Last week I attended QCon San Francisco, a conference organized by InfoQ and Trifork (the company behind JAOO). It must admit that I was very positively surprised. I had expected it to be good, but I was blown away by the quality of most presentations. The conference had a system where you rated sessions by handing in a green, yellow or red card - I think I handed in two yellow cards, and the rest was green.
Everything started out with tutorials. I didn't go to the first tutorial day, but the second day tutorial was my colleagues Martin Fowler and Neal Ford talking about Domain Specific Languages, so I decided to attend that. All in all it was lots of very interesting material. Sadly, I managed to get slightly food poisoned from the lunch, so I didn't stay the whole day out.
On Wednesday, Kent Beck started the conference proper with a really good keynote on why Agile development really isn't anything else than the way the world expects software development to happen nowadays. It's clear to see that the Agile way provides many of the ilities that we have a responsibility to deliver. A very good talk.
After that Richard Gabriel delivered an extremely interesting presentation on how to think about ultralarge, self sustaining systems, and how we must shift the way we think about software to be able to handle large challenges like this.
The afternoons sessions was dominated by Brian Goetz extremely accomplished presentation on concurrency. I really liked seeing most of the knowledge available right now into a 45 minute presentation, discussion most of the things we as programmers need to think about regarding concurrency. I am so glad other people are concentrating on these hard problems, though - concurrency scares me.
The panel on the future of Java was interesting, albeit I didn't really agree with some of the conclusions Rod Johnson and Josh Bloch arrived at.
The day was capped by Richard Gabriel doing a keynote called 50 in 50. I'm not sure keynote is the right word. A poem, maybe? Or just a performance. It was very memorable, though. And beautiful. It's interesting that you can apply that word to something that discusses different programming languages, but there you have it.
During the Thursday I was lazy and didn't attend as many sessions as I did on the Wednesday. I saw Charles doing the JRuby presentation, Neal Ford discussing DSLs again, and my coworker Jim Webber rant about REST, SOA and WDSL. (Highly amusing, but beneath the hilarious surface Jim definitely had something very important to say about how we build Internet applications. I totally agree. Read his blog for more info.)
The Friday was also very good, but I missed the session about Second Life architecture which seemed very interesting. Justin Gehtland talked about CAS and OpenID in Rails, both solutions that I think is really important, and have their place in basically any organization. Something he said that rang especially true with me is that a Single Sign-On architecture isn't just about security - it's a way to make it easier to refactor your applications, giving you the possibility to combine or separate applications at will. Very good. Although it was scary to see the code the Ruby CAS server uses to generate token IDs. (Hint, it's very easy to attack that part of the server.
Just to strike a balance I had to satisfy my language geekery by attending Erik Meijer's presentation on C#. It was real good fun, and Erik didn't get annoyed at the fact that me and Josh Graham interrupted him after more or less every sentence, with new questions.
Finally, I saw half of Obie's talk about the new REST support in Rails 2.0 (and he gave me a preview copy of his book - review forthcoming). There is lots of stuff there that can really make your application so much easier to code. Nice.
The day ended with two panels, first me, Charles, Josh Susser, Obie and James Cox talking about Rails, the future of the framework and some about the FUD that inevitably happens.
The final panel was Martin Fowler moderating me, Erik Meijer, Aino Vonge Corry and Dan Pritchett, talking about the things we had seen at the conference. The discussion ranged from large scale architecture down to concurrency implementations. Hopefully the audience were satisfied.
All in all, an incredibly good time.