Archive for March 2010
It’s nearly time to return to our scheduled programming, but first a quick retrospective of EclipseCon 2010.
The danger with writing a retrospective like this is that it can rapidly become a screed of great proportions and hit everyone’s tl;dr button. So I’ll keep this short. What I am reporting here is my own experience plus feedback from both presenter and non-presented folk. I’ll keep the format of the previous articles to focus it.
This was a great success this year – better than years when there were half again as many attendees. My only regret was that I missed out on a teeshirt on the first day! Much appreciation to Kim Moir for, er, running with this.
The keynote from Oracle was a lacklustre affair – and watching some of the tweetage that was coming out from their panel later in the day, it’s no surprise since Oracle don’t appear to have decided what they are up to. Especially with the retention of three UIs – Eclipse, JDeveloper and Netbeans. Come budget time, the VP or whoever at the pointy end of controlling those three groups will have to get the hatchet out. Which will fall? JDeveloper is ensconced like a tick – parts of it are in core Oracle products (allegedly). I have to assume that the Netbeans team is larger than the Eclipse team, does that make them more likely to be kept? Of course, it won’t be that simple – perhaps the Netbeans Java tooling people could be transitioned to Eclipse to add more value to the JDT? Anyway, I’m sure we’ll be guessing for a while.
The NASA/JPL keynote from Jeff was a masterful performance – not only the content, which was bang on demographic for a crowd of developers and technophiles, but the structure and production values were excellent. I caught a couple of clips – here’s Jeff talking to David who is supervising the ATHLETE robot in the lab
and here is Jeff’s closing remarks with his Lego buddy Socrates
Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin (Roberto) presented the keynote on software professionalism and it too was excellent work, although on a totally different axis to Jeff’s. This man is a past master of the presentation style, fearless, emotive and ready to challenge his audience. Here’s some short extracts:
- agile is about destroying the hope that keeps stupid plans alive
- say no to all forms of bad code
- say no to dropping your disciplines
- say no to overtime – know your limits
- say no to meetings – when the meeting gets boring, leave
- say no to dumb restrictions on your development process
I think the talk unnerved some people (as evinced by -1’s in the red bucket), so good work Roberto!
I got a goodly amount of positive feedback that a tutorial-per-morning was a nice idea and something that people did look forward to. There was a bit of balancing feedback that some of the tutorials were somewhat disorganized, not fully prepared, had too many slides, didn’t have enough introductory information, or were missing required data. The Program Committee had a meeting on this and we have a couple of proposals to make sure that these kinds of issues won’t occur next year.
On balance, the 25-minute talks worked, I think. I had a lot of conference-goers saying that they were pleasantly surprised with the shorter format – they got a similar amount of information in a shorter time and could go to more talks. Most presenters stepped up to the plate and did a really good job on condensing their material and cut quickly to demos. Some didn’t and the talks were rushed and hassly. There were a couple of people who appeared to be personally upset about the timing – how on earth could you talk about anything in less than 35 minutes? They got my get over it lecture.
One the other hand, the 12-minute lightnings did not really work at all well this year compared to other years. I think it’s because so many speakers got instructed to cut from standard length to lightning and it was just too difficult to do. I’m thinking we might revisit that for next year.
Feedback was on the high side for good talks, however some donkeys were brought to light too.
The panels I went to were good. The quality of the moderation was tip-top, the preparation was good, and all were conducted in good humour and with great candour. Controversy can work well in a panel, but it appears that good, solid, experiential data works well too. Big shout out to Dave Carver for his innovative Jeopardy-style approach in moderating the Build and Continuous Integration Panel and use of “the Undead” as a question category 🙂
BoFs and Unconference
This year we seemed to be totally BoF-tastic, with a great amount of activity going on there, but the Unconference got little support. Lesson learned here – the crowd at the ‘Con are more interested in getting together in a social group for listen and learn rather than stepping up and doing their own off-piste talks.
