I have just returned from the Jazoon 2011 Conference in Zurich that finished yesterday. Zurich is a beautiful city and I always enjoy my stay there because of it's atmosphere, location and nice people. Everything seems to work well there, including the great system of public transport (how many cities include boats in their public transportation networks?). I only wish they did something about the public smoking which can be particularly annoying under a tram stop shelter on rainy days.
The Jazoon conference was traditionally held in the Arena Filmcity, Zurich's multiplex cinema, with halls featuring 150, 300 and 500 comfortable seats. This year I was presenting a talk about SOAP and REST services looking at the two from a perspective of several typical use case scenarios. The talk was originally submitted a colleague of mine, who could not travel due to a conflict in his schedule, so I can say I got to Jazoon with some portion of luck this year You can find the final slides from my presentation here.
Overall the conference was smaller in attendance and quieter compared previous years. My estimate is around 500 attendees. This was in contrast with the large amount of sessions. Session quality varied both in content and speaker, yet during all three days I was almost always able to choose a good session. From the Java technical sessions, I found particularly interesting the talks on the future of Java by Danny Coward, Using Graddle, Play! web framework, Jazoon Rookie talk on boosting productivity with Hudson/Jenkins, Gerrit and Mylyn as well as the Web security talk by Frank Kim. The Animated Java Concurency presentation by Victor Grazi from Credit Suisse was worth watching too. You can checkout his animation project here.
From the SET track (SET = "Software Engineering Today", whatever that means) I really enjoyed the talk on Self-organizing teams by Joseph Pelrine. Also opening keynote on IaaS and PaaS by David Chapell and closing keynote on JavaSE/EE by Simon Ritter for the Jazoon, Day One were interesting, and - as one would expect - exceptionally well delivered. I was a bit disappointed by the opening keynote for the Jazoon, Day Two delivered by Linda Rising. Linda is a great speaker but I found her talk somewhat shallow in content this time, maybe I just had my expectations set too high. Also, I may be nitpicking here, but if a keynote speaker does not bother using the official conference presentation template, who should?
The closing keynote for the whole conference by Pouline Middleton was, despite somewhat prosy title, surprisingly refreshing. If you don't know Pouline and never heard of her fiction diary One Woman Three Men, which - interestingly - is based on her own personal life experience, you should check it out.
As I said earlier, the Jazoon conference was despite the large number of talks and a new track focused on Microsoft technology smaller in attendance compared to previous years. I can only speculate about the reasons, but hey, this is my blog, so here are my thoughts:
Jazoon organisers need to decide who is their target audience. Zurich is an expensive location and the conference fee is not particularly low either. With that, the conference should IMO retain a narrow focus to be able to provide quality that would justify the premium price. Broadening the scope may not be the best strategy for such conference. I am not sure that adding Microsoft track to a conference with a name suggesting a Java related content was necessarily a good decision. (And I say that despite the fact that I won a really cool mouse and an XBox game in the Kinect-powered virtual Wheel of Fortune at Microsoft booth.) For one reason or another, the sessions on the Microsoft track were poorly attended. Obviously this track did not attract many new attendees to Jazoon.
The amount of sessions this year was astonishing. If my calculations are correct, there were 112 (!) sessions delivered at Jazoon this year. That's a huge number compared to the number of attendees. The problem with the number is that the high number seemed to be achieved at the expense of the quality of the talks and/or speakers. In future, the Jazoon organisers should do better job in reviewing quality of the submitted talks AND the quality of speakers. The way I see it, much smaller amount of high(er)-quality speakers and sessions could attract many more people. Sometimes simply less is more.
On a similar note, I was surprised that organisers still did not implement any means for collecting an immediate feedback from attendees on the quality of the sessions and speakers. Such data would help them in their submission reviews in the coming years. Also, using just a single twitter aggregation page as the only dynamic content element is just not enough for a technical conference these days anymore.
At last, I find it somewhat unreasonable to host a conference for 500 people in a venue with capacity to host simultaneously 10 sessions for more than 2000 attendees in total. It seems to me that smaller venue could help to reduce the costs of the conference and as such make the fees more affordable.
All right, enough ranting. I would like to state that despite all of the above I had a good time and I found the conference refreshing and inspiring. I hope the conference organisers will be successful in helping Jazoon to regain its former momentum, so that it remains a relevant international Java conference for the years to come. Good luck, Jazoon!