Well, it's been a very interesting three days in Las Vegas for the VIIth TheServerSide Java Symposium, Las Vegas, 2008. Sadly, I never get to attend many of the sessions, but the event was great, even so.
I never get to attend any sessions because I'm always being pulled away for this or for that – filming a Q&A, addressing unforeseeable events like speakers not being able to attend due to visa or flight cancellations, or – in one case – having to sub for a speaker altogether!
Boy, you want to talk about scary – imagine being asked to go in completely flat-footed and coordinate a chat about an issue. I don't like public speaking, because I tend to play the fool when the lights are on, so being asked to be serious is rather rough.
I think the team that put on TSSJS this year did a really good job. There were some issues, still – some related to venue, some related to scheduling, some related to good old bad luck – but I haven't seen any conference yet that had the liveliness of TSSJS without some of these glitches.
We know what the problems are, thanks to, well, seeing them, and what we didn't know about already, attendees were willing to tell us about. All of the feedback was really good. If you were there, and you didn't give us a conference feedback sheet, hey – it's never too late. If you weren't there, well, you could always tell us why...
Ahh, the sessions. Neal Ford and Ted Neward both did keynotes on DSLs and “Why the Next Five Years will be about Languages” - both topics they're both well-known for, which might make you think there'd be some repetition. Well... the topic might have borne some repetition, but they both did a fantastic job. The slides were perfect, and the presentation style was very good. The audience seemed to really react well to both – and Ted even got to poke fun at me for still doing COBOL every now and then.
Other speakers that did well: Brian Goetz, who stepped up by being willing to do a repeat session during lunch on Day Two; Kirk Pepperdine; Holly Cummins; John Davies and Ross Mason; Nati Shalom; David Neuscheler, with “Writing TSS in 15 minutes,” a wry commentary indeed, and Tracy Snell, whose session wasn't well-attended but should have been. Everyone who found out what Tracy presented after the fact wished they'd attended after all – it's hard to find sessions where drunk users get to order pizzas.
Of course, it has to be said that these weren't the only killer speakers. We didn't get any speakers who did an absolutely terrible job. We get negative feedback on them, of course, even on the ones who “did well” according to the previous paragraph, but the criticisms go along with a lot of praise for every speaker.
One of the coolest things about this year's conference is that when things went off the beaten path, it was okay! Speakers got interrupted... and rolled with it. Ted Neward is always good at banter (and talking.. and speaking... and yammering... and going on and on and on and on...) but when people challenged him in mid-flight, he responded well, and he wasn't the only one! Lots of people offered opinions to the speakers. It ended up giving everyone a voice, and hopefully noone felt left out. The conference really is meant to be a consortium and not just a place where attendees sit and soak up information like vegetables, and that participation is super-valuable to us.
So what did I learn? I learned that DSLs and non-Java languages on the JVM are viable and growing more viable as time goes by – and that a lot of people agree with that statement but don't see it actually happening. I learned that the enterprise community is no longer about J2EE. I learned that we're getting back to being outspoken, and that's a wonderful thing.
I'd like to thank our entire conference team, even the ones whose feathers I ruffled during the conference. I'd like to offer my deepest appreciation for the speakers and attendees, without whom the conference wouldn't exist. I'd like to salute the track chairs, who did so much to make sure my biases didn't affect the conference too much. If any of you hadn't done your part, this wouldn't been anywhere near the success it was. May each of you enjoy health and wealth in ways that benefit you most.