Java Community: The Ghost In The Virtual Machine


I’ve often heard the term, “Ghost in the machine” in the past, but never went to the trouble of finding out where it originated. According to Wikipedia the English philosopher, Gilbert Ryle, coined the phrase as a description of René Descartes’ mind-body dualism. “What does this have to do with Java?” I hear you ask. Read on and hopefully it will become clear.

To start with, a while back I wrote a blog post about why Java‘s Not Dead Yet. The imminent demise of Java is a continuing thread for many IT publications and comments on Java articles. I thought this cartoon, published recently on DZone, hit the nail on the head in an amusing way.


I see no sign of a decline in Java’s popularity based on my activities with the Java community recently.

With spring comes a whole host of both pure Java focused conferences as well as ones that are primarily about Java but include interesting content on a wider range of developer-related subjects. Let’s briefly review the ones I’ve been to in the last three months, all of which are community-focused to a greater or lesser degree.

  • Great Indian Developer Summit (website) in both Bangalore and Pune: This is the biggest developer conference in India and runs for five days with eight broad tracks, one of which is focused entirely on Java. I estimate there were nearly a thousand people just at the Java part and many, many questions on the details of Java.
  • JPrime, Sofia: (website) This was my first time in Bulgaria and a place that I really enjoyed. The conference was one day with two tracks, 19 sessions and around 550 developers attending. This is organised by the Bulgarian Java User Group with people giving up a lot of free time to make this happen.
  • Devoxx UK: (website) The Devoxx family of conferences continue to deliver fantastic events in an ever-increasing range of geographical locations. One of the highlights from the opening was the announcement that there will be the first Devoxx in the US next year. Over a thousand people turned up in London for three days of workshops, sessions, quickies and ignite talks.
  • JBCN Conf, Barcelona: (website) Another event organised purely by a JUG (website), run by volunteers. A one-day event with 50 talks and 300 people attending. The campus venue was extremely good, as was the introductory act of spinning lights. Seeing Duke in this way is something I’m sure James Gosling would never have thought of.
  • Devoxx Poland: (website) It was my first year at the new venue for this event and also my first time since it was rebranded from 33Degree to Devoxx. The venue they use now is completely new and can hold a huge number of people, which is good since 2,500 people turned up! The main stage is more of a stadium with multiple seating levels. One of the things that struck me about this event (as well as the one in Barcelona) was just how many recruitment companies had stands in the exhibition area. Chatting to people from these companies shows there is still a big demand for people with good Java skills.
  • Java Forum Stuttgart: (website) My first time at this event, which I’ve been told is always popular. Indeed it is with over 1,500 people turning up. Another one-day event with many great talks and great beer.

When it comes to maintaining Java’s popularity as a development platform, the community and events like these are at least as important as new features that are added with each release.

Returning to the title of this blog, if you look at the definition of a ghost two words crop up every time, which are ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’. The Java Community spirit, “The Ghost in the Java Virtual Machine”, really is the soul of Java.

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