JAOO Sydney 2009 Review

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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!
  • James Ward‘s walkthrough of Adobe Flex was a surprising delighter. I have a suspicion that when building rich client applications we’re pushing html, css and javascript to extremes that they were never designed to go and we are feeling much development pain as a consequence. Could Flex or Silverlight be the answer? I don’t know.

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!

4 Responses to “JAOO Sydney 2009 Review”

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  3. Colin Goudie Says:

    I was very close to attending but in the end didn’t mainly due to already having taken a month of work. However, I didn’t realise attendance was an issue. In that case, I wonder if they’re better off telling people this in advance and lowering the cost, it would then attract those who may even fork it out of their own pockets.

  4. scot Says:

    In regards to Mike Cannon-Brooke’s ‘emphasis’ on code reviews: well, you have to remember that Mike’s company will sell you a code review tool. ;-) I took some issue with a couple of other comments he made (fully documented on my blog) but overall I quite enjoyed his talk especially the parts you mention above. We generally use Hudson for CI and it started me thinking how to get those sorts of advanced statistics into that tool.

    Attendance in Brisbane must have been an issue also because in the last week up to the conference the market got flooded with $250 tickets (which I took advantage of). Luckily I thought it was fairly well attended, I didn’t go last year, but a lot of the sessions were packed, people sitting on the floor because of a lack of seats. In some ways the two days off were more important than the price for me, it took me away from a client site, they are a little nervy about their project and their consultant’s involvement for no really good reason. But the cheap tickets meant I could not resist.

    I saw a couple of good talks from your thoughtworker collegues, Erik Doernenburg in particular I thought was good – I didn’t see Dan North’s, it was competing with Erik’s.

    As for Melbourne, it will have to prise the conference off Sydney, because of Dave Thomas’s involvement he apparently insists it comes to Brisbane, where he’s got some involvement with QUT. ;-)

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