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Devoxx 2013 + a Nordic Countries Speaking Tour

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Devoxx 2013 + a Nordic Countries Speaking Tour

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Two weeks ago, Trish and I boarded a flight for one of our favorite conferences: Devoxx. After a brief layover in Frankfurt, we arrived in Amsterdam and took a train to Antwerp. Within hours, we'd settled into our hotel near the center of Antwerp and strolled over to the dungeonous, yet cozy, Pelgrom restaurant. We were hoping for a delicious dinner, but found much more. We ran into James Ward, Dick Wall and a number of other enthusiastic speakers from the conference. Since I had to speak the next day, we didn't stay long, but we did share a number of laughs with some great people.

Tuesday (November 12), was a University Day at Devoxx, and I had my talk that afternoon. I spent a couple hours finishing up my talk that morning, then grabbed a taxi to head to the conference. I was honored with the opportunity to speak in Room 8, which is a huge theater that holds several hundred people.

    Devoxx: A Speaker's Perspective     The Modern JVM Web Developer     AngularJS Deep Dive

I presented a lengthened version of The Modern Java Web Developer presentation I did early this year (at Denver's JUG and JavaOne). Based on your feedback, I chose to do deep dives on AngularJS, Bootstrap and Page Speed. I've always enjoyed speaking at Devoxx because attendees are so enthusiastic and passionate about the conference. I received an immense amount of feedback, both in praises and criticisms. The critics indicated there were too many buzzwords and not enough substance. Others complained that the AngularJS Lipsyncthat I did was too deep.

I made sure to review and process everyone's comments, and then used them to improve the presentation throughout the following week. I learned to elaborate on the fact that many of the technologies were important to know about, but not important to know through-and-through. I made sure to mention that the use of CoffeeScript and LESS is often limited (or embraced) by team members and their willingness to try new things. If you're not writing thousands of lines of JavaScript or CSS, it probably doesn't make sense to use these languages. Furthermore, if your team members are struggling to write JavaScript or CSS, introducing a new language is probably not the best thing. I also reminded people to be skeptical of new technology, but also to be open-minded and give everything a chance. The 10-minute, download-and-try test, is a great way to do that.

You can find my presentation below, download it from my presentations page, or view it on SlideShare.


Within this presentation, there are links to each of the deep dives. The last two are screencasts that I added audio to a few days ago.

Bootstrap 3AngularJS Deep DivePage Speed Demo

We stayed in Antwerp until Friday, attending the conference, taking pictures, networking over beers and having a fabulous time with everyone attending Devoxx.

    Street Shadows     Devoxx posse at the Antwerp Town Hall     Matt and Josh next to the Cathedral Antwerp     Devoxx Late Night     Trish and Amelia

    Town Hall Antwerp

    Antwerp square

Thursday night, we dined at Matty, one of the best restaurants in Antwerp. The food was excellent and provided a nice start for a night that included the Devoxx Party at Noxx and a journey to Bier Central.

    Matty Restaurant Antwerp     Steak at Matty     Dessert

On Friday, we traveled to Brussels for a weekend in one of the best beer cities in the world. Trish booked us a room at the Hotel Saint Michel, which was right on the most beautiful square in Europe. Their pre-Christmas light show was spectacular. The beer was delicious, the location was magnificent and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, especially the  mussels in brussels. Thanks in particular to Stéphane and Philip for your recommendations.

Grand Place Brussels

Nordic Countries Speaking Tour
On Sunday (November 17), we flew to Stockholm to being the second half our trip. Nordea hired me to deliver my Devoxx presentation as part their Java Competence Network. Nordea's Jonny Berggren first contacted me in March 2010 about this opportunity, so it was fun to see it finally happen. We agreed that I'd speak at their four main locations: Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo and Copenhagen.

Mattias Karlsson (of Jfokus fame) also presented me with an opportunity to speak at his company while I was in Sweden.

I started the week delivering my talk on Monday afternoon at Nordea. Then we met up with Mattias, walked to his company and I delivered it again 45 minutes later. It was exhausting to talk for six hours in one day, but it all seemed to go well. I especially enjoyed the enthusiasm of Mattias's Avega Group.

    Speaking at Avega Group

That evening, we took the train to the airport, boarded a flight to Helsinki and arrived just after midnight. While on the train, we sat next to a Finlander, Karol, that gave us all kinds of great advice on what to do. Tuesday in Helsinki was cold and dreary; perfect sauna weather. We walked around a bit in the rain that morning and visited Senate Square on Karol's recommendation. I mentioned to the developers there that my Mom's grandparents were from Finland (Oulu and Hamina), and that I'd grown up in a rustic cabin built by my Finish grandfather, Matti Hill.

    Matt in Helsinki Capitol     Downtown Helsinki

We flew to Oslo Tuesday evening, rode the super-fast train from the airport and got to bed just before midnight. Wednesday morning, we walked around the Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park, and then I headed to the Nordea office while Trish did a walkabout and rode a Viking ship around the bay. We met up afterwards at the wonderful Beer Palace for some pizza and delicious German/Belgian beer.

    Oslo Opera

    Ship and Oslo Opera     Crew's Sunset Oslo

    Oslo ship in the Harbor

Danish WelcomeCopenhagen was our last stop, a city which neither of us have ever traveled to. After arriving, we quickly got a hint that Copenhagen was a special place. We did a bit of research on Wikipedia and learned it was The City of Bikes and their craft brewing industry has blossomed in the last decade, now sporting over 100 microbreweries. My last talk on Thursday morning went very well, especially since my presentation and advice was well polished by that point.

That afternoon, we rented bikes from our hotel, slowly ate sushi on the top of the Tivoli Hotel, and then rode to Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli Gardens was decorated as a Christmas wonderland and their amusement park made us smile and giggle with glee. We stayed there for hours before riding home. Biking around town with hundreds of other cyclists was really cool and fun. I hope Denver gets Copenhagenizedsomeday, the abundance of bike-only roads is simply awesome.

Happy Couple at TivoliTivoliTivoli

Our Nordic countries tour was especially pleasant because Christmas decorations were everywhere. In the US, many folks look down upon Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, but since Europeans don't celebrate Thanksgiving - there's no reason not to ease into the Christmas spirit. We figured Abbie and Jack would have a blast at Tivoli in a future November or December. Yes, it was a bit chilly (20-30°F) in most of the countries, but we were well dressed for it. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any snow.

Many thanks to Devoxx, Nordea, Mattias's Avega Group and the hundreds of developers who listened to me talk about being a modern web developer. We had a wonderful time speaking, laughing, photographing, drinking your delicious beer and seeing all your smiling faces.

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