I was fortunate enough to go to the JAOO Sydney conference this week. I attended the first Australian JAOO in Brisbane last year which brought out a variety of international heavy hitters so my expectations were high. JAOO did not disappoint, it was a very well put together conference and I had a great time participating in a variety of technical and process related talks presented by local and international speakers. I came back energised and with a long run sheet of technologies and ideas to explore over the next few months.
The highlights for me were:
- Mike Cannon-Brookes‘ talk on the great Aussie success story that is Atlassian. It truly is great what a couple of smart young guys were able to achieve in such a short time. I liked the idea Fed Ex days, a quarterly event where developers are encouraged to flex their creative muscle and ‘ship’ working code within 24 hours. I also liked what they’ve done to measure productivity loops within their software development teams (e.g. code change to page refresh time, commit to build feedback time). As a consultant, I often struggle to explain to management the real cost of unproductive tools, technology and process. This sounds like a good way to go about it. On the downside, I disagree with what seems an overly formal code review process. Good teams with smart people that pair and rotate frequently should not need so much emphasis on code review.
- Both Avi Bryant‘s talks. The first one was about how to improve the Ruby’s inherent performance. It was a deeply technical talk which mostly went over my head because I don’t operate in that world but it made me wish I did. His second talk followed the creative process they’ve been through to build their latest product. It really showed that a creative, iterative software development process does in the end produce a better product than careful specification.
- Pamela Fox‘s talk on Google App Engine. She made what could have been a boring feature walkthrough presentation into a greatly entertaining experience by building the Best Website Ever before our eyes, complete with frames, marquee tags, animated gifs, web ring, pumping techno and spam!
I didn’t go to see talks given by ThoughtWorkers (I’ve seen it all before) but by all accounts Dan North‘s Pimp ‘My Architecture’ and Erik Doernenburg‘s ‘Builds: From Good to Great’ were both excellent.
I understand that JAOO had some trouble with attendance this year due to many companies cutting back on discretionary spending. It’s a shame, conferences are the best bang-for-buck when it comes to career development. Hopefully the organisers won’t be discouraged by this and come back next year for another great round. Even better, maybe they’ll consider doing a tour of duty through Melbourne!