Can you tell us about the Brighton Java meetup, how it started and who it’s for?
Brighton Java started in July 2012 when David Pashley noticed there was no local user group specifically for Java. The name isn’t perfect, as we’re actually interested in all aspects of Java Virtual Machine programming, including Scala, Android and Kotlin. We try to welcome people at all levels, and always ask speakers to aim at least a quarter of their talk to people who are new to the subject they’re talking about.
What can attendees expect from the events?
I think the social side of these events is as important as the learning. There are hundreds of great talks online but being present in a group of people adds something. I’ve been to events in London where I didn’t know anyone and felt awkward; so we try to do our best to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves. I think running an event is a little like throwing a party! And particularly when people are coming after work, I think they should get something worthwhile for their time.
You’ve had some fantastic speakers over the years, what has been your personal highlights?
For me, it’s hearing details about real-life projects people have run. It’s sometimes difficult for companies to be open and candid about their work, but when someone has the confidence to admit they have learned from mistakes that is very powerful. To that end, my favourite talk was from Brandwatch’s Luke Whiting, who started with a short talk they’d given at the beginning of the project, then went on to say how the reality had failed to match the plan. That was a brilliant idea for a format.
What do you find most valuable about the group and from attending the events?
For me, it’s about sharing experiences. While the talks are important, it’s also good to provide a space for informal conversations to take place.
What’s in store for the future, do you have any upcoming events in the pipeline?
Our February event is one we’ve run before, about tools and tactics, which is about people sharing the things the tools they’re working with. We’re also looking at online workshop formats – I’d love to look at ideas for practical events.
The main thing for us is finding speakers. If you have anything you’re interested in sharing, please get in touch. One misconception we encounter is that talks should only be given by experts. Some of the best talks we’ve had is from people sharing their early experiences with a topic.
How was the shift to running the events online?
My first response was to stop. I figured everyone had enough to deal with and would have zoom fatigue. Our main event for 2020 was an excellent and timely series of videos from James Stanier looking at asynchronous remote communication.
I thought Brighton Java would start up properly again in Autumn 2020, as I had expected the restrictions to end. It’s now obvious that things will continue like this for some time. For 2021, we’re going to run fortnightly meetings. These are necessarily smaller, less formal events than our in-person meeting, but I think it’s important to keep the community going.
Do you think you’ll return to in-person events once it’s safe again?
I think it’s very important to return to the in-person events as soon as we can. But I also hope that the chance to experiment with new remote events will feed into any future events we do. I’d love to have ‘blended’ events, where we mix on- and offline. One thing that has also emerged through the pandemic is more communication between user groups, and I’d like to see that continue.
Can you tell us a bit about your own background? And the work you do outside of Brighton Java?
I’ve been a Java developer since 2000, and the days of Java 1.1. Back then, you could learn enough to get a job from a single book (Learn Java in 21 Days by Laura Lemay in my case). Outside work, I’m a writer, and have run the ‘Not for the Faint-Hearted’ writing group for almost ten years.
How did you come to work with Silicon Brighton? What benefits and support have you seen?
Silicon Brighton have been reaching out to a number of user groups. I’ve seen a number of attempts to bring together the different aspects of the local technology scene, and this one has gone further than many. It’s been good to have support particularly around marketing, while also being respectful of the need to not co-opt grassroots groups.
Where can people connect with you? Or learn more about the Brighton Java group?
The best way to get in touch with us is through the meetup link. Or through my email, which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anything you’d like to add?
We are very lucky in Brighton that we have such a range of user groups. A lot of research has pointed out that there are far more user groups in Brighton than would be expected in a town of its size. A lot of this comes down to the enthusiasm of local companies, who are open to supporting us. In particular, we’ve benefitted throughout from Jon Markwell and the Skiff. At the same time, if you look at the size of the tech sector here financially, Brighton is far smaller than a lot of people realise. I’d love to see the town reach its potential. User groups can only be one aspect of this, however.