set off the explosion. With the recent JDO2 vote there wasn't even a good Java Persistence argument.
By and large, the old battles are over, and the rebels either won outright or they were able to reach acceptable compromises with the establishment. That is a really good thing.
Another thread of the conference was:"Declare Peace and Reassure the Customers"
Complexity and dissention have harmed Java's reputation. Corporate confidence in Java has fallen if you believe articles like the Burton Group's recently released "J2EE: A Standard in Jeopardy" and Debu Panda's "Why J2EE is so complex!". I know that some of my senior manager's are less sure that their Java investment was worthwhile, and I imagine that's true at many companies. Witness the recent speculation that IBM is fed up with Java and switching to PHP.
In response to Java's lost luster, one of this year's TSSJS tacit agendas seemed to be a show of unity to demonstrate that the bad old J2EE problems are gone (or soon to be gone). For example; Ted Farrel's TSSJS keynote was entitled: "Does J2EE (still) Matter?" (Guess what conclusion he came to). Craig McClanahan followed this rhetorical question trend with the title of his talk:"Java Server Faces -- Dead on Arrival or Raging Success?" (Hint: Nobody called the coroner). Craig's message was aimed squarely at Corporate Developers: Developing Java Web UIs will be as simple as Visual Basic.
On the surface Rod Johnson seemed to miss the trend with a session entitled "Why J2EE Projects Fail", but during the keynote panel on "The Future of Enterprise Java" he pretty much fell in line.
One of the panel members, I believe it was Ron, said something to the effect that we are past the inovation phase and into the execution phase. In essense, we have figured out what was wrong, and now we have to fix it. Hopefully the businesses that have already spent millions of dollars on the less-then-perfect J2EE of the past will be patient and give us another chance. Time and capital has been wasted by the bitter disputes that we've witnessed and engaged in, and as a result Java won't dominate like it might once have (we'll all have to worry about .Net compatibility).
Depressing stuff to think about.
One of the surprising things about "The Future of Enterprise Java" panelists was that nobody would predict what "The Next Big Thing" is going to be. I have my own ideas on that, and I'll be blogging them soon...