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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 an uproar?

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!

Author Bio
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. [email protected]

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