30 March 2008

My experiences at EclipseCon 2008

This is my very first blog, so please pardon my tremor and anxiety. I promise I will not make this a “Hello world” blog! :-)

I live and work in the UK with a small Eclipse consultancy, Etish Limited. You can learn all about my professional interests through my profile.

This blog is all about our (my partner in crime Joel’s and my) experiences at EclipseCon 2008, which took place in Santa Clara, California last week. It was our first time at this conference and were literally astonished by the aplomb with which it was organised and implemented.

The venue was comfortable and very friendly. Lots of nice meeting rooms, no overcrowding and very decent foods and beverages served at the various receptions and meal breaks. Not that we had many opportunities to really sample all that was on offer, we were too busy talking and connecting!… And let me tell you about the beds at the Hyatt hotel that is directly connected to the convention centre: they are definitely something to not only write home about, but sing of! Vast! And oh so comfortable!… I wish I could have fit one in my luggage coming back home. ;-)

The organisation of the conference was spotless. In the entire week, there was not a single glitch, at least from my vantage point. Everything was perfectly planned and executed, down to specific persons being put in charge of updating the flash sticks that were distributed to all delegates at registration and that contained all conference materials. I am sure this was done to avoid excessive queues and long waiting times at the designated update points, but I found it a great service: all of a sudden what I was viewing as a chore became a pleasure. I would walk up to the nice gentleman and hand him my stick. He would put it in his left pocket and out of the right pocket would immediately emerge an updated stick for me to walk away with. An outsider might at first have thought this to be some kind of spook trick, but a second look at our (the delegates’) possessed faces, funky attires and impossible hair dos would have immediately dispelled such fantasies :-)

I also understand why so many people yearn to participate in that particular conference. The crowd and the atmosphere are so fantastic, it is almost like being back at university. The atmosphere is relaxed, open and friendly, decidedly techy. Everybody yearns to exchange experiences, learn, share and offer some advice, born of experience, whenever possible.

All the tutorials and talks I attended had something (and oftentimes a lot) of interest and novelty to add to my (meagre... ;-) pot of knowledge.

We not only thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but we also had a great opportunity to meet face to face many persons with whom we had, up to now, only been entertaining cyber conversations. This definitely added an invaluable dimension to our relationships.

Last, but not least, we had an incredibly breathtaking reaction to our proposed Eclipse framework, the Open Requirements Management Framework (ORMF for friends) and the first
exemplary tool we built on top of it, Useme, which is use case centric. We presented a poster on the project (and I even have the two pictures to prove it! Many thanks to Alexey Khoroshilov from the Institute for System Programming, Moscow, for taking them and sending them off to us) and hosted a Birds of Feathers, both of which were very well attended and were the source of innumerable suggestions, expressions of interest and many offers of contributions. Our effort of building a community around our proposal for ORMF certainly received a great boost at the conference, and our friends are now a lot more numerous and more eager.

We were also approached, among many, by the authors of the Open System Engineering Environment (OSEE), another Eclipse based project created by Boeing that is currently in the incubation phase. Theirs is an industrial strength but
customisable environment that is intended to facilitate the management of all aspects of a project's life cycle and they were very keen to see our framework build on top of their environment as a structured requirements sub-project. After meeting with the good OSEE folks and discussing and exploring with them the possibilities of synergy between the two projects, we decided to accept their offer. I think this is going to prove a bold but fantastic move, as a large number of the important services that we were envisaging providing as part of ORMF some time in the future are already there, in OSEE, for the taking. So we warmly thank the OSEE gang for making this environment so easily available to us and for opening up a lot of hitherto dreamed of possibilities.

To summarise all this in a single sentence, ORMF has come out of EclipseCon a lot stronger!

To conclude I just want to express a final thought, that perhaps represents the most important aspect of my entire experience at EclipseCon, far beyond our personal successes (and I hope you are still with me :-): throughout the week I felt around me a sense of possibility that is very hard, and very thrilling, to find. The Eclipse Foundation members were incredibly welcoming and encouraging, constantly catalysing connections and suggesting synergies. Theirs was an honest effort to make us heard and make us count, no matter who we were or how small an organisation we represented. Every day of the meeting I was buoyed by the feeling that, with the help of this community, I could achieve anything I dreamed of. If that is not a fantastic achievement on the part of a community, what is?

So thank you very much, EclipseCon organisers, Eclipse Foundation members and conference attendees in general for making our week such a rich, exciting and successful week!

So long.