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What Happened to the Evangelists?

What Happened to the Evangelists?

In my last few editorials I've been looking back in order to look forward; for example, how to encourage and empower new programmers, how to learn, and how to create better requirements and user expectations. Now I feel it's time to look forward.

Diving into the dictionary (as I often do), the term evangelist is defined as a "bringer of the glad tidings" (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary). When was the last time you heard a Java-related story that was going to save your life? Something so radical and amazing that you just had to stop everything and listen. Evangelists have the ability to bring you to the edge of your seat and make you say, "This is for me!" Do you remember 1995­1996, when you couldn't open a computer-related magazine without Kim Polese telling you the benefits of Java and how it would revolutionize the world in a short period of time? Kim also told us about jazz dancing as a way to unwind, but by that time I was off and running and programming in Java. It was probably just as well Kim didn't tell us the news the other way around.

One prime example of this is Java Data Objects (JDO), which stands a good chance of changing the way we access our external data regardless of the data store. Since most people access a relational database with JDBC, not JDO, you need a good evangelist to fight the good fight and tell us why we should change direction. There are times when you need to be motivated to make a radical change and the evangelist knows it ­ he or she has the passion, the drive, and the tenacity to keep telling about this great new thing until we take notice.

What interested me about JDO was that I have data in databases and in XML that I would like to access the same way as an object. I started reading Java Data Objects by Robin M. Roos (Addison-Wesley) and that got me on the right track. The book really motivated me ­ Mr. Roos described what could be achieved with JDO and I started thinking I could move mountains with this! The only thing that dampened my enthusiasm was the lack of detailed working examples that explained how I could migrate from JDBC to JDO without wanting to give up and look for something else. There was a lot of emphasis on the JDO API, which I don't have a problem with. Perhaps I just need to be motivated differently.

I believe there are so many software vendors offering the same type of product in the name of competition that we shy away from them and stick to what works for us, and business also dictates that there's not much time for research and development, which is also a shame. It makes life difficult for the evangelist and it makes it harder for us to adapt to the evolution of Java.

Christian evangelists found it easy to talk about what they believed in because they believed in it so much; it was so infectious that you had to start questioning whether there was truth in what was being said. The same goes for new technology: Is product XYZ really going to change how I program and improve my day-to-day operations? You have to learn how to weigh what you have heard or read and discern if it's right for you. On the opposite side of the coin, you can tell when someone is trying so hard to sell you a technology they have no faith in ­ it just never hits the mark.

To survive, Java and third-party APIs and applications need an evangelist to spark our enthusiasm to the same level that got us programming in Java in the first place. If this doesn't happen, we will get deflated over time and move on to something else that fires us up again. Now is the time for new Java evangelists to step forward. Preach it to me brother!

More Stories By Jason Bell

Jason Bell is founder of Aerleasing, a B2B auction site for the airline industry. He has been involved in numerous business intelligence companies and start ups and is based in Northern Ireland. Jason can be contacted at [email protected]

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