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QCon -- It's Not Just for Architects!

QCon, my very favorite tech conference, is right around the corner and I'm already wishing I had the powers of The X-Men's Multiple Man, so that I could get to more sessions! (I actually wish that a lot.)

I've been to quite a few trade shows and user conferences in my 15-plus years on the tech beat. I don't mean to sound pollyanna, but most of them have been pretty good events. But in terms of the quality and scope of its content, QCon stands out. Conference organizers characterize it as a "practitioner-driven event." I think of it as the Cornucopia Conference.

This isn't just a single-technology show; the program includes two tutorial days and three conference days, with 15 tracks covering Java, NoSQL, JRuby, Node.js, hypermedia, Ruby on Rails, SOA, Agile, Clojure, security, inter-disciplinary design, JavaScript, parallel programming, REST and cloud computing.

This is the fourth year for the San Francisco event; there have also been four QCon's in London, two in Beijing, two in Tokyo, and one in Sao Palo, Brazil. The conference is a joint venture of the InfoQ online enterprise software community (whence it gets its name) and Trifork, a provider of financial and public-sector IT solutions in Denmark. Conference organizers expect about 550 attendees this year.

I chatted last week about this year's conference with Floyd Marinescu, CEO of C4Media, which organizes the QCon events.

"This conference is a combination of things that make you think and things that you can apply," he said. "That makes us different from many development conferences, which seem to be mostly about the latest APIs. We're trying to encourage more software generalists, and that requires historical perspective, so our keynotes are always a combination of old guys with beards and fair-faced young technologists."

Among the 80 speakers booked for this year's QCon is a rock-star lineup of old-timers and young turks, including: Dan Ingalls, the principal architect of five generations of the Smalltalk environment; Twitter engineer Nick Kallen, author of Arel, NamedScope, Cache Money, and Screw.Unit, and co-author of FlockDb, Twitter's distributed graph database; Martin Fowler, chief scientist at ThoughtWorks and (his words) "Loud-Mouth on Object Design;" Patrick Copeland, Google's director of engineering; Michael Nygard, author of Release It: Design and Deploy Production-Ready Software; Randy Shoup, distinguished architect in the eBay Marketplace Architecture group; Stuart Halloway, author of Programming Clojure and Rails for Java Developers; and Dan North, who coaches teams in Agile and lean methods, and originator of Behavior-Driven Development (BDD).

"QCon is definitely an event that's trying to push the envelope," Marinescu said. "We want QCon to be a force that's helping our community to evolve, but with a sense of what it's evolving from."

Marinescu is especially proud of another new track, "Architectures you've always wondered about," which he helped to develop with Randy Shoup, and which looks at some of the most well-known and high-volume Web applications in the world, including Twitter, Netflix, Zynga, Amazon S3, Facebook, LinkedIn and eBay, among others.

My one complaint about this show: They keep billing it as "designed for team leads, architects and project management." I get why they do it, but this is a show for codederos, too. One of this year's new tracks, "Dev and Ops: A Single Team," should be of particular interest to developers. The track "explores the challenges of bringing both Development and Operations together into a single team." (And no, it's not being held in a padded room.)

"There's definitely a part of the culture, especially in the U.S., who see 'architect' as a bad word," Marinescu said. "But I do think that's changing. And when we say 'architect,' we don't mean an ivory tower guy. We mean a guy who is both designing and coding, and maybe getting more involved in solutions architecture and putting the pieces together."

The fourth annual QCon San Francisco event runs from November 1-5. Videos of keynotes and presentations from previous events are available on the QCon and InfoQ sites for free.

Posted by John K. Waters on October 26, 2010