Divers Alarums – being a gallimaufry of tatterdemalion conference qualia
- e4 Rover Programming Competition – wow, this was a runaway success and frankly will be hard to top. Huge kudos to the NASA guys, Ian, Boris and Ben
- EclipseCon Tweetup – informal meeting in the bar, always works for me 😉
- Don‘s sense of humour – “I’m stalling…and you’re all leaving…and now I’ve lost all credibility…”
- Sergey P’s phones – classic
- Giving us mugs instead of little rinky-dink cups for coffee – most essential
- The general buzz around the place since we were in a smaller area was great
Thanks to all…
Well it looks like this turned out to be a screed after all. I hope you enjoyed the conference. I’ll finished with thanks to many people that made the conference work – attendees, thank you for coming; presenters, thank you for presenting your work; keynoters, thank you for crafting your keynotes and delivering them to a tough crowd; program committee, thank you for the hard graft coming up to program announce date; Don, Anne, Gabe, Ian, Lynn, Mary, thank you for hard work in the logistics and outreach departments!
Late again. I think I’m losing my motivation to write these blog entries 🙂 But, better late than never, I guess, so here’s the plan for Thursday at EclipseCon.
Errm, nothing doing here. Weighed down by the burdens of a sore foot and a big curry dinner with some Progress guys at Amber (I recommend the okra gojju), I just turned over when the alarm clock went.
This morning’s keynote is from Uncle Bob Martin – Software Professionalism and the Art of Saying “No”. Uncle Bob is one of those world-class speakers in the software industry and always produces thought-provoking and inspiring talks, whether you agree with him or not!
I was thinking that Getting the most out of your models: performance and extensibility with EMF would be my tutorial of choice this morning.
Mik Kersten of Mylyn fame is giving two talks after lunch: From Tasks to Tweets: the IDE is Going Social and The future of Mylyn. Mik is an energetic and skilled presenter and it’s usually well worth attending his talks. This time around, however, he’s got a bit of a challenge! Congratulations are in order on the very recent birth of a new daughter, which means he cannot travel, but he will still be making the presentations via a live stream. Tests have been run, but fingers crossed that there’s no tech glitches!
Third talk will be a break from Mylyn and back on the subject of testing, specifically Use a bot to test your GEF and GMF based applications. A recent extension contributed to SWTBot makes it possible to use it to test plug-ins that use GEF.
Final talk of the day. Neil Bartlett with ScalaModules: OSGi the Easy Way with a Scala DSL. I’m still threatening to learn Scala, but I’m being a bit lazy about it, so maybe this might be a prod of encouragement and maybe I’ll be able to try out other neat Scala stuff like Scalate.
At the end of the day, there is the usual Community Spotlight plenary to close the conference, then it’s time to start planning for EclipseCon 2011! Congratulations to Chris on his appointment as Program Chair – he’s going to bring a lot of energy and dedication to the role and getting out of the traps right now is a great start.
I’m getting some good feedback on EclipseCon 2010 🙂 This is great news and has has buoyed up the Program Committee no end – to the point where they would almost do it again!
But we’re not there yet. There are two more days left. The rush of content and the pace of this conference seems to be way in advance of the larger affairs in the past. No-one is getting lost trying to find their target talk, people are bumping into each all over. So what’s up for tomorrow?
Time to give up complaining about my sore foot and go for a run with the rest of the crew. Then just man up and take painkillers for the rest of the day.
Rockets! Robots! Lasers! Space! Jeff Norris the supervisor of the Planning Software Systems Group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His group develops operations systems for a variety of space missions including the Phoenix Mars Scout, Cassini Saturn Orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers. The keynote is called Rocket Science and the Republic.
I love having a tutorial every morning! Today it is going to be Eclipse UI Test Automation with SWTBot, where I am going to learn how to write and run SWTBot tests, with the intention of fleshing out the Message Owl project with some tests! I’m really interested in seeing what the capabilities of this framework are (check out the Bonitasoft Blog for some hints).
