July 6, 2010

NYAC & COOLuary 2010 review

NYAC stays for Not Yet Another Conference, and it gives a promise I was happy to verify. The event took place in Cracow on 19th-20th of June, thanks to Grzegorz Duda. Tough timing I'd say, just a week before Javarsovia, but the audience was supposed to be small, so that wasn't a problem. NYAC was actually two things: a one day conference with carefully chosen speakers that got a bit more time than usually, and another day of an unconference.

If you didn't have a chance to participate in an unconference (Open Space Technology), it's totally people driven. Everyone is able to start a meeting, and it's usually a discussion, not a lecture.

But let's start from the beginning. I got there on Friday evening, and my luck was definitely with me, as I bumped into Paweł Lipiński at a gas station. He warned me about the post-soviet hotel, so we walked back carrying loads of beer, that helped shield us from the ugly face of socrealism and it's terrible architecture. Well defended, together with Wojtek Erbetowski, we spend the late hours enjoying the drink and a smalltalk.

The first day started.

So what's so different about NYAC, you ask. First day is just a conference, after all. True, but Grzegorz had a great idea, to make a survey about the best polish java speaker. He used the outcomes to invite some of the most interesting people in our field. He asked them to make a few lectures, one after another, and he gave them more time than usually (which turned out to be not enough anyway), and a much smaller audience.

The effect?

Well, it's like a difference between a stadium-sized concert, and a jam session in a private house.  The second one allows you to be more involved, and get much closer to the source of fun. Is it the way to do conferences? Yes, but only if you have the top guys out there. And that was the case. Have a look at the agenda, the only problem you could have is to decide which session to choose from.

Fortunately, being here and there, I've already seen some of the presentations, so it was a bit easier to me. Sławomir Sobótka had three great talks about Craftsmanship, Domain Driven Design and JPA/Hibernate traps (we all know that JPA 1.0 was a big step backward, compared to pure Hibernate, but Sławek had some really great examples of the most popular pitfalls). Szczepan Feber with Łukasz Milewski gave us a handful of good tips about continuous integration. Igor Czechowski talked a bit about his nightmares with Maven. Paweł Lipiński warned me that I may not find anything new in his talks, so I skipped them, but I really wish there was a camera, since Paweł is a great speaker and it's always refreshing to see his enthusiasm.

All together it was a condensed, great event, that I've left with a nice set of notes and a mind full of thoughts.

Then there was a party, though Grzegorz didn't give the address, just the name of the pub, and as with all the names, it was easy to forget and hard to find using GPS.

Great aspect of going to so many conferences (I've been to six this year) is that eventually you get a nice pack of people to drink with, but with such a small scale (there was something about 50 attendees) it's easier to get to know everyone and not feel lost in the crowd anyway.

Some people stayed till like 3am, but since I was kind of on a mission gathering/crunching knowledge, I decided to get back at midnight.

The second day was all about self organized groups of talkers. We had a flipchart where everyone could post a proposal, then we grouped together similar topics, and sorted them out considering whether the guys we wanted to join in, were leaving early or waking up late. Seriously. After all, talking about DDD without Sławek or about A/B/TDD without Paweł would be like wasting resources.

The only “real” presentation that day, was a sponsored talk from Tomasz Skutnik (e-point) about class loaders in JEE, and it was unexpectedly good, I must say.

I also had a chance to animate a smalltalk, which I used to confront and verify some of the ideas I've been preparing for my Javarsovia presentation. The feedback was good, and some of the points from the discussion helped me to refactor my final talk.

All together it was a great weekend, and I can recommend NYAC/COOluary with my heart. It's a moving conference, every year in a different city, so stay tuned to Grzegorz's site, and don't forget to visit the event whenever you have a chance.