Neal Ford came to JavaMUG this week to a packed crowd of 65 developers. The big story for me was his un-expected comments about IBM's product line.

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This talk was advertised as 10 Ways To Improve Your Code.

This may sound like a lame topic, but Neal Ford is from ThoughtWorks, which is no lame outfit.

His talk was everything you would expect,  from the best that ThoughtWorks and the No Fluff Just Stuff circuit could offer.

I got a lot of helpful coding tips, for example something we don't always hear in talks at our user's group - a caution against "Ancticipatory Design" where you don't try to design around any anticipated needs until they actually show up. Being a more seasoned veteran than 28 years ago when I started, I'm willing to admit how true that actually is, even if I never thought about it much before.

Top Ten Tips Includes Dark Humor About WSAD ?

Neal's comments are always colorful, but number one on his Top 10 Corporate Code Smells is "There is a reason WSAD isn't called WHAPPY".

  While the title may hint at some of his opinions, you'll have to see his entire presentation in person tto get his live commentary in context. Neal's dark humor about WSAD is especially noteworthy since WSAD and its successor RAD are among the most expensive dev tool choices out there, and so some of his comments seem out of place and pointed in the context of the rest of the objective technical slides.

Alert: I am a completely biased reporter on this topic. In my day job I'm the Product Manager for MyEclipse, which includes MyEclipse Blue Edition, an affordable alternative and/or compliment to IBM tool suites.

At Genuitec, we hear daily from our customer base about their feelings on competitive development tools, and MyEclipse Blue Edition came directly out of these conversations. It was our customers - not us - who came up with the idea of providing an alternative to RAD or WSAD. Apparently, unpopular products that sell only because customers are unwilling captives create incredibly irritated and counter-motivated developers. Big corporation after big corporation came to us asked for Blue Edition as a result of this pain point.

Imagine how validated I felt when Neal came right out in the middle of an otherwise objective technical talk and cracked jokes about this expensive tool which so many people are forced to use.  :-)

Other Cool Stuff I Learned From Neal

Another tip I learned was the power to trust the obvious. Neal lays out some rules for looking at things that are kind of "duh" when he says them, but to tell the truth sometimes I went the opposite way and so has he.

This thing about frameworks, for example. Don't get Neal Ford started on frameworks if you don't have 3 minutes to hear a good rant. He told a personal story of a framework he created, and how the tail grew to wag the dog. It was comforting for me to hear he made the same mistake at least once, because I have been a big frameworks guy, including one hugely failed framework designed to compete with what is now Spring.

So when he talked about it I felt like a big dummy for having believed the opposite view for so long. But it was so obviously correct, nothing I could do but agree.

JavaMUG file pic:

Couple days of thought

You know it might have been a good lecture when you're still thinking about stuff he said a couple days later. I'm still going over some of the stuff, because frankly I think there may be a couple insights that I'm still being stubborn about. The test first thing for sure, I'm still sitting on the fence about how far to take that approach. There are many great insights in his talk, and I'll be delighted when he gets time to post it up to his site and I can link to it here.


One last thing. Never thought of graphics as a part of a code presentation, but Neal had a really killer graphic look to his presentation. It even feels silly just calling attention to it. But it is slick, and it was very pleasing to the eye, and made his tips really stand out.

I think I'm going to give that presentation graphics stuff some thought. Those of us who present once or twice a year or so, could learn from such well practiced presenter. And I did.