Java Spotlight 18

Roger Brinkley: Welcome to the eighteenth edition of the Java Spotlight podcast. I'm Roger Brinkley.
Terrence Barr: And I'm Terrence Barr.
Roger: In this edition of the podcast we'll do a feature interview with Mattias Karlsson who is the leader of Jfokus. Terrence, just you and I this week. So last week A.J. Patel, who is the VP of Product Development, did a techcast on the one-year since the change in control when Oracle took over the command of Java. It's a good techcast to go take a look at.

We've got some other things in the news. Stephen Chin came in the news there, Terrence.

Terrence: Janice Heiss spoke to him about JavaFX, the latest beta release coming up. Stephen is excited about the new features coming along and the fact that JavaFX is getting renewed focus and attention at Oracle. One thing he mentions in the interview, which I didn't know, is there is actually now a formal project called Visage. Which is basically the open-source continuing project to pick up the JavaFX scripting language and to continue work on it and turn it into a viable scripting language for JavaFX 2.0 going forward? So a lot of interesting things that Stephen talks about and I encourage people to have a look at the interview.
Roger: I actually did an interview with Stephen a few weeks ago and I think that what we'll do is try to feature that in one of our upcoming podcasts. Berkeley DB, I did a techcast last week as well.
Terrence: Actually it was a few weeks ago, I just happened to find in the archives. This is a techcast, about 25 minutes, where Dave Segleau just gives a broad overview of Berkeley DB, its architecture, its features, the dual-license model that Java DB features. Also talks about, now it's really interesting, some of the use cases and scenarios that Berkeley DB has been deployed in. For example, an extremely scalable high-performance web front ends for web merchants or online merchants as well as all the way down to small embedded scenarios where you just need some object persistence that can sync back to a backend database if need be.

So if you want to learn more about Berkeley DB this techcast is definitely the place to go.

Roger: So Terrence, one of the things that came up when we were out in California a couple weeks ago was that there was a new Java space that came up in Parleys and it looks like that's now readily available.
Terrence: Parleys has been around for a long time and it's really filled this void of an excellent infrastructure for this type of content, synchronized with the slides and the video and the audio. It's just a very good experience overall. Stephan Janssen is just doing an excellent job with that. He's collecting content from all over the world. So there's a Java space, now, focused on Java content so check it out.
Roger: Finally our developers over on the Luit Project have been up to their usual type of things and they've got a couple of new tutorials that are out.
Terrence: That's right. They've been working on the resource editor is really taking on a lot of new features and they have built an entire tutorial with several parts talking about the different aspects of the resource editor. In fact, there is a new commercial application now being launched in Israel called Musix, which is a DRM enabled music player application for feature phones. It's one of the first commercial applications that are actually built using the resource editor. So there was a lot of feedback going from the Musix developers back to the Luit team to optimize the resource editor for that use case. So tutorial's excellent, really, really worthwhile looking into.
Roger: Let's turn to the events section. On the 24th Oracle Web Logic Server and Java EE6, that's a free OTN Virtual Java Developer Day. We've got a site where you can register for that. In the show notes, on the 25th, there's another OTN Developer Days in Shanghai. On the 1st there's also an OTN Developer Days in Singapore. Then Terrence, you're going to be in Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany on the 1st through the 3rd.
Terrence: Right and we have a booth there; we have a number of demos. I'll be doing a talk together with two of my colleagues, so a total of three talks, actually. I'm really looking forward to the show. It's one of the hubs for embedded system in Europe. So I hope to meet a lot of interesting people there to see some interesting designs and solutions.
Roger: Then we'll finish up on the 3rd with OTN Developer Days in Boston. So it'll be myself, I think Alexei will be there as well, or Rune, one of the two. Let's turn now to the feature interview. This last week Jfokus had an opportunity to speak with Mattias Karlsson who is the lead organizer for Jfokus. So let's go directly into that interview.

I'm with Mattias Karlsson. Congratulations on a very successful Java Fokus. I think this is your fifth one. Why did you start Jfokus?

