Trip to Tokyo
I'm just back from a rather hectic trip to Japan. This was to attend a two-day conference/meeting/get-together of "Exploratory Software Project (Youth)" this year. In a nutshell, this is a program sponsered by the Japanese government where young folks under 27 can submit a project proposal and get support in various forms (small money, legal/patent/VC consultation, engineering advices, etc) if accepted. The program now runs twice a year. I've participated in this program a few years ago with the Dalma project and got an award, and since then my involvement has been to attend the meeting early in the program and give youngsters engineering feedback and encouragements.
Fundamentally, the program is about investing in people; participants are supposed to complete their projects, yes, but the emphasis is more on keeping them intellectually challenged (and keep them really busy, too) and give them an opportunity to meet with the other like-minded folks. I think it's great that the Japanese government is recognizing that brilliant individual engineers have a lot to do with good thriving software industry.
I really love this program because of the fact that participants are so very young. This year the youngest was 18, and I think the average age of the participants is perhaps around 24. While they might be little immature and inexperienced, they are bright, energetic, gung-ho boys (and some girls) who are willing to spend a lot of time on writing software, and I just love their passion. In a way, many of them are bit like Don Quixote — some of the project proposals feel a bit like attacking windmills with bare-hands — but I think that's what's really great about being young, and even more surprisingly some of them actually manage to get the project done in some shape despite all the odds!
I really want to talk about some of the cool project proposals, but unfortunately I can't because of honorary "NDA" that we are under. This is so that people doing the project can file patents on their ideas.
I've been attending this several times now, but one good thing to note this year was that Java seems to be wide spread. In the last few years scripting languages like Ruby, PHP and Perl were highly visible, but this year most folks seem to do either Java or .NET/C++. Also, many of them seem to be interested in coming/working in the U.S. if there are opportunities.
One final off-topic note. During this two-day conference I went to Sentou with two other guys. Sentou, for those who don't know, is a public bath house where you pay a small fee ($2-3 when I was small) to enjoy a big bath tub. As you'll find in Wikipedia, Sentou is mostly a thing of the past, and has been declining steadily for the past 40 years or so, as the life style changes. But apparently they are coming back now in a new style. The place I went charged more like $15, but it was much modern and nicer than what's depicted in Wikipedia. They have 4 or 5 different bath tubs with different tempreture and colors, different shampoo/soap to choose from, free WiFi access (don't ask me why you'd want that), comic books to read, chess/go/shogi to play, massage chairs, etc, etc. Apparently this kind of new expensive luxury Sentou is now called Super-Sentou. Wow.
Those old things just refuse to disappear, it seems. It's great that things like this evolve not by throwing away the old but instead by integrating the old.