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The JavaOne 2012 Conversations: Fabiane Bizinella Nardon

Posted by editor on November 19, 2012 at 3:51 PM PST

In preparing for my JavaOne 2012 conversation with Java Champion Fabiane Bizinella Nardon, I was considering lots of questions about her work in the Brazilian health care system (her work as architect of what's considered the world's largest Java EE application won a Duke's Choice Award in 2005), about the state of Java in Brazil, about her co-leadership of's Java Tools Community, etc. But, the first thing I learned from Fabiane is that she's been on sabbatical from her regular job this year, and has rarely been in Brazil. That changed my planning entirely, turning our conversation into much more of a free-form chat.

I found out that "sabbatical" really does fit what Fabiane is doing. This isn't a break from effort for her by any means. She's taking time to work on projects that interest her -- as long as those projects can be worked on from anywhere in the world (which is, of course, increasingly possible today). Fabiane's taken advantage of this freedom to travel to Europe, the United States, and elsewhere, as she also engrosses herself in new areas of software technology and founding and assisting business startups.

While on sabbatical, Fabiane has focused on two startups of her own: ToolsCloud, which she co-founded in 2010 with SouJava leader Bruno Souza; and StoryTroop, which went fully live on September 25, just before JavaOne. ToolsCloud, which provides developer tools in the cloud, already has a devoted user base (it's especially strong in Brazil).

StoryTroop, meanwhile, is a kind of social network, where groups of people contribute to telling the story of a particular event or history or topic. The very first story on the StoryTroop platform, used for testing while the site was under development, exemplifies the concept. The StoryTroop #javahistory story consists of contributed perspectives from various people who were involved in the history of Java, all from a developer's point of view. Each person contributes memories of particular events. The sum total of all the contributed memories becomes a unique telling of the history of Java, one that certainly could not be found in a book written by a single author. In a sense, it's story-telling as an open source project, where everyone's a committer. Or, in Fabiane's words: "StoryTroop facilitates the creation of an aggregate story consisting of many different perspectives from many different people."

And the stories can keep growing. Real historical stories are tagged as being so, with a location and a date (or date range). For example, Fabiane's #javahistory "It all started with a backpack" entry talks about an event that happened in 2001 in Sao Paulo, Brazil:

What very few people know is that my career as a Java expert started because of a backpack. In 2001 I met with Bruno Souza and he had this awesome backpack with the Java logo shining on it. I asked him what I had to do to get a backpack like that and he said...

While the history of Java was utilized as a starting point, Fabiane envisions StoryTroop as being a place where people who shared almost any kind of experience can gather to document what happened from their own personal perspective. As an example, she cited the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States -- people could tell their individual stories of what happened, and others who also had personal involvement would be able to share their portions of the story, and read what others experienced at that time, on that day and thereafter.

In this sense, StoryTroop seems to me to offer a new potential for uniquely documenting modern history. It's about (at least in the case of real stories) documentation of things that have affected groups of people's lives. It seems, though, that StoryTroop could also well be used for sharing stories about more general topics, such as raising children. Then there are also the fictional possibilities, as exemplified by the #realsnowwhite story, where we currently see @snowwhite reporting having "just hacked my stepmother's mirror." I wonder how that will work out...

I asked about the platform. Fabiane said it's running on the Heroku cloud platform, using the Play framework and mongoDB. Fabiane said StoryTroop is not an open source project, but the team isn't hiding anything.

Startups are great, right? But, Fabiane had said earlier that her bank account balance was declining as her sabbatical proceeded. So I asked her, with respect to StoryTroop: "What's the business model?" Her response:

We've thought about that! The StoryTroop business model is to sell sponsored stories to businesses. For example, the Starbucks story could be told by people who participated in its founding, and who've participated in its growth. Even customers could share when and why they became Starbucks devotees.

I think if StoryTroop became big enough, sufficiently successful, this would likely work. Businesses gravitate to successful social networking sites, because they see in the communities potential new customers. It's all about attaining a kind of "critical mass" in the online marketplace.

Changing subject, Fabiane said she's also been spending time during her sabbatical helping other startups. She's a kind of venture capitalist who offers time rather than cash: she likes to provide her technical expertise to new business ventures she finds interesting. I myself consider that charity, and I hope she's well-thanked at minimum! One such company she's working with is developing a model that characterizes people based on data, with the objective of providing small companies/sites capability to push ads to their target audience at much lower cost than is possible via, for example, Google's ad program.

Fabiane said her sabbatical ends at the end of January. That's coming up soon! She'll be spending her last few months in Florida, US. Having been born in southern Brazil (where it gets quite chilly in winter), she wants to relax in warmth as her sabbatical concludes. So, I guess, after all, I won't extend that long-planned invitation for Fabiane to come visit us in New England this January!

Speaking of stories, if you've read all the way down to this paragraph, you must find Fabiane Bizinella Nardon's story interesting (I certainly do). If that's the case, you'll likely also want to read Marcus Eisele's October 2011 The Heroes of Java: Fabiane Bizinella Nardon. May the telling of Fabiane's story continue long into the future! Weblogs

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