Mattias Karlsson: The main thing is we didn't have any good developer event at all here. One of the things that actually made us start, I've got a family and I didn't want to travel. So I thought, "So, what to do?" I think, "Maybe we should bring the great speakers to Stockholm instead so that I don't have to travel. So the speakers can come to Stockholm and meet a crowd here." That actually turned out pretty well. Meaning that more and more people in Stockholm can see the great content and great speakers.
Roger: This year you had people from Iceland, you had people from Finland, Norway, Denmark, a variety of countries. I think you had six or eight countries, something like that. But it wasn't always that way. It started off small. It was just Sweden.
Mattias: From what I've heard, that is the way conferences work, except the big ones, that still most of the people are local. People go to the conference are locals. What happened this year is that we have people, like you said, from Iceland. We had a boat trip with more than 100 people from Finland attending the conference. I think that is pretty rare, actually, because conferences tend to be very local. I think it's local here as well. So between 80 and 90 percent are still from Stockholm.
Roger: You decide you want to start this conference. You want to bring it to Sweden. How do you get speakers to come?
Mattias: Yeah, you need to be very nice and very charming. So what happened were first years we did most of it with local speakers. So what happened is we'd had just one or two big names that really wanted to travel to Stockholm and we convinced them to come here. The rest was local speakers. At the end, actually, we had two big names the first year and one of them bailed two weeks before the conference, but we managed to get it going anyway. But I think that if you wanted to try to set up a new event, you first need to build up some reputation because otherwise you don't get the famous speakers or the key people.
Roger: Have you always had this in February?
Mattias: Yes. I think we found a sweet spot here because there are a lot of events going on around the world. What we realized is that there was not that many events during early year like January or February.
Roger: But Stockholm in February?
Mattias: It's great! Yeah. It's beautiful. It's a bit cold, but it's really nice to be here and snow, bright, clear sky. I don't see a problem at all.
Roger: You're growing the conference size a little bit. How do you make that jump to this facility like this one?
Mattias: It's actually kind of scary. What happened last year is we were sold out three or four weeks before the event. If people want to come we will try to find a way to host them. So we needed to move to have the room. It's hard to find good conference centers, but this is a brand new conference center in Stockholm. I think they have the grand opening in about two weeks. So this is kind of a beta test of the conference center. I think they did OK. People seem to be very happy with how it worked out.
Roger: So I would say the two biggest expenses, when it comes to doing a conference, are of course the location that you have to go to and then food.
Mattias: It is important to realize that there are two types of costs. One is the fixed cost of the conference center. The other one is more flexible. Normally you only have to pay for food and stuff for the people that are coming, but the big risk is to make the booking of the venue because you have to do that way in advantage.
Roger: Now, one of the things that you do is you're recording all of the materials that are here. When I walked into some of the presentation halls I thought, "Wow. This is like Java one was five, six years ago with the big monitors and showing the person and showing the notes and things like that." So that's got to be a big cost as well.
Mattias: Yes. I think there are different ways of doing that, but we really tried, we have hired a professional team to do that. So I would say there are a couple of different things that cost. Like you said, the venue, the food and all of that is kind of expensive. The recordings is quite expensive as well. But you don't have to do it like that. You don't have to record all sessions. The first year we did the conference, we didn't record any sessions at all. So, that is the type of thing that you can decide later on. And there are ways of doing that much cheaper. You can have students being here and record it. You can only record audio. So, you can be a bit flexible about that. But we have decided to try to do it with the professionals this year. We have done that for a couple of years now. This year, we actually did multi-camera shoots as well.
Roger: OK, now when you're all done, what do you do with all that data, all that film, and all that presentations?
Mattias: The first thing is we publish most of it on own site, Jfokus.se. And then we publish some on other places as well, if we have the possibility to make it available freely for others to see the content. We have some of the movies from early on Parlays, and have done some of that on InfoQ, and we have the majority of it on our own site. We really would like to have up on Parlays, because that is a very good infrastructure to have this out.
Roger: So, you're professional conference organizers, aren't ya?
Mattias: No, I'm not. First of all, we are a big group of people doing this. So, I'm trying to be head of the program committee making sure that we have good content. But there are a number of people that are doing this as well and volunteers in many different ways. And some of them are doing a lot of work, and some of them are helping out at the conference days, and some of them are helping out with packing bags and stuff like that. But my day job is to be an engineer, and a programmer, and a designer. I write software most days of the year.
Roger: But how much time does it actually take you in administration for this conference?
Mattias: You have to ask my wife that question. It takes quite much time, actually. And I do most of the work actually after dark, when normal people actually go to sleep. Because we need to do a lot of discussion with the people forms the US for instance. And they are awake when we are normally asleep.
Roger: How did you determine your sessions? Did you do tracks?
