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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bots, brains and beer: looking back on Devoxx 2012

It’s barely one week since Devoxx and I already miss it. For the four of us, software architects and developers from Frankfurt, Germany, Devoxx started with Belgian beer (s. picture). And Belgian beer is definitively for my liking! Thus, the next morning woke me with a slight headache and big thirst.
Belgian Beer up close
 Alas, that did not matter, since the conference began with a dance performance, done by five NAO robots (s. picture). That hinted at a “sub-theme” of Devoxx 2012: robotics, which is great, because inter-disciplinary work can be very engaging and generate new ideas. After the robo dance Devoxx UK was announced: another split-off which will be held during March 2013 for the first time. Then the keynotes came.
Robo dance
The keynotes – we had better ones at Devoxx. The Oracle keynote was boring to the core and only consisted of marketing. This trend, which already started last year, materialized now and that’s not for the better of Devoxx. After the Oracle people went way too much over time and I nearly fell asleep, then came Neal Ford. Unfortunately, he was not as inspiring as in the last years. What was his central topic anyway? Although, he still had some interesting points to make, the inspiration which I so much long for in keynotes was missing.

The highlight of the first day way definitely Kirk Knoernschild and his talk “Architecture all the way down”. He says architecture is a way to cope with complexity but he also presents us the “architecture paradox”: everything we introduce in order to tackle complexity generates even more complexity. Thus, he asks, how can we overcome that? His central message is, that we have to care more about modularity. Taking apart the software into loosely coupled modules is the only way to reduce complexity and confine changes to certain areas of the system. He also states that we (software developers) think a lot about services and classes, but not enough about modules, which are “somewhere” in between. Moreover, Java does not provide us with sufficient tools for building true modules. I couldn’t agree more.

Day One closed with another instalment of great Belgian fries and some Belgian beer afterwards.

Next day began with the Google keynote by Tim Bray, which unfortunately, didn’t live up to my expectations either. Again, there was too much marketing and not enough message. Jerome Dochez made up for it, in his excellent talk about dependency injection. Above all, I recall one of his remarks on OSGi: “Do not use it, unless you have to add modules at runtime”. His warning about introducing unnecessary complexity with OSGi should be heard. The day went on with excellent talks on Vaadin 7, HTML5 Webapps, and JavaScript Unit Testing with Jasmine.

Thursday evening started with the James Bond Movie “Skyfall”, which was better than I expected. Afterwards everyone went to the nightclub “Noxx” which was book exclusively for Devoxx that night – and they served Belgian beer as well.

Friday started out with “Cloud Robotics”, went on with Daniel Kurka’s excellent presentation on “mgwt – GWT goes mobile” and closed with Adam Bien live coding Java EE. By the way, Mr. Bien was quite entertaining as always, but recommending developers to fake certain aspects of the software to please the architects should not be taken too seriously.
Where are you from?
Bottom line: Devoxx was an amazing experience once again, which I recommend to everybody who is interested in Java and web programming. That’s lots of energy and enthusiasm there in those 3.500 Devoxxians from all over the globe (s. picture of whiteboard), and you can feel it. The awesome twitter wall was put to good use again and the only thing I have to criticize concerning organisation is the catering: please give us some more and some better food, cake and lunch next year! Is it because of the diet that some people were missing? Matt Raible, for instance, or Joshua Bloch and Uncle Bob. Bring’em back! There are also some topics I’d like to hear about at Devoxx next time: Sencha, Liferay and Node.js for example. Come on guys: I’m looking forward to meeting you at Devoxx, Antwerp 2013.


  1. reading about architecture is always interesting. Doing it is a great challenge but one of the keypoints in our work.
    Of course software system get more complex each year, most of times because the requirements for the systems get more complex, sometimes, because people can not handle complexity by breaking requirements and design down into components (another word for modules?)

    And...there are a lot of words for solutions or approaches to handle complexity. Sometimes the words are not very much more than old wine in new bottles.

    The best approach for me is the old KISS idea...
    Simple and

    Try it ...

    Volker Obel

  2. Yes, simplicity should be the main design principle.
    Like Einstein said: "Eveything should be made as simple as possible - but not simpler".

  3. BTW: HTML5 and CSS3 seem to be state-of-the-art now. They did not occur as seperate topic but are just taken as basic priciples now. Just the same as Flex/Flash disappeared and was not heard of anymore.