Overview

JCrete – A Java Unconference on Cretan Beaches

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jcrete-folks
(Photo by Stephen Chin)

From the 24th to the 29th of August the JCrete took place on the greek mediterranean island of Crete. This was the fourth of the annual unconference established by Heinz Kabutz and Kirk Pepperdine. This year the event took place at the Orthodox Academy of Kriti. As the director of the OAK explained in his very unusual keynote, the abbreviation of the academy links it closely to Java, which in its first version was named “Oak” by James Gosling after the oak tree in his garden.


Many factors make this event to be one of the most unusual conferences:

  • It is actually not a conference but an unconference. The sessions are put together and planned out by all participants.
  • The conference is an invitation only conference, everybody has to be able to contribute something to it and let others learn from their experience.
  • There are family-friendly activities every day. Like excursions to beaches, sightseeing or dinners.

Sessions

session-planning
(Photo by Andres Almiray)

At first the content for the next days is planned in a big group. Everybody proposes ideas for sessions and finally they get put together to a schedule. We managed to get a lot of content for 4 days of unconference: In total 50 sessions, plus hacking on the beach, the hotelbar or the chapel of the academy.

sessions
(Photo by Christoph Engelbert)

The sessions included plenty of low level Java content, which I liked a lot. We talked about the micro benchmarking framework JMH, about implementing off-heap data structures using sun.misc.Unsafe, and often looked at JIT compiled assembler code.
On Friday hardware hacking took place. Stephen Chin led a group which programmed a Sirtaki dancing Lego Mindstorms robot, while my colleague Sven Ruppert did hacking on Tinkerforge devices.

The level of the sessions was very high. On regular conferences most sessions would have been classified as “advanced” or even “expert”. That is of course due to the know how of the great minds meeting at JCrete.

You can find documentation for all sessions on the Unconference Website.

Beaches

balos
One who flies to crete during summer time expects warm weather and beautiful beaches. And in that regard my expectations were fully met. “Clouds 1.0” were not to be found and the temperature got up to 36 degrees celsius (97 Farenheit) during the day. Because of that, many JCretes were looking for cooling in the sea, so that many excursions targeted beaches, like the famous beach of Balos.

taxi-donkey

The trip to the beach of Balos is an adventure for itself: 10km (6 miles) of bumpy road, which for sure killed plenty of suspensions of our tiny rental cars, as well a steep descend you have to master before you can enjoy the beautiful lagoon.
For the lazy folks, there is a taxi donkey service. Our “donkeys” pictured on the right however refused to carry us.
But who believes that there was just relaxing on the beach is in error. On sunbeds, sand and even in the water topics around Java were discussed.


Food

Because we all were “Speakers”, every evening was speakers dinner. Heinz arranged dinners in different restaurants serving typical greek and cretan food. With about 100 hungry nerds, we were for sure quite a sight for some of the small eateries. A special highlight must have been the dinner in Afrata on Tuesday evening. The inhabitants set up a tables on their town center plaza, to be able to accommodate us all. It was very tasty, and there was plenty of Raki — Yammas!
dinner-thursdaydinner_thursday
dinner-sundaydinner-tuesday

Summary

It has been an fantastic “conference” in a perfect location. You can find more pictures and videos on Stephen Chins Nighthacking Website.
I will come back to JCrete for sure. If you want to plan ahead, the date for next year is already set: 20th to 24th of July 2015

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