Thursday, March 15, 2007

Productivity Talks at JHUG Tech Day

Last Saturday I gave a talk at the Java Hellenic User Group, and I found it interesting that all of the talks given there had an underlying motivation of increasing productivity.

First was Dr. Heinz Kabutz, the famous Java Champion and editor of the Java Specialist newsletter, who had a talk called Productive Coder. It was a good talk to start the day because he gets you thinking right away about seeing things from a productivitiy perspective. For instance, his first major point is that most programmers that he has met cannot even touch-type without looking at the keyboard. It seems like such a minor thing, but by learning the keyboard so well that it is intuitive, it's just more productive since you don't have to spend your awareness on the keyboard and can think of the task at hand instead. Heinz' talk included many similar small-but-important ideas about becoming a more productive coder.

He also showed a demo of IntelliJ IDEA, emphasizing learning the keyboard shortcuts for an IDE (even I learned a feature -- column editing mode, Alt-Shift-Insert). I think learning shortcut keys is in many ways like learning a new language. Once you've learned one useful language, it's frustrating to try to get to the same fluency in another, unless you put some effort into it. This can make switching IDEs painful. Heinz mentioned the IntelliJ IDEA keymap reference card you can print out and stand up on your desk to help you learn the shortcuts (see here). He also talked about object-oriented principles and how to tame a jungle of legacy code with refactorings like Encapsulate Fields, to make fields private.

Tom Baeyens of JBoss/RedHat did a talk on workflows and process languages. Part of the motivation there is to simplify and automate communication between the analyst and the programmer, an attempt to increase productivity in this area. Tom has a great sense of humour and I enjoyed his talk very much.

Patrick Linskey of BEA talked about JPA (Java Persistence API), and how a big motivation is to simplify object-relational mapping, automating it, so you can think in higher level concepts of objects rather than tables. Of course the flexibility is there to use tables if necessary, but the real power of the spec is in ease of use and testability that the object abstraction gives you. Patrick was extremely knowledgeable, as we could tell during the Q&A.

Finally, my talk was on Tools for Agile Teams, focusing on how IntelliJ IDEA and TeamCity support agile development methodologies by helping developers stay in flow longer and more often. Flow is the highly productive state of mind when you're focused on a task and outside distractions seem to melt away. Most people in the audience reported that they had experienced the state of flow and also that they have experienced being frustrated by tools that interfere with flow by annoying distractions and context switches. I demoed some of IntelliJ IDEA's productivity features and gave an overview demo of how the TeamCity continuous-integration server can help increase team-level productivity.

Thanks to Paris Apostolopoulos and Panos Konstantinidis of the JHUG for organizing the event. It went very well and was quite enjoyable.


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