James Williams

StrangeLoop Recap

Tags: General

No conference is without faults the first time it is run but I believe StrangeLoop was a net success.

The Venue

The Tivoli theatre is a gem of the old theatre era, reminding me a bit of the old Art Deco style. It was warm and inviting with comfy seats unlike the usual hotel ballroom with rows and rows of astere office chairs. It was a nice touch to have the concession stand serving free soft drinks to attendees with candy and treats for sale. As it's not designed for wifi, it was a bit of a challenge to find a open slot to connect to the routers. The problem was further exacerbated by those who got in holding on to a connection far longer than they needed for fear that they wouldn't be able to get it back. Wifi is expensive and hard to provide in decent quantitites for "greedy" consumers like we techies. I'd rather have wifi not be as good if the alternative is having to cut back on other perks of the conference.

Strange Passions/Blueberry Hill

At the end of the first night Alex(@puredanger) rented out a room in Blueberry Hill (a local bar) for 4 hours. FOUR HOURS where there was an OPEN BAR. It was a welcome change from the bigger confs that frankly half-ass it by having a "party" where you can only get 2 drinks. The inflated cost of that third drink usually drives developers elsewhere to not feel gouged. There was lots of time to mingle, listen to a couple StrangePassion talks, the Marshmallow Tests and the Greeks of Options Trading were my favorites, and generally be merry.


Though slightly traumatized by seeing @crazybob (Bob Lee) in a speedo (picture in his slides), I really enjoyed both his Future of Java keynote on Thursday and his Ghost References talk on Friday. I think Matt Dirlolf made a good case for why you should use MongoDB, the problems it solves and how it differs from CouchDB and traditional RDBMS. Alex Buckley's Java Modularity left a bit to be desired. It seems spurious to claim "we are getting rid of the classpath" when you introduce modulepaths as a new concept. They seem to essentially be a classpath with versioning information. I also think that if you are the spec lead responsible for the Java language and JVM, you can't consider "it wasn't my decision" as an appropriate answer for why the reference implementation of Project Jigsaw(which isn't ruled by a JSR and generally w/o a spec) and JSR 294 are co-mingling in the same project. The reference implementations need to be split or Jigsaw needs to come under the JSR process.

I gave a tweaked version of "Griffon: Swing just got fun again" to an almost full audience of about 50-60 people in one of the side theatres.


Register early.

You'll get the best prices (early early early registration was $75 this year). StrangeLoop 2009 sold out. As the positive reviews start trickling out the next week or so, I can say with good certainty that it will sell out next year as well, probably earlier.

Bring a raincoat or umbrella.

StrangeLoop was book-ended by sunny clear weather but there was a serious downpour during the conf. I'm talking a "puddle lane, soaked to the bone, like a Florida tropical depression" downpour.

Consider buying a USB modem card.

Before the conf, I bought a Virgin Mobile Broadband 2 Go USB modem(available at Best Buy). You take a bit of a hit for the initial cost ($150 for the modem) and data plans(see chart below) but it's great for filling the gaps in conference wifi and doesn't require a contract. If you go to a couple conferences a year, the savings in wireless costs will quickly pay for the card...provided you don't try to watch a bunch of Hulu or Netflix. You'll save what you would have been paying for hotel or airport wifi. STL airport doesn't have free wifi :(

Cost Data Limit Expiration of Data
$10 100MB 10 days
$20 250MB 30 days
$40 600MB 30 days
$60 1GB 30 days