Following JCrete in the summer of 2016 I returned inspired by the people I had met and highly motivated to become more involved in the local tech community. This led me to attend more events such as XP Manchester and the Manchester Java Community (MJC). I also offered to speak at a future MJC event if they would be open to it.

In October 2016 I did my first (and only so far) public tech talk for the MJC. Following this I caught up with one of the MJC leaders Alison McGreavy (who founded the group back in 2013) for some feedback. She provided some useful feedback about my talk and then to my surprise she asked if I’d like to help run the event along with her and Debbie Roycroft. At this point I had little idea what it would involve but decided to dive right in and accepted her offer.

Over the course of the year we held 10 events in total. Six of these were what I would call traditional events with a speaker presenting on a specific topic for around 45 mins, one of which was with a remote speaker. We had one event that consisted of lightning talks lasting approximately 15 minutes each. We had two pratcial sessions, one a hands-on kata and the other as part of a a global online hackday. Finally, we joined the vJUG24 online conference.

We hosted the events at a variety of great venues such as the event spaces at Auto Trader, Rental Cars, Coop (Federation House) and BJSS as well as a couple at our spiritual home of MadLab.

I’ve met a real mix of people at the events over the year from students and Java developers just starting out in their tech career to seasoned professionals. The one constant from pretty much everyone I’ve met is their passion for technology and Java in particular.

Out of all the events we ran this year, the following are those that really stood out for me.

4th Birthday Kata

April marked the 4th anniversary since the MJC was founded. The first event was held at MadLab and attended by a grand total of 4 people, two of which were Alison McGreavy and Debbie Roycroft. Since these humble beginnings the group has grown to over 700 members in 4 years which is a great achievement.

We decided to hold a more hands-on practical meetup for this event. We found what looked like an interesting birthday themed kata designed by Matteo Vaccari based on exploring an approach to software architecture known as Hexagonal Architecture (aka Ports & Adapters).

This was my first experience of a kata and I thought it was great. We had people working in pairs whilst Debbie Roycroft and I helped to ensure everyone made progress. There was a real mix of people of all skill levels and I got the feeling the majority enjoyed themselves and learned a few things along the way. I definitely did!

Of course there was also lots of cake to help celebrate the birthday!

Java libraries you can’t afford to miss

In August we held our first event with a remote speaker. We had originally planned for Andres Almiray to visit us in Manchester and speak however due to unforeseen circumstances he was unable to travel but still offered to speak for us, albeit remotely.

This was a great opportunity for us to explore the technicalities around hosting a remote speaker. It was a bit of an experiment but if it went well then it would open up the possibility for more remote speakers in the future. One of the hardest parts of running the MJC is attracting speakers.

Although we were stepping out of our comfort zone for this event it proved to be worth it. The event went smoothly, all the worries about connectivity and having the ability to communicate effectively with the Andres were unnecessary. The sound quality in the room we used for the meetup wasn’t ideal but we learned a good lesson for future events to perform more thorough sound checks.

Most importantly though, Andres was a great speaker and shared some really useful content related to various key Java libraries for production and test use-cases. I’d recommend people reach out to him to speak at their events as I’m sure he’d be more than happy to speak either in person or remotely.

The recording of this event is available on the MJC YouTube channel.

Nikhil Nanivadekar

At the end of November we had the pleasure of hosting Nikhil Nanivadekar, project lead for the Eclispse Collections open-source project. Nikhil recently became a Oracle Developer Champion and has spoken at many conferences including JavaOne.

I first met Nikhil at JCrete in 2016 and we have remained friends since. He visited Manchester in the summer of 2017 and I joked that he should visit again soon and speak at the MJC. A few months later and he was back as part of a JUG tour that took him to London, Belfast, Dublin, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham.

He provided a very entertaining talk comparing Eclipse Collections with other collections libraries such as those available in the JDK, Guava, Apache Collections and Vavr. He covered off various factors such as performance, memory footprint and ease of use. The video of this talk from JavaOne is available where Nikhil presents with the co-authors of the talk.

As well as this, Nikhil also managed to squeeze in a second talk describing the process involved in migrating Eclipse Collections to Java 9.

The passion for his work shone through during his talk which, when added to his unique sense of humour, made this the highlight of the year for me.

Don’t forget to star that GitHub repo!

Final thoughts

My involvement with the MJC over the last year has been amazing on many levels.

I’ve met great people from the local tech community as well speakers and other JUG leaders from around the world.

I have no doubt that my involvement with the MJC has led to other great opportunities such as volunteering at Devoxx UK and realising an ambition of mine to work for one of the leading digital companies in Manchester.

Something I hadn’t realised is how much time & effort goes into just making sure an event goes ahead. All the time that goes into finding venues and speakers ain’t trivial.

I’m really looking forward to what the coming year holds for the MJC. We are in discussions with some exciting speakers and also have some ambitious plans to run an unconference later this year. Hopefully our ambitions are realised.