First up XQDT – XQuery Getting Momentum in Eclipse to find out about the state of the art for XQuery tools here at Eclipse.
Continuing with the XML technologies theme, next on my list is Down the Rabbit Hole: A Single Character in the XML Editor, which will give me some insight into how the XML editor works. Could be useful!
Third talk will be Scale, Share and Store your Models with CDO. Back in the IONA days we made a product that had client connections to a remote EMF repository, which sat in a database. We applied changesets from clients to the data and had our own EMF->SQL persistence layer. It is a pity we didn’t have CDO back then, and I’d like to know more about it.
Final talk of the day will most likely be What’s Cookin’ at SWT just to get a look at what’s going on there, especially for Cocoa.
The Future of Open Source looks interesting, so I think I’ll make that the last stop of the day.
Talk about a late blog entry. I’m just enjoying this EclipseCon too much. Here’s my plan for Tuesday, that is today.
Oracle will be (were) here to tell us about the future of Java. Multiple modularity systems (sigh) with some kind of paste on top to hide which one you are using, a nice JavaFX authoring tool that will allow you to create vibrating animated rockets and JDK 7 to be shipped as fast as possible.
It was a tough choice again – Server-side Web Applications, Anatomy of e4, Getting Started with EclipseRT, all sounded great, but I’m currently in the JDT Fundamentals tutorial, learning about the three pillars of JDT (java model, search engine, AST), the APIs of each and how to use them. It’s not by any means trivial, but it is definitely very cool. They have given so much thought to performance and cost of usage in the APIs. Kudos.
I made this choice because part of the work we did in Progress on a UI for Apache Camel included an Eclipse view that rendered the Camel route, based on the content of a Java editor where the developer was using the fluent builder APIs. We did this by walking the JDT AST and constructing a model that could be rendered. The result was a better user experience for people using Java as the route definition language – they could simply glance at the diagram of the route to ensure that the Java they were writing was correctly expressing their intent. I didn’t write this code, but I’d like to know how it works, and this JDT tutorial might help me with that (partial ASTs FTW, I think).
My first choice is Textual Modeling Tools: overview and penalty shoot-out. This is a comparison study of a number of text modeling tools. Top tip to presenters in the future – more of this kind of thing, please. Comparison studies are extremely valuable for developers and product managers that need to make technology choices. It’s even more important in a big wide space like the Modeling Project where there are many projects that appear to have overlapping capabilities.
Second talk – Documentation: Single-Sourcing, Crowd-Sourcing And Other Voodoo. Documentation is the Achilles heel of many Open Source projects. In a sweeping generalization, I hereby declare that developers like to focus on code and tests, and not so much the explanations in natural language. Couple this with a ‘read the code’ type of arrogance that sometime pops up and you have a project that has a serious bar to entry for new contributors. One thing that might help stave off that kind of situation is to have a very functional way to contribute documentation, thought out as a first-order plan rather than an afterthought, which permits the spreading of a wide net and makes it really really easy for contributors to add snippets and fix issues. Maybe there will be some solutions in this talk.
Talk three – one of those rarely-observed Extended Talks – OSGi Best and Worst Practices. I’ve been looking over zx’s shoulder as he has been putting this together and it looks like there is a bit of presentation zen going on with good dollop of humour as well as good, solid information, so looking forward to it.
Note to presenters: the primary purpose of a presentation is to entertain, the secondary purpose is to inform. Let’s face it – if you are not entertaining the crowd, they are going to get up and leave before you get a chance to give them data.
Talk number four is another Extended Talk, and it is definitely going to be Graphiti – The Graphical Tooling Infrastructure Speaking Plain Java. I am totally looking forward to this, because I’m a bit excited about this project and can’t wait to get my hands on it 🙂
Talk five – I can’t believe there will be this many talks – I’m not so sure about. Using JPA in OSGi might be the one – I have seen so many developers in trouble trying to get this running it would be good to know how to do it. The Towards Contributors Heaven: from CVS and SVN to EGit/JGit talk will be interesting, but I think I know that well enough. How to make a framework plugin that doesn’t suck could be good too – the speaker has a lot of experience in developing Eclipse tools. I don’t know if he will be wearing his Superman shirt for this gig, however.
