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Can you believe it? I know I certainly can't. This column is officially celebrating its twelfth issue, and being the mathematical genius that I am and since this joyous magazine is printed on a monthly schedule I can safely deduce that our first year anniversary is upon us. Fantastic. Experts reckon that most marriages break up in the first year, so I guess we've successfully made it past the hardest part.

On that note I think we'll take a whistlestop tour of what I've been ranting about over the last year and look at any changes that make the arguments posed in the last 12 months seem silly now.

I've looked at a variety of issues that touch most of us in the Java world. As regulars know, this column isn't afraid to walk on the ice of controversy. It's been known for us to name names, and to make some of the bigger names accountable for their actions. A regular figure in this has been Oracle.

Oracle produces its own set of JDBC drivers for us developers to use to interact with their excellent back-end database. On the database front, we can't really complain. They do handle data very well. If you remember, however, back last summer we had a real problem using this functionality due to the poor implementation of their driver. Back then, Oracle didn't really embrace the developer community.

Another issue we've touched on is that of recruitment and finding that special developer. Well, our search is still continuing. And boy, are we learning a lot about the process along the way! Last time, I commented that the overall standard of Java is becoming lower and lower as everyone and their dog decide they want to jump on the Java bandwagon. I've seen no evidence in the time between that article and this one to alter my opinion.

It's the time of year when the universities open up their doors and a raft of graduates pour out. Many of them have degrees, which, I have to say, probably aren't worth the paper they're written on. I'm sure the American system is no different, but here in the UK there is a big drive to keep bums on seats in the universities as long as possible as this affects the universities' funding from the government. This has the knock-on effect of trying not to fail people. When I was at university the pass rate for our finals was 40%. Even back then I thought this ludicrous. You only had to know 40% of your subject to get a degree! Doesn't seem right, does it?

Well, I think the industry is going to suffer badly from it. We're experiencing this now: people coming out with real generic degrees, such as "I.T.," thinking they have a skill set, only to realize that they aren't a great deal of use to employers. The reason I pick on the IT brigade is that some of them have taken a small Java course and suddenly think they're software engineers. I don't think so.

Everywhere we read, there's a real serious skill shortage. I can see this now; before, I couldn't. I couldn't equate the numbers originating from final year degrees to the number of positions actively sought by employers. It was an equation that on paper should have added up. In reality it didn't.

My concern with all this, as regulars will know, is keeping the quality of development up. Let's not pretend to people that if they take a six-month course in Java they're suddenly software engineers. This isn't doing them any good, and it sure as hell isn't doing the industry as a whole any favors. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, so please join our mailing list and let me know what you think.

Mailing List
Whoa! Let me say "thank you" to all the subscribers to our Straight Talking mailing list. This is providing some very interesting and stimulating conversation. The quality of posts coming through on the list is quite astounding, and the mix of people we have contributing ensures a balanced debate from all walks. Please feel free to join us. You don't have to contribute immediately just listen to the rants and raves of everyone. It isn't a technical list. We don't debate Java problems. We look at the issues and concerns facing the upcoming Java developer. To join send an e-mail to [email protected] with "subscribe straight_talking-l" in the body of the e-mail. From there you'll get instructions on how to participate.

Salute of the Month
Let me introduce you to a new section: Salute of the Month. Over the last few months I have been openly thanking people for their various contributions to the Java world and I thought I might as well formalize it. So here goes, the first of a new series.

As this column rolls into a new year of life, I can say I have met many new friends through this magazine you're holding in your hand. Over the 12 months I've been slowly building a picture of who you are, and trying to write material that is of interest to you. One of my biggest surprises was the fact that many of you aren't developers. Many of you have never coded a single line of Java in your life and probably never will. I received an e-mail from an atypical reader from this group a couple of months ago. Sallee Gambino, a recruitment consultant in New Jersey, e-mailed me to say how much she valued my column as it helped her keep abreast of the latest developments in the Java universe. Over a period of e-mails, I probed this lady for more information, trying to figure out how reading this column and this magazine helped Sallee recruit better.

As you know, I've had my share of things to say about agencies that can't even tell the difference between JavaScript and Java. My experience has shown me that many of them fall into this category. So you can imagine my surprise when I bump into someone that is actively taking an interest in the area they are recruiting for as opposed to blind CV-keyword matching. Sallee wants to catch out a lot of the buzzword kings and therefore offer a higher caliber of candidate to her end client. Also, knowing the industry allows Sallee to understand more of her clients' needs.

About the Author
Alan Williamson is CEO of n-ary ltd, a Java consultancy company with offices in Scotland, England and Australia, specializing solely in Java at the server side. Alan is the author of two Java Servlet books and contributed to the 2.1 Servlet API. He can be reached at [email protected](www.n-ary.com)and welcomes all suggestions and comments.


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