I'm just back from vacation, and after six days of sun on the beach in the
morning and on the tennis court in the afternoon, sun addled is a good
description of my frame of mind. Also account for liberal quantities of beer
throughout the week, and I'll be happy if I'm somewhat coherent in this
editorial. I'm also in a post-vacation funk, so forgive me if I wax
philosophical while I strive for coherency.
The vacation's one of the reasons I didn't go to JavaOne this year it
would have been hard to justify two weeks off so close together, and this
time play won out over work. On some occasions work and play have mixed
without undue harm to either I've written J2ME code while on a ski
vacation in Tahoe and on vacation in the Caribbean but that was due to
extraordinary circumstances (the rollout of the first J2ME cellphones in the
U.S.). This vacation was completely disconnected from the Internet I
intentionally left my laptop home, and my cell phone was for emergency calls
only. I'm a bit of a Luddite in that I don't want to be connected and
available 24x7, and don't spend large amounts of my free time playing with
the latest gee-whiz gadgetry. There are a lot of other things to do in life,
and you only get one shot at it (reincarnation notwithstanding).
I think that the rate of technical change in our industry puts
developers at a real risk of early burnout. Alvin Toffler wrote that "Future
shock [is] the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in
individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time." As a
Java developer you may sometimes feel that you're experiencing such future
shock. If you've been in the Java business for more than a few years,
consider the changes that you've seen in that time. New APIs proliferate
like rabbits XML, JAXB, SOAP, CLDC, MIDP, JDK 1.4, the list goes on and
on. At 992 pages, the current issue of Java in a Nutshell is over twice the
size of the first edition. This nutshell has grown from a hazelnut to a
coconut, and in a few years I expect to have one bookshelf devoted just to
all of the editions of this book that I've acquired (yes, I could throw out
the old editions, but then I'd have to transfer all of the highlighted items
and dog-ears from the old editions to the current one).
If you don't keep abreast of the latest changes by reading technical
journals and making frequent book purchases you can quickly find your skills
becoming, if not obsolete, certainly in far less demand. If you're content
to specialize in a single area say, JSPs or EJBs you can save yourself
some of this, but then you limit yourself career-wise, and you won't
experience the satisfaction of architecting larger solutions.
Of course, change is part of what keeps our work interesting, and
keeping abreast of these changes helps give you the hot skills that bring in
the bucks. But trying to keep up with what's coming out from Sun can leave
you Sun addled. Add in a desire to keep current in object-oriented analysis
and design, UML, design patterns, and the full complement of related
technologies, plus the pervasive "need it yesterday" mentality of modern
organizations, and you can easily feel overwhelmed.
You really can't expect to know everything about everything in the
technologies we deal with, so know when to go full bore and when to throttle
back. As The Specials (and many before them) sang, "enjoy yourself, it's
later than you think." If the alternative is getting so burnt out that you
end up considering a career change, wouldn't you rather chill out every now
and then by sipping a Corona on a beach somewhere?
* * *
In last month's editorial I surveyed the MIDlet marketplace.
Fortuitously, next month's issue of JDJ will contain an article by Greg
Schwartz that takes you through the process of actually getting your MIDlet
published via various outlets. So if you've thought about selling MIDlets,
keep an eye out for this article.
About The Author
Glen Cordrey is a software architect working in the Washington, DC, area. He's been using Java for five years, developing both J2EE and J2ME applications for commercial customers.