Accento Behind The Scenes
CodeFX Occasionally #74 — 29th of June 2019
it has been a couple of months of preparations and a few hints here and there, but now it’s finally time to come out big and tell you about an amazing project that I’m fortunate enough to be involved in: Accento, our own fracking conference! 🤯
(Warning: I’m totally hyped about this and may occasionally go overboard with the superlatives. Please excuse me, but, have I mentioned THAt i’M tOTAlLy HyPEd?!)
I send this newsletter out some Fridays. Or other days. Sometimes not for weeks. But as an actual email. So, subscribe!
Yes, you heard that right, I’m organizing a conference. As always when I enjoy something, be it blogs, YouTube channels, Twitch streams, or, apparently, conferences, I develop the urge to try and do it myself. I mean, think about it, with a passion for Java and its community, what better way to create something bombastic than to organize a conference?!
But, as it turns out, most projects require a modicum of qualification and follow-through and so I don’t always do well (c.f. Twitch). That’s why it’s so fortunate that I’m not in this on my own: Disy, my former employer and best customer is on board as well! (Nota bene to avoid confusion: When talking about Disy, I should technically say them, but I like them so much that I keep saying we.)
Disy is a small but growing Java/WebDev shop (always hiring, btw) of about two dozen devs who mostly work on a flagship project used by municipal and state governments. Developing a project that’s old enough to buy its own beer is a unique perspective and keeping it on the cutting edge is tricky but rewarding. We’re on Java 11 for almost a year now (yes, since early access, baby!) and just this Friday we continued planning how to turn our 400-something Maven modules into proper Java modules.
As you can see, it’s not just me who’s passionate about Java and so organizing Accento together is a natural fit. And the development so far bears that out — the work has been challenging but a lot of fun and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved so far.
I’m burning to tell you about the lineup, explain the conference topic quick & dirty, and take you behind the scenes of organizing a conference. Before we go there, I should introduce Accento, though:
- Conference day: 24th of Sep — 10 talks in 2 tracks
- Training day: 25th of Sep — 3 full-day workshops
- Location: Südwerk in Karlsruhe, Germany
If you want to learn more, visit the kick-ass site that I put together with Gatsby.js, or, if you’re already convinced that this is going to be amazing, get your ticket now. Ping me via Twitter DM or mail and I’ll get you a small discount.
Now, on to the juicy bits!
I’d love for all of you to show up at Accento and I know there are only really two things that make you want to attend: the speakers and their talks. So without further ado, I’ll present a few of them.
Talks and Speakers
From JDK 9 to 12 and Beyond: Delivering New Features in the JDK by Simon Ritter
A look at the new features from Java 9 to Java 12 and running JDK projects Amber, Loom, and Valhalla. More… Simon Ritter is Deputy CTO at Azul, Java Rockstar, and Java Champion who works with Java since 1.0.
When fighting Apache Maven… by Robert Scholte
Instead of fighting Maven with quick and dirty solutions from Stack Overflow, learn The Maven Way. More… Robert Scholte is Chairman of the Apache Maven team, Java module system expert, and founder of Sourcegrounds.
Black Magic in TypeScript by Peter Kröner
Learn about TypeScript’s dark corners of mapped types, conditional types, and type factories. More… Peter Kröner is frontend specialist, long-time teacher, and Erklärbär.
Oops-less Operation by Christoph Engelbert
How monitoring and observability allow “Oops”-less operation — or do you want your bank to be offline? More… Christoph Engelbert is developer advocate at Instana, passionate Java geek, and likes to optimize software to bring it to its limits.
- Customizing and Refactoring Gradle Builds by Marc Philipp, developer at Gradle Inc and JUnit maintainer
- Property-based Testing by Johannes Link, extreme programmer with a focus on TDD
- Vue vs Web Components by Johannes Kissel, developer at Disy, and Michael Müller, web developer
- Testing in the Modular World by Christian Stein, developer on JUnit, Apache Maven, and sometimes OpenJDK
- two more in the making
We’re also hard at work to get a great keynote speaker and it looks like it’s gonna be the one and only Ted Neward. He’s very entertaining and insightful and I’m happy to have seen him on stage at Devoxx PL a few years ago. Having him at Accento will rock! 🤘 (That he reminds me of Jeff Bridges as The Dude is an added bonus.)
We will also likely have a panel or two on JUnit 5 and/or the state of the module system as well as a few lightning talks.
On the second day, we’re gonna have three full-day trainings, two of which are already settled:
Maven from the Ground up with Robert Scholte
You use Maven every day, but are still often surprised or feel unproductive? Robert will fix that by covering all bases, filling in the details you might have missed.