I’ll be on the Build and Continuous Integration with Eclipse panel.
I think I’ll do an Unconference presentation this evening, what topic, I don’t know just yet. Will decide during the Reception 😉
Before getting onto my Tuesday session favourites, I thought I’d do a short piece on a new creature in the EclipseCon bestiary – the evening Unconference. If you have ever attended a BarCamp, or dabbled with the Open Space Technology meeting methods, then you will know what this about. If not, do not panic! It’s really quite straightforward.
Why add an Unconference?
My own experience with this type of interaction was three years ago at BarCamp Dublin, organized by my pal Joe Drumgoole. There were some pre-organized sessions given by local industry luminaries, which was followed by appearance of a whiteboard divided into a grid of times and rooms, with a pad of sticky notes. If you wanted to present, you wrote your topic and name on a sticky note, pasted it on the whiteboard, then turned up at the appointed place and time and you just…did your thing.
I was fascinated by this straight away, but I also had some considerable skeptiscism on the potential for success. I thought, who would just get up there and yap away for twenty minutes? To my surprise, the slots on the whiteboard filled within an hour. It was infectious – once the first few slots were taken, people started to get ideas about subject matter and began to get worried that there would be no slots left in the schedule! It ended up being well over-subscribed.
When I was thinking about how the conference could be shaped this year, an Unconference section appeared to fit in a highly complementary fashion with the standard conference format of the day. Here I am going to quote myself (oh, the narcissism!) from an interview I did with JAXenter last week:
A conference day is always a long day, so the concept behind this new structure is that attendees get education in the morning when their brain is ready to learn, they get entertainment and information with the talks, they get to give feedback and interact directly with the experts during the panels and finally, they get their own say at the Unconference. No-one likes to listen for the whole day without giving something in return, so you can see the balance of communication starting focussed on the presenters then shifting over to focus on the attendees at the end of the day.
The Gross Mechanics
We’ve reserved three or four rooms for the Unconference. When you sign up as an Unconference speaker you get twenty minutes of time. You can talk for twenty minutes on a single topic, or you can talk for five minutes each on four topics. It’s up to you. You could join forces with an open source buddy and do a joint presentation. You could do a mini-hackathon. You could facilitate a panel recruited from the bar area.
How do you sign up? There will be poster board available on the concourse and pads of sticky notes. The schedule will be on the boards. Write the topic of your talk and your name on a sticky and put it into a free slot if there is one available. The Program Committee will keep an eye on things – make sure that you have your name on the sticky note.
Combating Irrelevant Twaddle
In this kind of open format, there is always the likelihood that the most mouthy and/or obsessed will attempt to dominate the delivery channel. In this scenario, the Law of Two Feet should be observed. This is a simple filtering mechanism – if you don’t feel you are learning or contributing, or the relevance quotient has slipped below your baseline, then vote with your feet! Go to another session in another room, or just go have a margarita and some shrimp or something. Alternatively, you could ask the speaker to talk about another aspect of the topic under discussion.
Back to BarCamp Dublin – for myself, I really wanted to sign up to participate, but I was kind of parched for subject matter. Not this time for the Eclipse Unconference – I’m hoping to be able to beat the rush and get a couple of sessions up there on the board! Anyone out there interested in joining in?
It’s been a nervous couple of weeks here in Dublin – US passport restrictions require a six month validity period on foreign passports post arrival, and it turned out mine was due to expire in July (huh? where did that ten years go?) No more than forty-five minutes after I sent in my application, the Passport Office announced industrial action :] Fortunately, just before blood-pressure reached vein-rupturing levels this morning, I discovered that the passport is in the post and should reach me today, so it turns out I will go to the ball after all. Now I’m busy filling out my dance card.
