It has been far from quiet on the JDJ forums front this month a result of
the recent news item we broke regarding the now infamous Gartner report.
This report claimed that there will be a major shortage of Java developers
in the forthcoming year. Which is good news...I think! So why are you all in
Opinions appear to be divided on this news, with two camps emerging: the
Java developers who are currently out of work and struggling to find Java
contracts versus the employers who claim they can't find qualified Java
people. Tales of mock job listings (on- and offline) with phantom positions
are the stuff of legends. But is there some fire to all this smoke? We all
have our own agency horror stories. For my sins, I was once offered the post
I was trying to recruit for! Which camp has it right? Who can really tell?
Only time will.
Looking through the posts and other online sites such as Slashdot, it's
clear that as a community drawn together by a common language, we may have
suffered from the early hype of Sun and others. The hype surrounding Java
gained fever pitch only a couple of years after Java appeared in Web
browsers in its legendary gray rectangle.
The next wave hit when the Java Servlet API proved Java was a serious
contender on the server side, an area largely untouched by
platform-independent solutions. It can be argued that had it not been for
the Servlet API, Java would not be considered the powerhouse it is now. It
was the Servlet API that firmly put the power of Java on the server side at
a time when we were asking more from our Web sites, looking for innovative
ways to produce dynamic content the height of the dot.com fever pitch.
With this hype came the usual "jump-on-the-bandwagon" brigade;
universities churning out so-called Java programmers, companies guaranteeing
(and some still are!) Java certification for a given fee, and agencies
promising all the gold in Fort Knox for salaries have all contributed toward
a watering-down of the general Java skill base.
In this drive to get people into the "in-crowd" we seem to have lost the
core competency that should bind us together: software engineering, not
Java. From that perspective it is easy to sympathize with the employer who
is desperately looking for skilled software engineers (aka Java developers)
and not the "...in 21 days" adopters.
What of the other camp, which claims the jobs aren't there?
That may be, but were the jobs/positions there in the first place? The
dot.com boom managed to artificially inflate everything, particularly the
recruitment market. Java's popularity was at its peak during this period,
and you need only track the exhibitor lists over all the past JavaOnes to
see this trend play out. There has not been a computing language that has
caught the imagination of the world's media like Java has, and I believe we
are feeling the backlash of this early, misdirected hype. We got caught up
in selling Java the technology and forgot what the tool really is: a
programming language to solve problems.
At the end of the day we are software engineers, designed to solve
problems. That is what we are trained, paid, and get out of bed for. That we
choose Java to express our solutions is a bonus, and as Jason Briggs
commented this month in his editorial, we have many feathers in our cap and
strings in our bow, but Java is the one we definitely prefer.
Java's power is in its sheer beauty. The ability to write a single piece
of code and have it run in a plethora of devices, from high-end enterprise
machines to handheld devices and mobile phones, is the result of the
engineering genius that lies underneath the covers for us all to utilize.
Forget the razzamatazz and the glitz of the dot.com era; we have real
work to do, real-world solutions to deliver with a tool that can save us
time and energy.
Java isn't .NET...it's .NOW!
Alan Williamson is editor-in-chief of Java Developer's Journal. During the
day he holds the post of chief technical officer at n-ary (consulting) Ltd,
one of the first companies in the UK to specialize in Java at the server
side. Rumor has it he welcomes all suggestions and comments.