TheServerSide Java Symposium, Barcelona: Day 1

The [tag]TSSJS[/tag] kicked off today in not so sunny Barcelona! I’ve been here since Saturday enjoying the sights and sounds of what must be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The weather so far has been fantastic but not so today; hence I don’t mind that much spending the day in sitting in conference rooms listening to wise and learned individuals instead of strolling through this magnificent city.

This year’s TSSJS is being held in the Princesa Sofia hotel, which I have to say is one of the most expensive hotels, from a facilities point of view, that I have ever been in e.g. €12 a day to use the pool and a bottle of beer will set you back over €7! Outside of that, the Sofia seems to have all the facilities necessary to make this year’s TSSJS a successful event.

The first thing that struck me when I popped down to the conference area this morning was the the size of the event compared to say, JavaOne in San Francisco. There are literally thousands of attendees at JavaOne, whereas here at TSSJS, I think we are looking at more like 400 – 500 attendees in total. This seems to be working out in a number of ways:

  1. We get free coffee and food, which you don’t at JavaOne 🙂
  2. You don’t have the same level of over crowding that you sometimes get at JavaOne sessions; so no sitting on the floor!
  3. The reduced numbers in attendence also means reduced numbers of vendors. This has the knock on effect that if you are between sessions, you may struggle to find something constructive to do with your time.

In saying that TechTarget, the company responsible for organizing the TSSJS, have done a great job of putting together a schedule that would keep any person attending very busy throughout the day; today, I had two key note presentations and five technical sessions.

This morning kicked off with an excellent key note presentation from Martin Fowler and Neal Ford, both from [tag]ThoughtWorks[/tag], on Language-oriented Programming and Language Workbenches. I really enjoyed this key note, normally key notes are a product push by some vendor, not so with this one and I thought it was one of the best presented and interesting sessions of the day. This may be due to the immediate relevance of the topic to DSI, but Martin and Neal really worked well together on the stage together and it goes without saying that that they had an excellent understanding of the subject matter.

Martin and Neal spoke about how

“language oriented programming is the next evolutionary step for OO”

and how, with the proliferation of languages like XML and Ruby, the development community is moving towards more human readable language platforms. They mentioned how DSLs ([tag]Domain Specific Languages[/tag]) allow developers and business analysts to put context around a problem domain and that context was core to humans understanding a problem. This was excellently demonstrated using the [tag]JMock[/tag] library and [tag]Ruby on Rails[/tag] code samples (I will post these samples when I get an electronic copy of the slides), where the actual code statements read like sentences, which promotes fluency. Fluency, as Fowler and Eric Evans, of Domain Driven Design fame, have put it, promotes readability and readability promotes understanding.

Deriving a clear and concise DSL is something that we have been looking at more and more over the last number of months after reading Evan’s excellent Domain Driven Design book. Martin and Neal are bang on the money here with what they are professing and I hope it gains more traction over the coming months.

Martin and Neal continued with Language workbenches, citing AntLr as a good example of a tool that could be used to derive a domain specific language from a problem domain. It was nice to see, but I feel it was a little premature as the tooling just isn’t there yet and even the Martin and Neal conceded that adequate tooling was probably another couple of years out.

The five technical sessions that I attended during the day were:

  1. jPDL: Simplified Workflow for Java – Tom Baeyens
  2. Taking Test Driven Development to the Next Level – Erik Doernenberg
  3. SOA Industry Leaders Technology Panel – Ted Neward, Martin Fowler, Oisin Hurley, Gregor Hohpe
  4. Software Visualization and Model Generation – Gregor Hohpe and Erik Doernenberg
  5. Productive Coder – Heinz Kabutz

Of these the SOA panelists discussion was by far the most interesting and probably drew one of the biggest crowds of the day. This was due to a) the contentious nature of the topic and b) the quality of the panelists. The discussion was moderated by Neward, who did an excellent job of getting the attendees to ask some tough questions of the panel.

Fowler was very much in the ‘SOA is nonsense’ camp even saying that SOA should be

chased out of town by a howling mob with torches

Hurley is a clear advocate of SOA, not surprising given the nature of Iona’s work, and has seen it work in the past. I’m a skeptic, as were many of the attendees, but it has to be said, that Oisin did a great job of arguing his corner. Hohpe did an equally great job of sitting the fence and saying that SOA, as we know it is the wrong term to use, but the premise SOA is right – manging a portfolio of applications.

I always enjoyed watching Hewards’ presentations online and it was great to see him working the audience and the panelists with with unique sense of humour and his industry expertise.

All who attended seemed to really enjoy this discussion. I don’t know if any questions regarding the what’s and why’s of SOA were answered but, to be honest, I don’t think anyone attending really cared! This is one topic that is going to be around for a while yet.

Tomorrow is another busy day, kicking off at 9am until 8:30pm, packing in eight sessions and one key note address, so I should have plenty more to write about tomorrow evening. Right now, I going to head downtown for some tapas and a glass of beer.


  1. #1 by Oded on July 2, 2007 - 12:10 pm

    I think that in such conferences the WiFi should be free or at least at normal fee (45Euro is a “bit” expensive I think).
    But I must say that the machine they gave with WiFi is great.

  2. #2 by Brewery Tours on April 21, 2008 - 3:06 pm

    I would have to agree with you. They have to make that money though with the conferences.

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