As per usual, the diversity of sessions makes for a daunting choice — thanks to the Program Committee, I’m going to be on my toes, running around like a blue-arsed fly from session to session. The good part about this is I’ll get to (literally) bump into loads of people in the halls!
It’s Monday, the first day of the conference, so everyone is hot to trot and no-one has had a drink or a row yet. Usually the most energetic day of the conference, new PBs are set on the 5k and breakfast burritos are wolfed down with aplomb. Email can go hang.
Space and Robots
First up, Mission launch for e4 rover mars challenge! Squee! In conjunction with some awesome types at NASA JPL, we have a programming competition to produce the best control software for driving a robot across a prototypical Mars terrain. Follow that link and read the FAQ for details.
Tutorials follow – already I’ve got problems about what to attend and it’s not even 9am. The Xtext and p2 tutorials are the ones that jump out at me, and I think I’m going to favour the Xtext one, because it has a little bit of e4 for extra learn points.
Quick aside here. When I was working in IONA and in Progress, making Eclipse things, I had a total blackout on e4 material, basically because there was no way that we were going to re-engineer for e4 before late 2011 by my reckoning. But now that I am floating around the place, it might be a good plan to know more about this approaching technology. My experiences with Xtext (I made a not-dead-but-sleeping project charmingly titled CamelSpit) were good in the past and I would like to use it a bit more. Kim and Ian are doing the p2 gig, which made this a tough call. I’m definitely going to get their slides and exercises material if I can.
After the tutorial comes lunch and the Standard Talks. The first standard slot of the day is either going to be Dave Carver‘s SCRUM experiences, or the e4 model and application framework. Right now I’m tending towards Dave’s presentation, provided he doesn’t bring his cat, which looks a bit vicious in the photo.
Second slot after lunch – the traditional dozy need coffee slot – I think is going to be the b3 introduction. I should know more about this, but I haven’t been keeping up. Bad committer! I’d like to see people’s responses and questions to this session too.
Third slot after lunch – there’s a choice of four standard sessions and a couple of lightning talks. I think the Eclipse Virgo one might be the one to visit at this point. I’m holding on to healthy skepticism about this project at the moment, fears of abandonware and all that, but time will tell.
As another aside, it’s mildly interesting for some (although a bit of a waste from a developer’s point of view) to see the choose-your-community-along-business-lines in operation: the IBM guys plus pals at Apache with Aries, the Oracle guys plus pals at Eclipse with Gemini. I’m not going to go to those talks, since I’m not involved with any of the organizations at this point (although I am an as-yet-inactive committer on Aries.) But if you want to know what is happening in the new scrabble for position on OSGi runtimes and the formation of the “enterprise” take on the picture by the usual suspects, then both of those talks will be worth a visit.
Last talk slot of the day, I’m going to find out about the brand spanky new p2 API.
Next up are the Panel Sessions and I see that Don has snuck in some contemporaneous lightning talks. Best case would have been panels on their own, but at least if you just want to see one of the talks, you can get up and move to the panel (that’s where the shouting is coming from, by the way). There’s a good chance I’ll be moderating one of these panels, so that’s what I will be up to.
At this point, jetlag will be solid set in for us Euro-types, and the only way to intercede is with some ethanol-fuelled beverages and cocktail sauce-drenched shrimp at the Oracle and Sonatype receptions. Don’t forget, however, that the BoFs and Unconference is happening at the same time — sign ups are on site, and if you have any bees in your bonnet about any Eclipse related subject, or you have your own trumpet to toot on a pet project, then this is your chance to let us all know. Don’t drink too much beer before you do your presentation! I’m knocking together a few talks that I’ll try to present in the Unconference time – you’ll see them when you get there.
The clock will be at 9pm at this stage, and it’s time to unwind and think about tomorrow’s sessions.