How Is It to Be at Devoxx?

It’s been more than a week since I had my last beer at Bier Central and left Antwerp with great memories and even greater amount of inspiration.

This won’t be a regular blog post about Devoxx and talks that I have attended. This can wait a little longer on my tremendously long backlog. At Metropolis you can obviously hear about all the exciting new things (and I don’t necessarily mean lambdas) or even listen to crazy DJ set entirely composed (live!) using Clojure and Emacs.

Instead I would like to share with you how it really is to be there.

My Devoxx Experience

Devoxx is one of these conferences you should attend at least once in your JVM life. And if you decide to go to Antwerp for the first time you will do it again. And again. And again! (That was my 4th time)

Like with most of the conferences you might not be super astonished by the profoundness of the presentations. But that’s actually not a goal of any conference (unless it’s JVM Summit). Talks on the conferences are mainly for spreading the word about the new cool stuff, the next big thing, Internet of things ;), you name it. They are intended for planting the idea, making people excited about it so they will give it a spin in their spare time. To be honest how much of hardcore technical stuff can you smoothly present within one hour talk keeping your audience engaged at 100% level? Even for 3 hours long University talk that is a challenge.

What makes Devoxx a really unique experience is the strong focus on the community. I’ve never been at any other conference where you can so easily chat with your brothers in code and conference rockstars. Not only that, you can sit with them and code. You will find hacker spaces all around the venue. These are not some remote small rooms which are seldomly visited. Next to the exhibition hall there is quite a big spot where Hackergarten takes place (I will come back to it in a moment), but there are also two rows of tables with power outlets next to conference rooms. Do you really need more?

What I have learnt over the time is that you should focus more on things that are a bit outside of the main track. Most of the talks are recorded and available on Parleys afterwards. So instead of going to the presentation (unless you really want to see your idol live on stage) consider joining a workshop or hackergarten. That’s very good way for boosting your skills.


Hackergarten in particular is an amazing event. It’s one day hackathon where you can join project leads and contribute to open source. This year I met an extraordinary guy - Michael Vorburger. He put the idea of contribution to open source to the next level. He is spending his spare time working on Mifos - open source microfinance platform for developing countries. When I heard his story I was simply flabbergasted and there was no other project that I wanted to spend my time hacking on that day. After more than 8 hours of intensive coding we put together a skeleton for functional testing of the new AngularJS UI for Mifos. It’s powered by Arquillian, Selenium (using Arquillian Drone) and Spock. We also fixed few Mifos bits on the way and learnt some command line and IDE kung-fu from each other.

The acceptance testing project on its own is still shaping up but it’s solid starting point and I’m committed to spend more of my free time on this initiative. It’s contribution for greater good, not only for our closed society of geeks.

Born to beer

Last but not least it’s Belgium. Beer paradise! Devoxx week is a challenging time as you probably won’t have too much sleep every single day. You will find people wearing Devoxx wristbands in each and every pub around Antwerp’s downtown. I guarantee you will have inspiring discussions about things you love and you will definitely make new friends.

There is still so many beers to discover in Bier Central. So for next time don’t forget to install Untappd on your device and discover social way of drinking ;)

My Devoxxian Experience

It’s been second time in a row when I had a chance to give a talk at Devoxx. Last year I spoke about Arquillian Persistence Extension which is my own contribution to great Arquillian testing platform. This time I submitted several talks but to my surprise only the one which was not really technical got accepted.

Public speaking is thrilling, damn stressful, yet truly rewarding experience. It actually is a great opportunity for a speaker to learn about things he is about to talk in greater detail. You need to get out of your comfort zone and make your abstract thoughts (or brain shortcuts as I like to call them) become concrete, as if you would need to explain it to somebody who barely has a clue about the subject. As one wise man once said - “When one teaches, two learn”.

I am usually spending a lot of time just thinking about the content and structure of my talk. I tend to leave slides for the very last minute as I always throw in some new ideas as the talk “grows in me”. That said, even if it’s short, 15 minutes talk like the one I gave at Devoxx, it takes me significant amount of time to deliver good presentation. Not to mention writing catchy abstract in the first place to even get invited if you don’t have a “brand”.

Therefore it’s a bit sad that “quickie speakers” are forced to pay full conference fee in order to even give their talk (that was not the case only in 2012 if I remember correctly). I do not really understand reasons behind this decision. I heard that Devoxx team simply want to avoid having “fraud”, where some speakers deliver low quality talks only for getting free ticket. I’ve been always thinking that this is the main idea of “call for papers” and following selection process to filter out such cases. What’s more interesting is that there were only 13 purely “quickie speakers” so it’s peanuts when you think about budget of such an event.

I think it’s not really a fair deal, especially that quickies nowadays are getting more attention in contrast to previous years. I would be actually happy with simply getting some discount.

So how it really is to be at Devoxx?

I think that these words of my friend Dan Allen say it best.

See you all next year!

And by the way, Krab sandwiches are great. I don’t understand why people are complaining about them all the time.


Parleys/Devoxx team have uploaded all talks their great platform. To my surprise “Quickies” were also recorded and are freely available from Day 1.

I think it’s the first time in Devoxx history when they not only recorded these short talks, but also synchronized slides with the video of the speaker!

Exception here is Chet Haase with his brilliant, and hilarious at the same time, talks [1] [2].

If you want to see me in action, here’s my talk from this year. Kudos to Stefan and the whole team!

Nov 24th, 2013