I mean the 2011 Devoxx conference, tenth in a series, held in Antwerp, otherwise famous for Rubens and diamonds.
It is the creation of Stephan Janssen, pictured below, who seems both nice and competent to a high degree in an unthreatening manner. He’s also behind Parleys.com, a good-looking eLearning offering, which will be offering online video of the Devoxx sessions. This sort of unassuming excellence is what more of us should aspire to.
Here’s what seemed important to me:
The atmosphere is unpretentious, informal, and humorous; all good things.
It’s Java-centric to an extent that feels vaguely weird to someone like myself who’s been living in the modern-Web and mobile-tech worlds.
Further, the Java on offer is somewhat old-school; apparently there are many who still care about JPA and JSF and suchlike TLJAs. Even JavaFX (ROFL) still aspires to relevance.
I learned that even among the Overlords of Java, it’s now become OK to loathe generics.
The quality of the technical sessions is by and large wonderful. People who want to say something to the community want to say it at Devoxx; they come prepared and they deliver the goods.
The schedule is mostly free of sponsor executives engaging in enterprisey bloviation; to the extent that when it happens, cruel hilarity quickly ensues in the Twitter stream.
Mobile is hot stuff, with most of those sessions bulging at the seams.
The venue is beyond excellent; all others pathetically inadequate in comparison. Except for, the seats are a little too comfy for jetlagged visitors.
The technology Just Works. Audiovisual and presentation problems are distinguished by their absence. They even manage to keep not-terrible WiFi up and running almost always in the face of unreasonable odds.
Stephan somehow keeps the price of admission down to a level where the folks in attendance are largely actual developers who actually, you know, write code.
Antwerp is just fine as a host city. It’s comfortingly international, reasonably priced, and well-connected to the Euro grid. Protip: If you’re coming from far away, fly into Amsterdam, not Brussels, and take the excellent Thalys train over.
The gender ratio is laceratingly horrible even by the standards of geek gatherings. I raised this in my keynote; my concern being not so much the shocking absence of women, but the lack of any grownup conversation around the problem, aside from not-very-funny-tweets about toilet lineups.
Having said that, they had a session on the subject, which was welcome; but I didn’t hear any new ideas about how to improve things. Here’s a picture.
I gave a keynote which got laughs in the right places, so I hope people had fun. I was also in a “fireside chat”, which had originally been scheduled to include James Gosling, an Adobe person, and an Oracle person. James has a new gig and Adobe has been going through some changes, so it ended up being me and three Oracle employees. Yep, a little weird and I think maybe boring at least in part, because everyone had to be so careful.
I learned that there are Important People at Oracle who really still believe that Web foundations like HTML and HTTP are second-rate technologies which are only used because they’re ubiquitous. I respectfully disagree and think the evidence is on my side.
I really hope to be back. The community owes Stephan a vote of thanks for making this thing happen.