JAOO is well over with and I'm just starting to get my head on straight again. I started out with my Going to JAOO 2007 post in which I wrote a little bit about why I was going to JAOO and what I expected to get out of it. In this post I'll try to answer that question and contrast JAOO with Microsoft TechEd the only other conference I've ever attended.
The conference is general felt a lot less cramped than TechEd which makes sense considering that TechEd accommodates around 4000 people while JAOO only does 1200. JAOO has a definite community feel to it, it's hard to explain but everything seems a little less tightly controlled and planned, a little more laid back if you will. Take for example the evaluation of a session: At TechEd you'd go to a computer and enter in a number of criteria to get the job done, at JAOO you place either a green, yellow, or red piece of paper to do the same. You definitely get a little less information per person but I'd wager that the JAOO folks get feedback from a lot more people than they do at TechEd. Same thing goes for the conference web site, the TechEd site is very professionally done with lots of gimmicks while the JAOO site is simple and functional. The two sites compare roughly like Hotmail and Gmail, one is pretty while the other is functional :) Now one is not necessarily better than the other, they are just different conferences with different audiences in mind. I definitely enjoyed both. One thing TechEd has going for it is the fact that they get session slides online immediately after the session is done which is nice for people like me who like to blog about the session. Essentially JAOO requires more from my note taking than TechEd does because I have the notes done for me at TechEd :)
My first reason for attending JAOO was to get a more diversified picture of software development. Naturally JAOO delivered on this in a big way. Simply put a great many of the big thinkers in OO were present at JAOO and I think it's safe to say that most of them are found outside of the .NET space. Don't get me wrong a lot of stuff is going on in .NET and in many cases .NET moves along more quickly as a whole because Microsoft controls the entire stack as it were. It was great to attend a session on enterprise frameworks and have Martin Fowler sitting right behind me asking questions of the panel. I'm glad I wasn't a speaker at that particular track as they must have felt the squeeze of having Martin Fowler present asking critical questions.
The content of the sessions was very different than what you'd get at TechEd. TechEd is basically about selling the latest and greatest Microsoft technology to the development community and while it's great to have one of the guys who actually coded ASP.NET AJAX sitting there answering questions it's still just a sales pitch. Again JAOO feels very different because we have very feel people selling an actual product. In many cases it's more about the ideas behind products than the product themselves making the content much more relevant. I'm convinced that the stuff I take away from JAOO with regards to architecture, frameworks, and methodology will be applicable in three years time while the same cannot be said about my knowledge about SharePoint 2007 and ASP.NET AJAX which I took away from TechEd last year. Technologies simply become obsolete too rapidly for that to be the case.
A couple of sessions stand out from the ones I attended: Hamilton Verissimo and Oren Eine did a couple of sessions together on the Castle project, specifically on MonoRail and ActivePack both of which were very interesting. I really like the alternative way of thinking about creating web applications and doing data access. MonoRail seems very interesting an I'd love to be able to roll it out on a project but I don't see it happening any time soon unfortunately, Active Record on the other hand might be something I can get out there soon but again a product like LINQ is something hard to ignore. The last sessions that stood out was Applying Craftmanship by Pete McBreen simply due to the fact that he presented the topic so well, he was funny and had some great points as well. Of course The Journeyman's Tale stood out as well, unfortunately it stood out like a sore thumb :)
So what is the verdict? I would definitely go to JAOO again and I firmly believe that JAOO is a conference you can attend every year without feeling that content is being repeated. For TechEd I'd say that that is not the case. With a product focus like is the case with TechEd new things need to happen with the products for the content to be different, this year and last years TechEd look pretty similar to me because not much has happened since last year product-wise. One thing I learned this is year is that with the massive amount of content you need to absorb at a conference taking notes on a piece of paper and then converting those notes to blog posts later is close to impossible. I just barely made it last year and this year I got swamped the
The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent
my employer's view in any way.