I mean the 2011 Devoxx conference, tenth in a series, held in Antwerp, otherwise famous for Rubens and diamonds.

It’s big: 3000+ developers. I’ve been before, back when it was known as “Javapolis” before Sun’s estimable legal team intervened.

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.

Stephan Janssen at Devox 2011

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.

The gender-imbalance panel session at Devoxx 2011

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.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: James Williams (Nov 21 2011, at 16:03)

If you fly into Brussels, there is an hourly express coach bus that leaves from the airport and drops you off right in from of Antwerp Centraal Station. It only costs 10 Euros and the trip takes 45mins.

On the bus back to Brussels airport, I spotted Googler and Java rock star Josh Bloch.


From: Tim (Nov 21 2011, at 17:04)

Thanks for the info, James. There are fast trains from Amsterdam which are under an hour, and super-comfortable, with WiFi and power. Also, the train station is amazingly close to the Schiphol arrivals. I only had a 45 minute gap between plane and train, and the plane was a half hour late, and I still made my train!

The train’s a bit but not dramatically more expensive. What seemed like a big deal to me is that from many places, it’s easier to get to Amsterdam than to Brussels.


From: Marc Van den Broeck (Nov 22 2011, at 00:53)


Thanks for your excellent keynote. I enjoyed it very much. You had some very nice ideas about developing 3thd world applications. I've been thinking about that subject ever since.

Hope to see you back next year. I know I will be attending your session again if it happens

Regards from Antwerp

Marc Van den Broeck


From: Par Eklund (Nov 22 2011, at 03:12)


Thanks for the writeup.

You seem to be contrasting Java to "modern-web" (tech) and "mobile-tech". If so, and given that Google uses Java as core language for quite a few of their offerings, including GWT (web) and Android (mobile), could you please elaborate more on that.

Regarding the part "even among the Overlords of Java, it’s now become OK to loathe generics", it seems as if you would advise against using generics. Is that correct and if so, what would you say is the main reason and which alternatives would you propose?



From: jonathan (Nov 30 2011, at 02:29)

The irony for me was that as the women in IT session was going on, we had the 'booth babes' downstairs around the scalextrix (model racing cars) track almost directly underneath.


From: Robert de Forest (Dec 08 2011, at 09:36)

"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'd like to see more on this subject. I'm in your camp and I have theories about the other camp which I would like to see tested. Those theories have a lot to do with the other camp undervaluing transparent discoverable interfaces.

See also Richard P. Gabriel's "Worse is Better", and the classic phrase, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."


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