Monday, June 13, 2011

2nd day at GearConf

I was gonna post this Friday evening, but I got knocked out by a cold over the weekend. Anyhow, here's Friday's highlights from GearConf the way I remember it:

Stephan Hochdörfer did a talk on building software using generators and DSLs. The message didn't quite reach me, but the idea of generative programming was interesting enough. Some concrete examples and demos would have helped.

Afterwards, Martin Geisler presented Mercurial's Query Language (PDF link) - which was a really impressive array of features. As is obvious of this blog, I lean towards Git as a favorite SCM, but through this talk I feel I really *got* Mercurial. With bookmarks and queues, it's basically has the same firepower as Git. The only aber aber about Mercurial I find to be the GPL licensing. I reckon this will make it trickier for 3rd parties to implement tool support (example: FogBug's Kiln uses Mercurial).

Onwards to a double talk with Hans Dockter, the Gradle chief. This was another eye-opener. I always thought Gradle was something of a Maven clone in Groovy, but turns out the Gradle philosophy is a bit different: Bend and adapt to the requirements of the build, rather than imposing standards and conventions.

Now, I'm a big Maven fan, and I know the old "You're doing it wrong!" argument used facing people with Maven issues. The way I see it:

  • Many projects try to do stuff wrong because they don't know any better.
  • Some projects try to do stuff wrong because they have to. 
The problem with the Maven fundamentalists, is that they put everyone in the first category. I suspect Gradle honors all users by putting them in the first. While this is very nice, it gives validation to a lot of sub-optimal builds out there.

At the end of the day, I think most Java projects (components might be a better word) out there are very simple: Java files go in, JAR-file comes out. For these projects, Maven works great. Even for the average webapp, Maven will work fine. However, for our main product, with all its special packaging, shrink-fitting and so on, I might consider Gradle a better tool for the job.

So quickly now the last two talks:

Stefan Glase present CodeNarc, static code analysis for Groovy. I might be going a lot deeper into Groovy soon, so this was a nice tip on a tool to use for keeping my code in check.

Last presentation was Thomas Koch presenting Gerrit. I've played around with Gerrit a lot the last weeks, and it's a great tool - it deserves a lot of presentations.  However, in this talk I would have liked to see less screenshots of Gerrit, and more demoing of the software itself. Thomas did have a running Gerrit on his machine where he showed one thing and the other, so why not use through the whole presentation? Cut down on the slides, folks!

In conclusion, I really enjoyed the conference. I think it is probably a bit too small (60 attendees I reckon) for the organizers, but the content is great. Some innovation into the shape of the conference would be nice though: How bout doing a bit less of the 45 minute presentations, and more stuff like lightning talks and panel debates? Also, get active on Twitter and social websites (like SpeakerRate and Lanyrd).