Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

Let's Do Better

Let's Do Better

There's a J2EE tie-in. I promise.

A fellow user mentioned something the other day about using libraries in Java. He said, and I paraphrase, that he simply didn't feel comfortable using a library if it couldn't be explained in one page. For the sake of argument, I'll assume he didn't mean one 400K page.

I'm not sure I wholly agree with his statement, but his point is well taken. When I look for a tool, I want that tool to have a very clear purpose and documentation. A name should be an easily associated mnemonic, perhaps a direct tie-in to purpose, and the documentation should allow the user to quickly get a sense of not only what the product does, but how and why, too.

Some examples of good product names, in my opinion: EXML, RSSLibJ, commons-httpclient. Some bad ones: commons-digester, maven, blissed. I'm not saying the ones named well are great products; I have my reservations about them, even the one I co-authored. Nor am I saying the products whose names I dislike are not good products: I'm simply saying that their names don't help you associate the products with what they're for.

I think virtually everyone understands the problem of good documentation: you'd be hard-pressed to find any programmer who hasn't gone to some project's documentation, read for a while, and come away scratching her head with no clearer picture than she had before. Maybe that's happened with popular projects - I know that some of my own general-purpose projects are still "blessed" with obscure docs.

I'm hardly exempt from the problem of documentation. I'm a fairly abstract thinker in a lot of ways, and a "big thinker," so I have a tendency to solve problems in abstract ways, making things harder to explain. It's happened a number of times in my career that I've intuitively architected a solution and been unable to explain it to the teams around me... until later, when the problems my solution addressed manifested themselves. (True story: one team refused to take my solution as anything more than the rantings of a mad hatter, and chose to use a simpler, more straightforward architecture. Months later, when the localization problem I was trying to solve became apparent, they - and I - realized that I'd been on the right track all along, and we ended up going back to the plan I'd suggested first. I've never had a deserved reputation as a great communicator.)

My difficulties are directly related to my mode of thought because I tend to be a bit scattered and draw technical material from a lot of sources related to the humanities. I can shrug and say, with a light sprinkling of seriousness, that I'm an artiste and can't be held to reasonable expectations. That said, I don't see that same scattershot approach in every project, so why do so many of them have poor or unclear documentation? We're nominally engineers; why can't we approach our solutions from an engineer's cut-and-dry viewpoint and say, "Here's the problem; here's a solution; here's why this solution was chosen; here's how to make it go"?

I don't have a clear answer. If I did, I'm sure my own wider-scoped projects would have better documentation. I can just use that programmer's statement about a one-page document as a guide limning my path, and as a measuring stick that I can hold my own documents up to. Is the document as short as it can be? Does the document have a premise? Is it directly answering that premise? If I was reading it without foreknowledge of the subject matter, would I be able to understand what the document was trying to say? Would it contain useful references to other documents to give me the bits outside of the basic premise?

I know that I sound like a professor of language, asking those who write to approach the task as if it were a craft. I imagine many are shuddering with bad memories of college essays, thinking you'd gotten away from crafting term papers and theses. Well, you have - I don't ask anyone to write a doctorate-level paper when all you are trying to do is tell someone how to write a Webwork interceptor. However, the basic skills still apply - who, what, when, where, why, and how. Without these being at the very least addressed and discarded, a document will always sound vaguely unfocused, and that's torture for your readers.

By now, you're reading this wondering why a Java Enterprise editor is lecturing on basic documentation skills. I promised a tie-in, and here it is: recently, Tod Nielsen (executive VP of BEA) wrote a missive I disagreed with about the future of J2EE being predicated on clarity and simplicity. I saw his point, but I think he's reacting to the lack of effective writing on the industry's part. We write complex systems and don't bother to explain them in simple ways, so we're left perceiving their complexity, and people who aren't interested in complexity for complexity's sake just don't care. Donald Knuth imagined literate programs as programs that you would read, sitting by a fire with a glass of something enjoyable handy. If architectures were designed with this kind of perusal in mind, think of the future time spent maintaining them: it'd be a joy, comparatively, and Mr. Nielsen's plea for a simpler API would sit unneeded.

We need to work on our communications, all of them. Our systems, regardless of their underpinnings, need to be explained in simple, clear terms. Anything less dooms us to the amateurism of which our industrial competitors accuse us.

Let's do better.

More Stories By Joseph Ottinger

I am a software evangelist for GigaSpaces technologies, as well as a writer and musician. I've been the editor-in-chief of Java Developer's Journal and TheServerSide.

GigaSpaces Technologies is a leading provider of a new generation of application platforms for Java and .Net environments that offer an alternative to traditional application-servers. The company's eXtreme Application Platform (XAP) is a high-end application server, designed to meet the most demanding business requirements in a cost-effective manner. It is the only product that provides a complete middleware solution on a single, scalable platform. XAP is trusted by Fortune 100 companies, which leverage it as a strategic solution that enhances efficiency and agility across the IT organization.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web ...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, will share examples from a wide range of industries – includin...
"We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, provided an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data professionals...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Onalytica. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to simplify and streamline our lives by automating routine tasks that distract us from our goals. This promise is based on the ubiquitous deployment of smart, connected devices that link everything from industrial control systems to automobiles to refrigerators. Unfortunately, comparatively few of the devices currently deployed have been developed with an eye toward security, and as the DDoS attacks of late October 2016 have demonstrated, this oversight can ...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to impr...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.