Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: The Spanish JUG Tour

Earlier this month I set out with our European Sales Director, Mario Iotti, to visit eight Java User Groups (JUGs) in Spain. As a developer advocate, visiting JUGs has always been a favorite part of my job. It combines several of my passions into one activity: meeting dedicated Java developers, sharing my knowledge of Java, presenting, traveling and having the opportunity to experience great local food. My Spanish trip had all these things in abundance.

Here’s our itinerary as a map. Green is planes, maroon is trains and blue is automobiles (so I can fit with the title of the post).

Day 4 and 5 was the weekend when we didn’t have any JUG events. I think this was a good idea; I used my time wisely and went to the very cool Science Museum in Valencia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid (equally cool but for art rather than science).

I also got to eat Cochinillo, which was delicious.

Here’s a photo from each of the events:








A Coruña

Rather than talk about each event specifically I included a picture and will share my general thoughts across the JUGs.

  • Java is now very nearly 23 years old and it never ceases to amaze me that there is still so much passion and interest in the platform. I’ve been presenting Java to developers for nearly twenty years and the level of interest during that time never seems to have waned. JUGs are a distillation of this, as the leaders are always dedicated to helping the community and the attendees are prepared to give up their free time to learn more.
  • It is impressive to see that there are still new user groups being formed. Three of those we visited had only started in the last two years. For A Coruña it was, I believe, only the second meetup they had organised.
  • The average age of attendees is not increasing. It is fantastic to see that there are plenty of young people attending JUG events, it’s not just more mature people like myself. The Castellon meetup was held in a University and more than half the audience was students. The JUGs we visited had a good mix of junior developers, just starting out, to more seasoned veterans. There were several discussions of older computing technology, like PDP-11s during the post-event socialising.
  • If you want a job, become a Java programmer. Talking to people at all of the events one key theme that kept recurring was the difficulty in recruiting enough developers with Java skills. This is across a wide range of application types: the more obvious server-side and cloud but also rich client and embedded.
  • Developers love Java. We had numerous discussions with people about the future directions of the Java platform. Everyone was happy with the way people like Mark Reinhold and Brian Goetz have managed to integrate complex new features like Lambdas and Streams without significantly affecting backwards compatibility.  Of course, there were plenty of ideas for other features that could be added!
  • It’s not all good news, though. The more recent changes made by Oracle to the availability of binaries for JDK 11 and onwards, as well as the lack of public updates from Oracle concerns people. Many of the developers I talked to on this subject were not aware of what will happen in September with JDK 11 and then in January next year with the end of public updates for commercial users of JDK 8.
  • For three of the events, we used Kahoot to run a quiz at the end of the session to decide the winners of giveaways. This seems like a better system than a random number generator and not something I’ve used before. Although I made the questions light-hearted and not too complex the results provided excellent feedback on what I had explained well and where I might need to make my message a little clearer in future. I would recommend this to anyone running events like this. It’s very straightforward to use: you set up the questions in advance, put the web page up on the screen, which includes a game id, and the attendees play along on their phones. Each question has a timer and a nice bar chart of who voted for what. There’s also a leaderboard after each question to show who answered correctly (and fastest).

For me, this was without a doubt a fantastic trip. The energy of all the JUG leaders and members I met was just incredible. Based on the success of this we are already planning to repeat this in other countries. Our current ideas are Italy and Germany (which will probably extend to include Austria and Switzerland), where there are many JUGs spread within an easy traveling distance of each other.

I look forward to even more Java community-related activities.

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