Sunday, September 30, 2007

Raw Cookie Dough from NFJS

I just came out of the weekend conference at the No Fluff Just Stuff/Gateway Software Symposium.

I hope to post a review later, but first here are some fun quotes and 'half-baked' thoughts that I had during the show. Some of these ideas may become future blog posts; they are 'half-baked' not in the sense of crazy, but 'not fully-cooked'.

Quoteth (actually: paraphraseth)

  • I think the Macs are good, but the experience is oversold. -- a Mac owner (Hallelujah!)
  • Best practices are average practices, because everyone does them. -- Stuart Halloway
  • An enterprise app has two sets of users: end-users and operations staff. -- Michael Nygard
  • That pen extends Throwable. -- Brilliantly witty attendee commenting on Ted Neward's penchant for throwing pens during keynotes
  • Scala, Erlang, and Haskell should be on your list for experimentation, and, well, Groovy and Ruby are simply required. -- Jeff Brown (Ed: this was a wry remark in jest, see Jeff's comment on the review post).
Half-Baked Cookie 1: What is 'Slow' ?

I wonder if there are any studies in cognitive psychology or neuroscience that offer insight into our perception that a computer experience is slow. It seems that as computer scientists, we have a wealth of empirical evidence and tactics (e.g. make a home page for website ultrafast), but what do the brain people have to say?

Half-Baked Cookie 2: Latency _is_ zero

Ted Neward mentioned that we repeatedly fall into the trap that distributed computing is easy: latency is zero, the network is reliable, and other Big Fallacies. It seems to me that part of this problem is that as developers, we optimize our work environment so that these fallacies are true. e.g. We write mock unit tests so that we don't have to suffer the inconvenient network; if we manually test an app on a network, we scream blue murder that our internal network is slow.

It makes sense that we want to develop software without obstacles, but we build an ivory tower that is far removed from the network. This Development-Production Gap is why we fall into the trap over and over again.

Half-Baked Cookie 3: Observing Software in the Wild

Based on a cool presentation by Michael Nygard on Operations in the enterprise, I think that a dev team should have a monthly review of log files from a production machine. There will be surprises and warnings of future trouble.

Half-Baked Cookie 4: JVM Decorators

Though I prefer the term 'JVM Tunnelers', there is an argument that many of the new languages hosted on the JVM are implementing a macro-level decorator pattern (of sorts) for the JVM. The JVM (and libraries) are still there, but there's now a lot of syntactic window dressing (and ideas) on top.

Groovy is to Java, as BufferedFileReader is to FileReader ?

Half-Baked Cookie 5: Packets in the Wind

Whenever 4 or more developers discuss real life while dining, one (often me) has to draw a parallel to computer science. This is especially true for traffic patterns in St Louis and networking analogies (often broken routers and YouTube saturation).

Half-Baked Cookie 6: Security Manager as Code Police

Ted Neward talked about using the Java Security platform to enforce that a webapp is not able to call System.exit() (which would be, um, bad).

I wonder if this can be extended to other code, during CI builds/unit testing. Assume that there is a class/method in your project that you don't want others to call. Perhaps Spring or something demands that a setter is public. Does it make sense to use a security policy that would fail CI if that contract was broken?

Half-Baked Cookie 7: Ruby Evangelism

Stuart Halloway mentioned a fact that is well-known to NFJSers. Dave Thomas deserves a lot of credit for the Ruby Rage. For years, he has spoken at NFJS (primarily a Java conference), and has proudly proclaimed that he doesn't know Java. He was (and is) an old-time preacher going around from town-to-town, literally, and conducting powerful sermons on the redemptive powers of Ruby.

It worked. Before RoR, there was Dave T.

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