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Because today's software development climate is so fiercely competitive, only those developers, architects, and technical managers who meet the needs of their clients and embrace change can hope to survive. The "No Fluff, Just Stuff" (NFJS) conference series (www.nofluffjuststuff.com) covers the latest in industry developments and best practices with cutting-edge sessions and panel discussions on Java/J2EE, XML, open source, and agile methodologies. In this review, I discuss my experiences at the recent Spring 2003 Rocky Mountain Software Symposium (RMSS), held from Friday, May 16, through Sunday, May 18, in Denver.

The speaker list for the Spring 2003 RMSS reads like a "who's who" in the Java/J2EE/open source community. For the complete lineup, please visit www.nofluffjuststuff.com/2003-05-denver/speakers.jsp. I attended sessions given by:

  • Sue Spielman: Author of The Struts Framework: Practical Guide for Programmers and the forthcoming JSTL: Practical Guide for JSP Programmers
  • James Duncan Davidson: Creator of Jakarta Tomcat and Apache Ant
  • Bruce Tate: Author of Bitter Java and lead author of Bitter EJB
  • Dave Thomas: Author of The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master
  • Erik Hatcher: Author of Java Development with Ant
  • Maciej Zawadzki: Creator of the AntHill build management server and author of Urbancode's EJB Benchmark
  • Ted Neward: Author of Server-Based Java Programming and the forthcoming Effective Enterprise Java
  • Glenn Vanderburg: Principal with Delphi Consultants

    One of the highlights of the conference was the keynote "Introduction to Pragmatic Programming" by Dave Thomas. This session showed the inefficiencies in today's software development practices and what could be done about them. We experience the same problems today that we had back in the 1970s and '80s. Projects are still late, underfeatured, over budget, and full of bugs. Dave cited an NIST study that showed how the U.S. wastes $60 billion each year on buggy software. Since there are about 34 million developers in this country, each developer costs the U.S. economy roughly $20K each year ouch!

    Pragmatic programming fits somewhere between methodologies and technology-specific skills. It is not a methodology; it's about the individuals and teams who produce software. Pragmatic programming breaks down into three practice areas: individual, technical, and team.

    The most distinctive feature was the section on individual practices:

  • Learn continuously: Read books, go to conferences, and interact with other developers at user groups.
  • Fix broken windows: Fix problems as soon as they occur to keep them from growing larger.

    Speaker Interaction
    The speakers were personable and helpful. After presenting on "Effective Enterprise Java: Systems," Ted Neward spent a long time with me discussing ClassLoaders, their relationship to the JVM, and how this relates to Singletons in a J2EE environment. In between sessions, Sue Spielman spoke with me about the ups and downs of writing a technical book, and compared being a solo author to working with other authors. During breakfast, Bruce Tate gave me ideas on how to become more marketable in today's challenging IT economy. After one of his JAAS presentations, Maciej Zawadzki provided the inside scoop on Urbancode's EJB Benchmark he created a series of benchmarks to prove to his clients that Entity EJBs were needlessly slow, and that alternate solutions would perform and scale better.

    When I asked attendees for their opinions of the conference, the consensus was:

  • They gained valuable insights from the sessions that they could apply to their daily work.
  • Their time wasn't wasted with vendor product demos.
  • They enjoyed interacting with recognized industry experts.
  • The conference schedule over the weekend didn't interrupt their schedules.
  • It was less expensive and easier to attend a local conference than having to travel.
  • The conference was a good value for the price.
  • The conference CD contained all the presentations.

    Since I learned so much in just one weekend, I would recommend an NFJS conference to any developer, architect, or technical manager looking to keep up with the latest trends and improve their skills. I plan to attend this conference when it returns to Denver in the fall because the NFJS symposium series truly lives up to its billing "No Fluff, Just Stuff."

    About The Author
    Tom Marrs is the principal/senior software architect at Distributed Computing Solutions, Inc., based in Denver. His focus is on building J2EE system architectures and mentoring developers in J2EE, OO, XML, and Web services technologies. [email protected]

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