By the time you read this, JavaOne will be over and I'll have experienced my first visit to the world's grandest Java conference. For various reasons I've never been able to attend before, but this year (knock on wood), the gods have smiled on me and the constellations are positioned in my favor.
There are many reasons why I'm looking forward to San Francisco. I'm assured the sushi is divine. Can't wait to see the legendary Alcatraz, or the city in which Dirty Harry erased the scum from its mountainous streets and posed menacing and probing questions to his quarries.
But most of all, I'm looking forward to meeting the community. Ahh! The oft-cited Java community. You can't see it, you can't touch it, but it's talked about and frequently referenced.
How do we define this community? It's a curious beast indeed and my question is: Does the average Java developer feel a part of the community? Do you feel a part of it?
Until you visit a Java conference or perhaps a Java users group meeting, the community is virtual (except, perhaps, for your colleagues and friends). It relies on the Web, e-mail, and publications such as JDJ to be the glue that binds it together. Virtual community Web sites, modeled in a similar fashion to Hagel and Armstrong's vision of community-oriented business models (Net Gain by John Hagel and Arthur G. Armstrong), assist in the bonding process. Some, such as http://java.isavvix.com, are well worth a visit for forums, neat code samples, and happenings. Despite this, it can be a lonely old life coding away, perhaps in a small team, not actually meeting face to face with other Java programmers.
However, the community is not just made up of programmers and coders. It's also made up of companies, software vendors, IT managers, educators, and perhaps even those who have only a vague involvement with technology but are curious about Java. Java seems to have a stronger sense of community than any other language (Sun even popularized the word with their "Java Community Process"). Perhaps this is because of the robust sense or perception that there's a battle going on against an easily demonized enemy. There's a war to be won and, just as societies pull together during times of war, the Java community has been strongly united and has flourished since its inception seven years ago when there was a ready-made "baddie" that we could unite against.
I'm curious. Is the Microsoft C# community as loyal and healthy as the Java community? Perhaps it still needs time to mature. Maybe someone familiar with both can let us know (www.sys-con.com/java/). Is Java perceived as just as much of a threat to C# as C# is to Java?
I, for one, am looking forward to putting faces to the community and getting a real sense of who we are, what we do, what we sound like, and what we look like. For that reason, JavaOne will be a very interesting and, hopefully, fruitful experience.
I guess by virtue of the fact that you are reading JDJ, you have at least some contact with the Java community. But do you feel a part of it? Do you think it's useful to attend a conference if you've never been to one? To meet the rest of your community?
Keith Brown has been involved with Java for many years. When he's not coding up client solutions for a European Java company, he can be found lurking in the corridors of conferences all around the world.