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The JavaOne 2012 Conversations: Mattias Karlsson

Posted by editor on October 14, 2012 at 7:37 PM PDT

Mattias Karlsson (@matkar) is a Java Champion, JUG leader, speaker, consultant, software vagabond, and founder of the Jfokus Conference (@Jfokus, which will take place February 4-6 in Stockholm, Sweden). At JavaOne 2012, I had an opportunity to chat with Mattias about Jfokus, Java User Groups, and the state of Java in Sweden.

My first question was something I've actually wondered about for years: why in the world would someone hold a major Java conference (i.e., Jfokus) in the middle of the Swedish winter? I'm guessing Mattias may have heard this question before, because his first response was a broadening smile... after which he said, "Because Stockholm is beautiful in winter." Then he followed with "and the weather keeps people inside during the conference." Good thinking!

I've since found out that winter temperatures in Stockholm aren't quite as cold as I'd imagined. While the average high in January and February doesn't exceed freezing, the average nightly low is about -5 degrees C (23 degrees F). This makes the traditional pre-Jfokus nighttime Baltic Sea "cruise" from Turku, Finland to Stockholm seem not so intimidating.

I asked Mattias how this annual cruise across the icy Baltic from Finland to Sweden got started. He told me that the first trip happened at a time when Finland did not have an active Java User Group. Java is very important in Finland, and a fairly large contingent of Finnish developers wanted to attend Jfokus. Suffice to say, this was not a trip they wanted to try to take by car or bus (see the nearby map).

Fortunately, the Java web framework company Vaadin, which is headquartered in Turku, Finland, came to the rescue, suggesting a Vaadin-sponsored "geek cruise" across the Baltic from Turku to Stockholm just before Jfokus, followed by a return trip to Turku after the conference was completed. Finnish Java developers, as you might expect, were delighted! And thus, the overnight, pre-Jfokus, Vaadin mid-winter late-night meetup on the Baltic was launched.

Over the years, the Vaadin pre-Jfokus trip from Turku to Stockholm has grown. For example, not long ago Oracle's Arun Gupta traveled to Stockholm to participate in a Java event, then flew to Finland, participated in and presented on the Vaadin cruise back to Stockholm, and then presented again at Jfokus!

The cruise will happen for Jfokus 2013 as well. Vaadin says: 'Onboard a cruise ship in the middle of the icy Baltic sea, we'll arrange a late night Vaadin Meetup as a "warm-up" to the Jfokus conference. You'll have an opportunity to get an insider's view into some of the hottest technologies, meet the team behind Vaadin and network with your peers with a cold free beer in your hand.'

Yep, a cold beer in my hand as I cruise the icy Baltic Sea in early February... I guess I'd better start using these recently cold New England (US) nights to practice!

By the way, registration for Jfokus 2013 is now open. It actually opened just before I spoke with Mattias at JavaOne. You should register before October 31 to get the best pricing.

My next topic of conversation with Mattias was about Java User Groups, specifically Javaforum, the JUG he leads in Sweden. Mattias noted that Javaforum has been growing continuously and is now very well established. At a typical meeting, about 20% of the attendees are new developers who've never attended before. Recent meetings have drawn about 200 people!

I asked how the growth happens, and Mattias cited "word of mouth" as being the primary driver of membership growth. A friend of a developer talks about the JUG, or a specific meeting, and that results in a new person showing up at a meeting and ultimately joining the JUG. Of course, for this to happen, the meetings have to offer quality content, along with helpful networking opportunities.

My next question was about the state of Java in Sweden. Mattias considers Java to be the overall top programming language in Sweden, with insurance companies, banks, and government public services running substantial amounts of Java code. Of course, like everywhere else, other languages and platforms are prevalent in Sweden, but Mattias believes that Java currently has the most significant impact.

Looking at the types of Swedish organizations that utilize Java, it's clear that Java is deeply ingrained in the most critical components of Sweden's information technology infrastructure. If you think about it from a developer's point of view, though -- these types of jobs don't in themselves bring developers wide exposure to other developers who work outside of their own organization. Hence, joining Javaforum provides something unique that's not available to Swedish developers as they go to work each day: you meet others with whom you share technological interest and expertise, who can provide opportunities for growth in your own expertise through learning about how Java technology is being applied elsewhere; in addition, the networking conveys knowledge of potential opportunities that may be opening up in other organizations, a benefit for both individual developers and the organizations who are seeking new developers.

When I asked about sponsorship for Javaforum meetings and events (200 attendees is a pretty big meeting!), Mattias said that usually the JUG has different sponsors for each event. See the Javaforum home page to see who some of these sponsors are.

In closing, I asked Mattias if there was anything else he wanted to tell the audience. His response: "Join your local Java User Group. If none exists, start one; if there is one, support it."

Visit the Java User Groups page if you need help with finding a JUG in your area. The JUG Profile Map is a very convenient way to find out if a JUG that's registered with (most are) is located near you.

It was great talking with Mattias Karlsson at JavaOne 2012. Consider following him on Twitter (@matkar), if you don't already. Also, if the opportunity's available, register for and attend Jfokus 2013 (@Jfokus) in Stockholm on February 4-6. I'm very much hoping to be there, myself! Weblogs

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