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Interview of Stephan Janssen, founder of Javapolis

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Discover the interview of Stephan Janssen, founder of BEJUG and Javapolis. He'll speak about his company, Javapolis, the Java-Champion program, Open Sourcing of Java, ...

Cet interview est également disponible en français

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I. Introduction

I-A. Stephan, could you please introduce you: who are you ? Where are you working ? Your hobbies ? ...

I've been a developer since I was 14, hacking.. euh studying games on the Commodore 64 and writing intro's and eventually demo's in assembler. After a period of LU6.2 SNA communication development I switched to Java in 1996. We used JDK 1.0.2 at a financial software company called FICS. There I was involved in the different tiers of the solution starting with Applets & AWT, a secured socket connection ending in a stand alone java server. Eventually this evolved to corporate banking solutions using Swing, RMI and J2EE.
In 1998 I founded a Java consultancy company called JCS (1). In 2004 we got acquired by the Dolmen Group where we have a team of 100+ Java developers and architects doing enterprise Java projects using mainly Spring & Hibernate/JPA and now recently JEE5.
So during the day-time I'm the CTO of JCS and in the evenings & weekends I'm the chairman of the BeJUG/JavaPolis.


II-A. What's BEJUG ?

BEJUG (2) is the Belgian Java User Group, that I founded. We organize different conferences like last month on SOA in june SpringOne and next month JavaPolis.

II-B. Why did you created BEJUG ?

In 1997 I wanted to meet other Java developers so I contacted Sun for a server and the next day BeJUG was born :)

III. About Javapolis

III-A. Why did you created JavaPolis ?

Every year several people from JCS (including me) attended JavaOne (3) . But looking at the investment of attending and the lack of alternatives in Europe I started a conference called JavaPolis (4) with the BeJUG in 2002 with a clear mission: having a non-expensive European alternative for JavaOne!

III-B. What do we get for our money ?

JavaPolis consists out of 2 parts:
2 days University (in depth technical sessions) and 3 days Conference (1 hour sessions covering many different Java topics). During each part there are also BOFs (in the evening), Quickies (during lunch break), LABs (hands-on sessions) and informal meetings organized by different attendees at the whiteboards.

III-C. Theme

Affiche du thème de cette année

III-C-1. About theme of this year (there are better ways to meet your idole), where are you finding such ideas ?

We work with several communication & marketing companies who suggest different ideas based on the direction we give them.
Our target audience for JavaPolis are (unfortunately) 95% male between 20 and 40 years... that probably explains the different JavaPolis themes from the past ;) Nous travaillons avec plusieurs compagnies de communication

III-C-2. Who is (are) your idol(s) for this year ?

This year we really have many different Java idols attending JavaPolis. My favorite idols this year are : Erich Gamma (GoF and Eclipse), Neal Gafter (who will talk on closures in Java) and in a special way Marc Fleury :)

III-D. The making-off the the video

III-D-1. Is it really James Gosling on the video ?

I'm really glad you ask this question, almost 10.000 people who viewed the clip (5) and looking at the reactions many really think it's James Gosling...
well let me tell you a secret, the person in the video is a Belgian James Gosling look-a-like actor who studied different movies from James to imitate him as good as possible. However the real James Gosling did agree with this movie, which shows his great sense of humor!

III-D-2. Somes people have seen a .net book in the trash. A wink ?

Just us having a bit of fun ;)

III-E. Choice of Keynotes

III-E-1. Why do you choose Marc Fleury ? A relation with the fact that Java will be open source this year ?

Some years ago "it was not possible" to have Marc Fleury as a keynote at JavaPolis, instead he hijacked the stage incognito as Zorro. This year with the acquisition by Red Hat and JBoss being a premium sponsor it was clear to me Marc had to give a keynote.

III-E-2. . Last year the star of the event was SOA. SOA were in every stand. And for this year. Who will be the star ?

Probably very similar to JavaOne which was AJAX, Dynamic Languages and SOA.
On the AJAX side we've the founder of DWR and Dojo speaking and we'll get somebody from google talking about GWT.
The founders begind JRuby, now employed at Sun, will cover a university and conference talk and the lead developers of Project Simplice (Visual Basic for Java) will also be speaking.
On the SOA side, we've Guy Crets and Robin Mulkers selecting different SOA topics and speakers as an alternative for last years IDE's in Action. Should be good!
Of course the JavaPolis sessions on JDK6 and 7 and open sourcing the Java language will receive a lot of attention this year.

III-F. 3000 persons. Is it not too much for the place ?

