Some No Fluff, Just Stuff observations

I’ve finished two of the three days of the current No Fluff, Just Stuff conference, officially known as the New England Software Symposium.  I’ve got a fair amount to process now, but here are some random observations, in no particular order:

  • If the NFJS people have any say in it, Groovy and Grails are definitely in the future.  Not everyone agrees, of course, but in general the presenters really enjoy it.  Whether that counts for anything or not remains to be seen.
  • Web frameworks seem to fall into two categories:
    • Page-based frameworks, like Struts and Spring MVC.  Grails falls into this category, too, since it is really just Spring MVC under the hood anyway.
    • Component-based frameworks, like JSF, Seam (which uses JSF), and GWT (Google Web Toolkit).
    • Which category you prefer seems to be a matter of personal preference, but there are no lack of strong opinions on the subject.
  • Ajax support is just assumed everywhere.  There are no “beginner” talks on Ajax anymore, though some frameworks that build in Ajax support went over basic Ajax just to show how much easier they are.
  • David Geary seems to have followed an interesting, winding path from Struts, to JSF, to “Ajaxian Faces”, and ultimately to GWT.  He really, really likes GWT.  Frankly, as component-based frameworks go, that one looks the most fun anyway.
  • Some of the attendees ask very hard questions, and the presenters, who uniformly welcome those questions, have a hard time managing their time allotment as a consequence.
  • I’ll try to be delicate how I say this, but some of the presenters occasionally forget that they don’t live in the real world.  I’ve heard a lot of mumbling from attendees whose jobs or companies don’t easily allow them to move to whatever “the latest and greatest” is.  Sometimes I think the presenters need to be a little less quick to condemn older technologies that are still in very common usage and still get the job done.  I think I read recently that still only about 35% of companies have even moved to Java 5.  Any new framework whose major selling point is new annotations is going to be out of luck there.
  • As for me, I don’t have those sorts of limitations, but I do have to be careful not to get too far ahead of my own market.  My sense of that is:
    • I’m sure the demand for JSF is going to be steady or even grow.
    • GWT looks like an interesting niche, though I’m not sure how active that market will be.
    • Groovy is likely to break through in 2008.  I’m virtually certain I’ll be teaching Groovy classes next year.
    • Grails won’t break through until there’s a stable set of documentation and examples for it.  That won’t happen until the framework goes to 1.0, at least, which they say will be next month but I’ll believe it when I see it.  I’ll be very surprised if I get a call about a Grails class until at least next summer.
    • I still think JPA is going to be massively successful, as soon as all the application server vendors support it.  JBoss 5 is right around the corner.  WebLogic is just about ready.  I think Oracle already supports it, as does (of course), Glassfish.  Where the heck is IBM???  Could they be that clueless?
  • I think I should take a quick look at DWRCastor, too, probably.
  • Spring has become so pervasive that it’s almost conspicuous by its absence.  There have been a couple of presentations on Spring, but everybody uses it or uses something very much like it.
  • I think we’re hitting the “trough of disillusionment” for Ruby on Rails.  I’ve heard at least three frameworks sold as “Rails killers”.
  • David Geary is right, though.  Rails is the best thing ever to happen to Java.  It got framework developers to focus on simplicity, conventions, and ease of use.  Now that they’re getting that, the advantages to using Rails are starting to fade away.

Still, I’ve had a good time.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing Jason Rudolph talk about Grails again, especially because I assume he’ll have updated his code to work with the latest version.  At least I hope so.

Today is a good day, though, since by definition any day the Red Sox win and the Yankees lose is a good day.  Josh Becket won his 19th game as the Sox beat the Yankees 10 – 1.  That’s more like it.  Now if they can destroy Clemens tomorrow life will be very good.

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