Gr8conf US 2016 recap

I have been to many conferences, but there is a clear reason why I love pure technical conferences the most. They are 100% practical. You can open your laptop, copy and paste the code from the presentation and it works, and moreover — you’ve learned something useful. Moreover, that is only one reason why Gr8conf US was great, but the most important reason why it was so good is the Grails community and will talk about it later.

In case if you don’t know what Grails, here is the description from official website:

Grails is a powerful web framework, for the Java platform aimed at multiplying developers’ productivity thanks to a Convention-over-Configuration, sensible defaults and opinionated APIs. It integrates smoothly with the JVM, allowing you to be immediately productive whilst providing powerful features, including integrated ORM, Domain-Specific Languages, runtime and compile-time meta-programming and Asynchronous programming.

Here at Scentbird we’ve built everything using Groovy and Grails and Gr8conf is a perfect way to learn best practices from leaders: Burt Beckwith, Craig Burke, Daniel Woods, Graeme Rocher, Jeff Scott Brown and many many others. I wish I could visit all of the talks, but there were three tracks, so I can’t wait to see videos (meanwhile you can watch videos from past conferences here).


The first day was dedicated to workshops, and I decided to go to:
- Getting Groovy With Lego Mindstorms EV3
- REST With Grails 3

Groovy with Lego Mindstorms was one of two workshops about using groovy/grails with hardware. At the end of this session we were using Grails application to control Lego Mindstorms robot: movements, sounds, etc. Obviously, it was fun, but on the other hand, it’s an excellent way to teach kids programming — starting from basics (simple program to move robot) to advanced topics like algorithms to find shortest way from one point to another.

That was one hardware workshop about using Groovy with Alexa and it was fantastic.

The second workshop was great as well because Jeff Scott Brown is one of the creators of Grails and he showed lot’s of new features of Grails 3, that allow to write and test complex RESTful applications in a very short time.


There were may great talks, I want to cover some of them and as I said, soon all of them will be published on Gr8Conf Youtube Channel.

1. Monitoring And Metrics With Grails 3 by Jeff Scott Brown — OCI released Grails plugin for Dropwizard Metrics and it allows to make your monitoring way better. There are 2 main features right now — @Metered and @Timed annotations that can help you to monitor methods executions and performance. We’ve just integrated it with DataDog and I will cover in a separate post how to do it.

2. Creating applications with Grails, Angular JS and Spring Security by Alvaro Sanchez-Mariscal — another showcase of great new features in Grails 3: AngualrJS profiles, simple way to create REST application and Spring Security for REST make web development way easier (workshop code).

3. Feeling Groovy: Experiences as a Groovy Developer in the Java World by Kenneth Kousen — inspirational talk about what’s going on with Groovy and Grails. I want to make a short break here and talk about Grails, it’s community and some other topics because it’s related to Ken’s talk.

Three years ago when I started Scentbird development I had to choose what framework I should use. I had 5 years experience in Enterprise Java, little experience with Ruby on Rails and that’s it. Enterprise Java is not a good choice for a startup because you have to iterate very fast and if you are familiar with JSP, Struts and EJB you know what I’m talking about. So I started my research and eventually discovered Groovy and Grails. Since that day I’ve never had a regret about my choice, because next reason:
- Groovy is a great language, it has a really strong team and after Java, it’s easy to start.
- Grails is a great framework for web development. Initially, it took lot’s of ideas from RoR but now it has its own way. A couple of years ago Pivotal Tracker decided to stop their support for Grails, and many people thought that it’s the end, but now with when OCI took care about it becomes better and better with every release.
- Hiring is not a problem, even opposite — you can hire people with great Java experience, and it will help you to build a solid application. I’ve heard several times that I should use RoR because it’s more popular and easier find a developer, but how many developers with 10+ year experience do you know.
- Fantastic community. That what makes Grails even more powerful — if you have any question, you found a bug or have an idea, you can always ask the community in a slack channel and find help.

So if you are Java developer and looking for the great framework for web development try Grails. But let’s get back on track.

4. Groovy Puzzlers by Baruch Sadogursky — impossible to describe, just watch previous season.

5. Scaling Grails at SmartThings by Ryan Applegate — my favorite talk of this conference because that was exactly what we needed on our stage of development, lot’s of advice from JVM tuning to caching, so just take slides and use as a practical guide.

6. The Path to Zero Downtime Deployments by Charlie Knudsen — another great talk from SmartThings team. Charlie described how to implement a lot of great things in Grails — Canary Releases, Feature Toggling, Continuous Delivery and many others. And again, you can use this talk as a guide — so good and details it was.

7. Monitoring Grails 3 Applications by Christian Oestreich — that was a second talk about monitoring in Grails, and it covered some additional topics like Hystrix, DataDog, Sumo, New Relic, Graphite and others (code on github).

Unfortunately, United canceled my flight, and I had to return earlier so I missed a couple of talks, but for me, these three days were really great regarding new knowledge and connections. Big thanks to organizers and all speakers!

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