One Delphi Developer's Road to BorCon 2001

From: Matthew Mead

This summer, I had the good fortune of being present at the Borland Developers Conference in Long Beach, CA, USA. It was my first BorCon and I was quite impressed. Of course, I have nothing to compare it to, except for my own expectations of what BorCon should be like. For those of you that have been to previous conferences, your opinions may vary. As for myself, it turned out to be one of the most influential activities that I attended this year. So much so that I am already making plans to attend next year's conference in Anaheim, CA, USA, and I urge everyone else to do the same.

Oh, but if it were just that easy to say "Yeah, I think I'll go to BorCon next year..." But, as many of us are aware, the conference presents its own set of obstacles to be overcome, whether they be financial, scheduling, etc. My hurdles tend to be on the financial end. If you attend the conference for all five days, by the time you add up the cost of admission, travel, and lodging, you can end up with a bill for around US$3000, not to mention the week or so you've been away from the office.

It's no secret that there is a widespread economic slowdown in the tech sector these days. When budgets are tight, one of the first expenses that is given the ax is conference attendance. Some companies may scale back to sending only one or two developers, while many may choose to send none at all. I found myself in the latter category: my budget didn't include the added expense of a attending an out-of-state conference. (I should be so lucky as many Borland customers are out of the country.) Well then, how did I manage to fit the conference in the budget? Simple. I became part of the conference.

Call For Papers

Last year, I responded to Borland's Call For Papers for BorCon 2001. I submitted an abstract describing the work I had done for Project JEDI. This work was the translation of the Java Native Interface API from Sun Microsystems, Inc. For those unfamiliar with the JNI API, it is an interface that allows Delphi to access Java code and vice versa. I had also created a few detailed tutorials and included them with the translation.

I thought that this subject would be interesting to other Delphi and/or Java developers, so I submitted the idea to Borland in the hopes of being admitted as a speaker at the conference. A few weeks later I received an email from Borland indicating that my paper had been accepted as a 'CD only' paper. This meant that it would be included on the conference CD, but due to the limited number of sessions, I wouldn't be speaking during a session at the conference.

I would have liked to present the topic during one of the sessions, but at least the paper gave me free admission into the conference, which was one of my goals.

In addition to free admission into the three-day conference, speakers (as well as authors) are invited to attend any four of the pre-conference tutorials that are held on Saturday and Sunday before the actual start of the conference. Each tutorial session lasted about four hours, which, depending on the topic, can be sufficiently long to gain a good deal of understanding.

As someone with a constant and insatiable craving for knowledge, I was very pleased that the pre-conference tutorials were included in the package (which saved me another few hundred dollars). This was a nice bonus on top of the free admission into the conference during the week. All in all, a pretty nice compensation package for writing a paper for the conference.

Putting Things in Perspective

If there was one feeling that I had that seemed to stand out more than others, it was the feeling of belonging; a connection. When speaking with people about my experiences with Borland tools, and Delphi in particular, I find it necessary to qualify my experiences.

The fact is that I live and work in Redmond, WA, USA, which is not a showcase for Borland technologies. Living inside the Microsoft bubble can, at times, be frustrating. Even to the point where I find myself doubting the capabilities of Delphi or Borland itself. This self-doubt is completely unwarranted because in my professional career of 15 years, I have never failed to complete a project on time and on budget while using Borland tools. Yet, the doubts still remain. It is partly due, I believe, to the propaganda principle that if you repeat something often enough, people will eventually come to believe it as the truth. In my world, I am constantly barraged with "facts" that say Microsoft's way is the best (if not the only) way to go. (After all, 3 million VB programmers can't be wrong!) After a while, one begins to question his choices.

However, after spending the week with hundreds of other folks who have independently arrived at the same conclusions regarding modern software development, I am (once again) fully convinced that I have been using the proper tools for my development efforts. As such, I plan to continue looking and moving forward with Borland and Delphi.

The week I spent "hanging out" with other Delphi developers gave me a better perspective on things, and, for me, this turned out to be one of the most important aspects of the conference.

Project JEDI Wins "Spirit of Delphi" Award

At Monday night's "Meet the Delphi/Kylix Team" session, a surprising event occurred. David Intersimone announced Project JEDI as this year's recipient of the "Spirit of Delphi" award. David made a request to the JEDI members in the audience to please stand up.

I, and a handful of others, stood up in the crowd of a few hundred people and were met with enthusiastic applause.

If that wasn't already enough excitement, the icing on the cake came when the team of 20 or so Delphi/Kylix developers on stage rose from their seats and joined in the applause. It was certainly a proud moment for all of JEDI, past and present. I couldn't help but feel a little guilty that I, a relatively new member of JEDI, was present in the crowd while many long time contributors were unable to be there in person to accept their well-deserved kudos.

However, this unexpected celebration of Project JEDI, an "organization" that contributes so much to the Delphi community and asks for nothing in return, underscores the importance of the group's efforts and the people involved. After speaking with several people at the conference, it is pretty clear that all serious Delphi developers understand the significance of Project JEDI and certainly hope that it continues to grow.

When word of the award got back to the JEDI Team, there was a lot of excitement on the newsgroups. One of the topics of discussion was how difficult it is for many members of JEDI to attend the conference. I was fortunate in that Borland granted me free admission in exchange for a paper detailing my JEDI-related work. I still had to pay for the travel and hotel, but in these times, I felt it was a fair compromise. Had I been afforded the opportunity to speak, I would have paid for nothing.

So, if you are one of the unfortunate ones that can't afford to attend BorCon, you may want to seriously consider participating in the Call For Papers for BorCon 2002.

The deadline for an abstract for next year's conference is August 31, 2001, so you don't have a lot of time. Note that this deadline is for submitting an abstract about your topic. The final paper itself isn't due until March, 2002. Consult Borland's website for all of the details about submissions and also for the benefits you receive upon acceptance.

Hope to see you in Anaheim in 2002!

Matthew Mead, August 2001