I guess we'll have between 2.500 and max. 3.000 attendees this year. To anticipate this volume we've :

  • Added an extra room (5 in total)
  • The keynotes will get overflowed to the 2nd biggest room.
  • We'll add 80 meters of tables in the upper-level for people to relax, check email or charge theirs portables.
  • And finally we'll create a lounge area in a hall next to the exhibition area where people will have whiteboards and space to relax.

Hopefully this will be sufficient :)

III-G. Will everyone have a Wi-Fi connection ?

Last year we had some serious problems with the 'national' wifi provider, so we decided to do it ourself. We tested our own Wi-fi setup during SpringOne in both the exhibition hall & rooms and everything worked perfect.
So YES, all attendees will have a working FREE wifi connection during JavaPolis.

III-H. Tradition is that on thursday evening we can see a movie. Which movie has been selected for this year ?

We've just launched the JavaPolis movie poll (6)

You can choose between the following movies:
  • Flushed away
  • Casino Royal
  • Talladega Nights
  • Happy Feet

The movie with the highest votes will get shown on thursday evening.

Redaction's note : choice was finally Casino Royal

III-I. Is is hard to organise such an event ?

This year it's our 5th edition, so I'm getting better and better in organizing JavaPolis on different levels.
The registration software is almost as I want it (except for the online payment) thanks to Frederik.
The partner relationship is running at max. speed and from a content point-of-view its easier to get speakers compared to our starting years.
Our wiki is also improving every year both from a navigation point of view but also the look & feel etc.
Nevertheless it remains a big task and preparations start 8 months before the actual event!!

III-J. Where do you find energy to organize such an event ?

Welcoming 2.100+ Java developers from over 45 countries gives me enough energy to continue each year with JavaPolis! I also like the challenge to come up with new ideas to improve the overall conference experience, like our DVD and online talks, pushing the wiki to higher levels etc.

III-K. How can you continue to find pleasure in this work ?

Finding interesting Java topics and good speakers at different Java conferences ALL OVER the world is really something I like doing.
Also from january 2006 I employed a full-time event coordinator who helps me with the logistics, DVD, newsletters etc. giving me more room for other fun initiatives.

III-L. How does the selection of speakers happen ?

We have a JavaPolis steering committee where each person is responsible for a given track. This person can suggest topics & speakers which we discuss during our monthly meetings.
Because we're all volunteers, JavaPolis is really OUR conference with topics we're interested in and speakers we would like to meet. That is why it's a hand-picked conference and up to now this has worked just fine. Nous avons un steering committee à Javapolis où chaque

III-M. What is your wife thinking about your very busy life ?

My wife prefers that I sit in front of my computer instead of hanging in a bar drinking beer every night :o)
I've also involved her in the administration so she doesn't mind.

III-N. More subscription from France this year ?

I have not checked the details yet, but hopefully articles like this will convince people from France to attend JavaPolis. We've deliberately added the eifel tower to the JavaPolis logo, so hopefully this shows that the French developers are also very welcome :)

III-O. How do you explain that France was absent last year (less than 50 people if I remember well) ?

I don't know, maybe the language barrier ? Because from a travel perspective it's just next door with the Thalys !

IV. About Java

IV-A. What's the plus of the Java language for you ?

The fact that Java is an open-platform-independent OO language is just very powerful. You can also learn several (standard) API's (like these days JPA) and leverage these libraries in any IT project is an enormous benefit for any Java developer.

IV-B. What is the weakness of Java for your ?

For the moment with J2EE the complexity is not to be under estimated. However with frameworks like Spring and the new Java EE 5 ease of development and simplicity are clear goals of the enterprise java movement.

IV-C. What's your prefered IDE ?

I use IntelliJIDEA (7) on Mac OS X

IV-D. What's your prefered J2EE/Java EE server ?

With Spring (8) and Hibernate (9) , I only need Resin (10) but otherwise WLS (11) or Jboss (12) .

IV-E. What's your prefered API ?

JMS (13)

IV-F. Java will become open-source. A good thing ?

For me Java was already open enough but I understand that when developers want to get involved in fixing bugs or extending the language the current model wasn't enough. This will be a big theme during JavaPolis, where Sun will give more info during their keynote and give more details during a BOF session.

IV-G. Is it possible to do business with Java ?

In '98 JCS was mainly doing Java consultancy in the scandinavian countries.
These days with Dolmen/JCS we've over 100 Java developers and every single one of them is allocated to a Java projects in Belgium... so yes Java is BIG business!

IV-H. You are also a Java Champion ? What do you think about the Java Champion Program, about fact you discovered and met other Java Champions, .., ...

It's great to get recognized for the efforts I do within the Java eco-system. Its also a nice way to meet other Java addicts and exchange ideas and views. I like it a lot !

Thanks a lot Stephan for that interview, and we wish you a lot of success for Javapolis.

This interview has been done begin of Novembre 2006

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