Frontend Fundamentals for (Backend) Developers with Peter Kröner
Frontend development is a vortex of browsers, devices, tools, languages, and a lot of legacy. This workshop teaches experienced software developers the fundamentals, so they can start being productive in this complex ecosystem.
One more training on performance, concurrency, or unit testing in Java will be announced soon.
Behind the scenes
I’ve been at a few conferences and most of them make it look easy. I mean, what’s a conference, really? Pick a cool venue, order good food, invite great speakers, and there you go! Right? Well…
I knew it was not gonna be quite that easy, but I’m still surprised how much goes on behind the scenes. Before I go there, I need to tell you a little bit about the timeline, though.
The timeline — quick and dirty?
It was sometime late last year that Disy and I decided to organize a conference. Thing is, I was about to go to Vietnam (which I once again realize, I didn’t tell you nearly enough about) and Disy didn’t have anyone with enough time on their hands to start working on this.
This changed beginning of March, when Uta Leonhardt started working at Disy. She’s been tasked with the project and has not only become my partner in crime, but the one doing basically all the things because, unlike me, she actually knows that an event goes beyond venue, food, and speakers.
Anyway, at first we thought about scheduling Accento for late summer 2020, but we couldn’t wait that long! We were so thrilled to work on this project that we wanted to get it on the road immediately. So for 2019 we decided to go for a minimally viable product, an alpha version. It may be a little rough around the edges and there may even be a bug or two, but so what?! Nobody will die from a missing chair, a noobish website, or a misprinted flyer.
So we decided to go to work and make it happen this year. We have to be quick and it can be a little raw, but it can’t be dirty. No cutting essential corners! And so quick & dirty and how to avoid the second part is a concern in many decisions.
Since the term became so relevant to us we soon decided not to hide it. It’s not like those thoughts are unique to organizing a conference. Quite the opposite, avoiding dirty while being quick is essential in software development as well and so we made it official: Quick & dirty is this year’s conference topic.
In the keynote, Ted Neward (cross your fingers!) will give us insights into the topic and we invited the other speakers to find a connection to their talk. For some, it’s not a good fit and that’s ok, but for others it is and we even had a few enthusiastic reactions. We’re really looking forward to talks that are a little more connected than the usual sea of independent presentations and hope to learn a thing or two about being quick, not dirty.
Organizing all the things
Back to organizing the conference. Now, even the few things I mentioned earlier are tricky:
- Getting a cool venue within the same calendar year is challenging. Some on our list basically laughed us off and told us to hurry up if we want to get a spot in September 2020. 🤪 We were lucky, though, and got a day in Karlsruhe’s Südwerk. It’s a dance hall with wooden floor, high ceilings, and lots of natural light — a great atmosphere.
- If the venue obliges you to buy their food, your luck is in their hands (Devoxx BE is famous for its bad food, but they can’t change anything about it). This is the case with our venue, but we discussed food options with them and I’m confident that it will be good. If it’s not, let me know and I’ll order Pizza from around the corner. 😉
- Finally, the speakers. Boy, are they a finicky bunch! Getting them to give you an abstract or a hotel booking by a deadline is like herding cats through a fish market.
But there’s way more than that of course and just in case you’re thinking about planing your own event I want to through out a few things that surprised me most (so far):
- You may need event insurance so you don’t go broke when someone slips in a pool of floor-cleaning water and breaks their neck.
- Don’t underestimate the effort to plan audio, video, and presentation setup. If you just present the speaker and their slides, it should be straightforward, but if you want to record or even live-stream, things get a little more complicated.
- Internet access can be a problem. Our venue has 16MBit and that’s that. We may be able to get unlimited LTE for the day, which would be amazing, but if that won’t work out, Accento will be the conference without Wifi — we’ll just have to own that.
- Everything takes longer than you expect. Even if you take that into account, it will still take longer. Make sure you start early and be ready to stop fiddling with non-essentials when 20% of the effort gave you 80% of the result.
- It’s hard to get the word out. Like, really hard.
On that last point, we’re still struggling. We’ve only just now put the proper site online (because everything takes longer, remember?) and so we didn’t do too much marketing and basically no sales yet. But I did use my Twitter account to spread the word and apparently I didn’t reach very far yet.
As 2019 is our MVP we don’t expect to sell crazy amounts of tickets, but if there are less than 50 paying attendees, I’ll be disappointed.
The great Gatsby
I’ve mentioned a couple of times already that I built the site myself with Gatsby.js and that it was a lot of fun. I planned to tell you a little bit about it here but seeing that we’re getting close to 2.000 words I’ll table that idea for another newsletter.
I’ll also soon start rebuilding my blog and I’m gonna use Gatsby for that as well, so maybe I’ll just skip Accento and take that opportunity to write about it. If you’re interested, I’ll do some of that work on stream over on Twitch.