Just over a week ago the IDR Solutions team arrived back in good old England. After enduring a 10 hour flight, we arrived to a temperature that was superbly cold with a hint of rain on its way. Always nice to know nothing had changed in our absence. Anyway back in sunny San Francisco I had a brilliant time meeting fellow developers and IT professionals, attending talks (including my own), manning our stand and exploring the city and its many restaurants. I learned a lot. This short list details some of the key things I took away from JavaOne.
1. Even experienced speakers get nervous
Like I said above I gave a talk at JavaOne with fellow co-worker Sophia Matarazzo entitled “Writing better code – How the NetBeans IDE helps you to write, test, and debug Java“. This was our first speech at JavaOne and we were insanely nervous. We rehearsed for hours but still felt jittery and unprepared.
Our talk was on Tuesday evening and so we attended a lot of talks on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning and afternoon. From attending these I gained a great deal of technical knowledge and also learned quite a bit about how people present their own talks. The only element they all had in common was, well… that they were all different. Some people preferred reading from slides, others did not reference the slides at all, a few people stood while others sat down and the speed and quantity of information varied. After talking to a few speakers, I found that almost everyone was nervous too. This gave me a little more confidence to not only present my own talk but to do it in my own style just like everyone else.
2. There is always more to learn about what you think you know
At JavaOne I attended plenty of sessions that were either loosely or wholly related to what I wanted to learn. People can generally say that that they work with a programming language, but if you dig down you will find that there are always holes in people’s knowledge. Even if you think you know about something. You may just know it at one level and not another. You can say this bit of code does this but can you say why it does that? I know for a fact that my knowledge is incomplete. I attended talks at JavaOne including Java EE Lab 101: An Introduction [HOL1659] and that I thought could help fill in the blank areas.
Learning something new is like being given a jigsaw puzzle. You think you have all the pieces until you realize that some are missing.
3. Customer feedback is invaluable
Between running to different sessions and grabbing food, I helped man our stand this year at JavaOne. This involved explaining our product to potential customers and conversing with current customers. Feedback is essential as it details not only which features our current customers are happy with but also what they think our products need. Listening to customer needs and demands will help us improve our products and stay ahead of the competition. Improvements can be put in place, new features can be penciled in and our best features can be promoted. Negative feedback is just as helpful (maybe more so) than positive feedback.
4. There is an amazing Java community out there
Throughout JavaOne I have talked with so many people that my throat was sore, attended multiple sessions where people shared interesting and useful technology and learned quite a bit in general. The Java community is a huge group of friendly enthusiasts that are willing to help each other out and share experiences that are both good and bad. At IDR Solutions we use the NetBeans IDE and so naturally we wanted to meet other NetBeans enthusiasts. We achieved this on Sunday at NetBeans day (thanks to Geertjan Wielenga ) and at our own talk. The other members provided constructive feedback on our talk and were helpful when problems arose. Thanks to everyone who turned up!
5. There are mountains of things you do not know, that you did not even know about
How do you learn? Were you taught by someone? Did you scour the internet trying to dig up every little bit of information that you could find on a subject? Have you read books on different topics? Every method has its limitations. A teacher might not teach you everything. The internet can help you find articles, but then how do you know if what you are reading is correct, or if there is not a better method that can be used? Even books have a limited scope.
Seeing all the sessions at JavaOne makes you wonder what the different technologies are about. Going to sessions provides some insight into what there is still to learn (or at least some of it). You can not learn about what you have never heard of. My advise is take a chance. You may never have heard of it and you may never use it or you could learn something invaluable or interesting. You may find an answer to a problem you deemed insolvable. For programmers curiosity is a virtue. Never lose it.
One example is that I attended a session entitled: WildFly, Hadoop, JavaFX, and HTML5 in the Enterprise [UGF10306] with no knowledge of WildFly or Hadoop. After the session I had a decent idea of what they can accomplish.
6. Do not decide against going to a talk that you think you will not understand
Linking to my above points. Some talks are very detailed and others want to drive home the key points of the subject. In either case you can learn. Most talks start with 15-20 minute introductions. If you are new to the topic then this will be the informative part for you. You can get a general idea of what the product/service is. The middle part of the talk will give you a general idea of how to use the technology and at the end there are usually references. Hands On Labs like DevOps of Java and Scala Apps to the Cloud with Cloud Foundry [HOL6939] are useful because you can try the software then and there. If you find the product/service interesting or useful then use these references and go forth and learn at your own pace.