This year, I had the pleasure of being invited to arguably the best and most exclusive event around Java in the world.
JCrete is an unconference, probably the first wildly successful one around Java, ‘disorganised’ by Java specialist Heinz Kabutz along with other Java Champions. It started back in 2011 as a space for Java professionals to share experiences in a relaxed environment, under the Mediterranean sun and away from commercial circuits.
What is an unconference?
The attendees of JCrete are carefully selected among the best speakers, writers and community managers around Java. Developers and leaders responsible for, or involved in, projects such as Maven, Eclipse, JakartaEE, JVM tuning, Groovy, EclEmma… Writers publishing on O’Reilly, TheServerSide.com, Microsoft or other personal successful blogs. That’s a great start.
The conversation is immediately open for the rest of the room. And then the magic sparks.
The format encourages attendees to firstly propose topics related to Java or the world of development. Then, depending on the participants’ interest on each topic, the propositions are voted and a schedule gets created for the same day. Several sessions run simultaneously. The owner of each topic can give a quick introduction, but the conversation is immediately open for the rest of the room. And then the magic sparks. In the case of JCrete, the level of these conversations, the weight of the attendees and the ideas shared are without a doubt outstanding.
The wild success of the first edition made the ‘disorganisers’ repeat it year after year, scaling it up every time. As I was told, last year felt a bit too big with around 120 attendees. For the 2018 edition, they decided to restrict the numbers under the one hundred mark. It was my first time, but the size seemed perfect to me. Enough people to keep on speaking with for the whole week, but a reduced enough number to have the opportunity to engage with all of them. The sessions are also the right size, varying from 5 to 15 people approximately, and all the attendees are encouraged to participate.
Obviously, a professional event such as this one wouldn’t have gone so far outside the commercial circuit if the attendees didn’t enjoy the wonders that Crete has to offer. Heinz and his team have thought of it all!
It’s up to you how you start your day, but many of us go for a morning run or swim before breakfast. I personally prefer the sea to the road: in London I get none of the former, and a lot of the latter. Then a good breakfast. You will need all that energy for the day ahead. We all then meet at the conference room to ‘disorganise’ the day.
The sessions are very enjoyable, and while they revolve around the Java development world, both technical and non-technical topics can arise. This year we had topics spanning from Kotlin, testing microservices, JVM, in-memory databases and JakartaEE, to writing better content or data privacy. Even how to adopt a correct posture while working was covered, with the help of a professional physiotherapist. And that’s to mention only a few. I can only be thankful of having shared ideas with professionals of this calibre.
While the sessions run mostly in the morning, the afternoon is also (dis) organised. Several excursions happen each day to discover the best beaches of the island, or the old town of Chania, or visiting an olive tree that has stood in the same place for 4000 years! It’s a great time to enjoy the hidden gems of the island, have some social time and network with the other JCretans.
The evenings are busy as well. We either go for dinner to picturesque restaurants, enjoy a Cretan evening with local musicians and dancers, or dance to one of the best rock bands of Greece, Core the Band. Raki, a strong local liqueur, is omnipresent on these for those who enjoy it.
The last day is reserved for a hack day, where we put in practice some of the things learnt. This year, Robert Scholte helps us contribute to Maven. It really is a pleasure being able to support something that is free and makes such a big impact on our daily lives.
On the last evening of the unconference, at the particularly appropriate Sunset Taverna, “a miracle happened”: a lunar eclipse. It was the perfect closing keynote for such an unforgettable week.
The fun continues with JCrete4Kids, where some of the attendants help spread the knowledge by running workshops with local children, teaching them about technology and getting them engaged with software development from an early age.
Overall, it was a great experience with the perfect scenery, filled with fantastic professionals who I used to respect and follow before the conference, and also some others who I got to respect and follow since then. Amazing food, amazing weather and great fun. I made lots of unforgettable memories and many friends. From all the attendees I spoke with, either from this edition or from previous ones, I didn’t find anyone who wasn’t absolutely delighted about JCrete. If you ever have the opportunity to attend, do not dare to miss it.