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GearConf 2010 impressions

This week, me and a couple of colleagues attended GearConf 2010 in Düsseldorf. I also did a talk there about Git+SVN. Figured I'd write a couple of impressions from the conference.

First of all, there aren't enough conferences around here aimed at our profession. There must be tens of thousands of people working with software- and IT in NRW, and this amount of people deserve a bigger community scene than a few JUGs.

GearConf is a great event in this landscape. Obviously, it's a lot about gear, tools we use for software development. It's also language agnostic, so there are talks about .Net and Java and others as well. Finally, this year attracted many talks about agile practices, like Scrum and Kanban, and specific agile techniques.

Day one
On day one, we started off by attending the "Agile refactoring" talk by André Neubauer (@devpg) and Oliver Schmitz-Hennemann (@oschmi), from ImmobilienScout24.de. It was a fascinating talk, with lots of insight into a real, large, internet based business, their challenges with architecture and agile, Scrum in particular. Great slides, good speakers.

We then attended the Maven 3 (PDF) talk by Stefan Scheidt (@beezlebug). Stefan strikes me as being a professional, but entertaining and funny speaker. Very cool tone through the talk.

Stefan Lay (@stefanlay) from SAP then gave us a tour of EGit and Gerrit, naturally very interesting topic for me. I'm aching to get an EGit version which is good enough to get the rest of my team over on Git, and Stefan showed us this is not far away. We also had a nice talk with Stefan over lunch on software development, open source, and the enterprise.

Then it was onto "Agile Projekte mit JIRA und Greenhopper". Andreas Ebbert-Karroum (@andreasek) meant to do a demo-intensive presentation, but unfortunately, his VirtualBox acted all up on him and kind of screwed the show. He made up for this later by putting some screencasts online.  Lots of good stuff there for Jira users. Unfortunately, we're stuck with other tools.

We then attended Software-Metriken und Refactoring (PDF) with Thomas Haug. This was particularly interesting to me, as I'm kind of the "metrics man" at work. I haven't found a good practical use for how to apply the metrics yet, but Thomas certainly brought me up to speed on a lot of the theory and thoughts behind it.

Fabian Lange (@codingfabian) then did a great presentation on Agile Development of High Performance Applications, really hammering that we can't forget about the requirement of performance in our work, not even in early on development. Very wise words, and very nice style presentation. He then showed off a really cool tool for monitoring and finding performance bottle-necks in Java applications, called AppDynamics. Do try it out on your own app. It's a bit pricey, but with the free version you can monitor for 2 hours, and already find interesting stuff. If you want something free for Java, you could take a look at VisualVM.

Day 2
On day 2 we had major traffic issues getting through Düsseldorf, so I dropped the first talk in favor of preparing my own talk, which went well, after what I heard :)

After that, it was "Entwicklerproduktivität steigern mit Mylyn", by Oliver Gierke (@olivergierke) from SpringSource. I tried out Mylyn against BugZilla a few years ago, and it was OK back then, so it should be really good by now. I'm a big believer in tools that assist the whole context/coding focus thing, and although Git's topic branches and stashes helps a lot with this, I still believe there's a place for Mylyn. But it has to work really smoothly to be worth it! Will check out its Mantis integration tomorrow.

"Das ist genau, was wir wollten! - ATDD & Kunden in der Softwareentwicklung" with Björn Jensen. Björn is one of the organizers of the Hamburg JUG, and really came across as a smart guy, knew what he was talking about and how to get customers on board with agile. Unfortunately, at this point my German ear was starting to falter with tiredness, so I didn't capture as much as I would've liked of the discussion.

"Projektorganisation vs. Build- und Configuration Management" with Karl Heinz Marbaise (@khmarbaise) seemed to be aimed a bit at software developers stuck in awkward and old-fashioned setups. As we recently did a major structure change in our own Subversion repository, it was a very nod-nod-nod talk for me, not so much new.

The final talk of the day for me was "Wie kann Software die Teamarbeit in agilen Teams unterstützen und wo liegen die Grenzen?" by Ralf Kruse. It was a bit of a hidden product push for Agilo but there was a lot of room for discussion on how to keep working efficiently in a distributed agile team. Again, my German at this point was weak with fatigue, so I missed out a lot on some good points.

And after that, we headed home.

All in all it was a good conference. The level of the speakers was solid, the venue was really nice, and the size of it was small enough to be comfortable. Very informal and nice atmosphere. A big thanks to all the speakers, and of course a big thanks to Heiko and Sabine in Infaktum for putting this conference together. Looking forward to GearConf 2011!

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