Mattias: We actually do have tracks. And I guess you didn't see that in the conference schedule. What we do is we first decide a couple of tracks. After we have done that, people are actually preregistered for the different talks. And then we break up the schedule again to have the possibility to have to popular ones in the bigger room. So, we try as hard as we can to keep the single track in one room. But because of the rooms are very different sizes, we have to break them up. And what we have realized is that most of the people that are coming to the conference. They think they want to go to one track, but they are really interested in many different things. So, the track thing doesn't really work anyway.
Roger: So, tell me more about how you make a decision on the content.
Mattias: We basically, I always say we split it 50/50. So, 50 percent of the talks is really invitation only. So, we try to find and hunt down, really, the great speakers that we want to have. The things that we think are getting the most traction at the moment, most popular, or interesting in another way. And then we do about 50 percent on a call for paper. So, we really try to have a good mix of both international and local speakers as well. So, this year, we had about 200 submissions for papers. And so, we have a program come in and try to select and try to bring in people from different backgrounds to help out to select. This year, we had a track for demand-driven design. Eric Evens was here, for instance. And I had help with that, so we had a very proficient Swedish guy called Patrick Frederickson. He was kind of the track host for demand-driven design, and help me to find the right speakers for that.
Roger: What keeps you up at night with this conference?
Mattias: A couple of weeks before the conference, I said never again, this was the last time. Because there are so many last minute details, and you cannot sleep at all. It could be anything from getting food for people, not making the venue work; speakers are canceling, and stuff like that. Be then, after a while at the conference, I think we did pretty good this year and we'll try to do it next year again. One of the things that we have managed to do that I'm really proud, actually, because we have grown. And I think that is one of the great things about working with developers or programmers. So, everything that you need to do three times or more, we tried to automate it and make a system for it. We have very low administration for handling payments and stuff like that.
Roger: What's the most important thing that the people did at the conference, or that they heard at the conference? Or just in general, what's the biggest thing that people gained from coming to the conference?
Mattias: That is actually the easy one because people really, really believe that they are coming to the conference for the content. And they get the content, and they're really absorbing the content. But the real really benefit is to meet other people, meet the other attendees, exchange ideas, talk to HR. Share both your success and you failure stories to prevent somebody else from doing the same mistake. Go to your user group meeting, go to whatever events that are taking place, and make sure that you mingle and talk to speakers, the other attendees, everybody. And make sure that you share your own stories and learn from it.
Roger: Thank you so much, appreciate your time.
Mattias: Thank you very much, see you next year, maybe.
Terrence: Roger was funny when I was listening to the interview. It felt like deja vu all over again. Because we've done two of our mobile media embedded developer days in California a few years back. And the things we ran into, the organizational issues, the difficulty of finding content and speakers, putting together an interesting program, organizing the whole thing, managing the budget, managing the resources. All of that sounded really familiar. And it sounds like Mattias did a great job. You were there at Jfokus, right?
Roger: Yeah, it was really a good conference. And I think one of the reasons why I wanted to do this interview is that we're seeing more and more of out JUG leaders take what Mattias did here and say we want to develop our own type of conferences in our own local area. We've seen that in the Congo. In August, there's going to be a conference that has been going of for a couple of years there by one of the JUG leaders. And in Norway, they're doing theirs. I think this is becoming more and more of a common type of thing among the JUG leaders. Jugs are becoming very strong. This is a good opportunity to listen to what some of the other JUG leaders are doing and kind of share your information about "How do I get started?" If you want to try to start a conference, you're no alone in this area.
Terrence: You know, it used to be there were a few tech conferences, a few Java conferences around the world. Those were the pivotal events, and everybody went there. And as Mattias is saying, at some point, people go "Well, we have enough demand in our own country here locally. Why should everybody travel half way around the world? We can do this ourselves." And now you see all these conferences popping up all over the place. It's great because it just promotes and propagates content even faster.
Roger: Yeah, and I think what was important there was that they become a regional type of conference. As we saw, they had six countries represented at Jfokus. And the way the handled the presentation formats was just really amazing. As I said in the interview, it kind of looked like JavaOne from a few years ago. They had a really nice video presentation, and dual presentations of the speaker as well as his notes. And I thought it was extremely effective. Hopefully, this will give some of out JUG leaders some inspiration, be able to try to do some stuff and move forward. If you're thinking about trying to a conference, we certainly encourage you to move in that direction.

So, in the what's cool section, Terrence, I think the thing I found that was cool was while I was at the conference, the Java Duchesses in Sweden were able to start up. I actually went to one of the Java Duchess Bach meetings. It was a really good meeting, there was a variety of men that were in that meeting as well. But, great organization there. I look forward to seeing what they're going to be able to do in moving forward for the women in the Swedish area. So, I look forward to hearing good reports about what's happening from the Java Duchesses.

Well, thank for listing to the 18th edition of the Java Spotlight Podcast. I'm roger Brinkley.

Terrence: And I'm Terrence Barr.
Roger: And send your feedback to feedback@javaspotlight.org.


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