The Master of 33degree--Interview With Grzegorz Duda

What was your first computer? When was it?

The first one was Atari 65XE. It was around 1988 and I was 10 years old. The first PC was 286 XT. It was around 1991-1992.

What was your first programming language? Do you remember your first program?

Sure. After being so impressed by River Ride, Boulder Dash and Karateka I decided to write something from scratch. So, I opened Bajtek (Polish magazine about games and computers) and... start transferring very cryptic lines of Atari Basic from paper to Atari. It was around 100 lines and the result was... very disappointing. So, I moved back to playing games instead of trying to write them. I come back to programming after I got PC. My first language was Turbo Pascal. It was awesome...

Why do you like Java?

I learned Java very late. I had to prepare client-server application (it was Monopoly game) as a final project for one class at the University. I have chosen Java, because I was able to use my PC with Windows and make sure the application will work on Unix as well. I got best grade for the project, so I keep going with Java. Now I love Java because of very strong community, diversity of solutions and wide range of tools and libraries. You choose what you want, and you can learn new thing every day and you will never be done with learning.

What is your favorite IDE?

Whenever I can I use Intellij IDEA. My current work project is based on Eclipse RCP, so I use Eclipse as well. And recently NetBeans is getting a lot of support, so it is on my list to re-check in near future.

How many conferences do you already organized? How you got the idea to become a conference organizer?

Let me count. 4 editions of COOLuary - the first UnConference in Poland, NYAC - Not Yet Another Conference, GeeCON 2009 and 3 editions of 33rd Degree. I was also helping to choose speakers and talks for JDD and 4Developers, however it doesn't count as being an organizer.

I have started as a conference participant at Jazoon, Javapolis and JavaOne and I saw how much our local JDD conference is different from those events. So, I start with organizing lightning talks at JDD to make it more vibrant. Then, together with Radek and Adrian from Polish JUG we decided to start new, better conference in Poland - GeeCON. In 2010 I left GeeCON and in 2011 I have started 33rd Degree, as my vision of the conference was different than other GeeCON organizers.

Why there are so many, sometimes overlapping, conferences in Poland? Is it a JavaLand? :-)

Polish Java conference calendar is very busy, so it may look like competition. However, last year both 33rd Degree and GeeCON were sold out, both with more than 600 participants. We are struggling as there is not so many big conferences venues in Poland. As we can't get bigger conference venue, it is great to have so many different conferences that everybody can attend.

Based on Tholons report Krakow is second best IT offsourcing destination in Europe and tenth in the whole world. So having many IT events is very understandable. Welcome in JavaLand :)

I like the name "33degree". What is the story behind that?

The story is not so compelling :) I read Dan Brown "The Lost Symbol" book and I learned that 33rd Degree is the highest rank among masons. So I thought it is good name for learning platform or something similar. When I started preparation to the conference, I haven't had better name so I had to use 33rd Degree. 33rd Degree conference is targeted for very experienced developers who wants to get secret Java wisdom and achieve highest rank of the Java developers ;)

How many attendees are expected?

First edition in 2011 we had 340 participants, a year later it was 670 people (sold out 1 month before conference). This year we moved from Krakow to Warsaw, and we expect around 800-900 participants. I thought we can reach the upper limit of 1200 people (900 Full Conference + 300 Economy Track only). However Economy Track that was targeted for JUG members and other people who can't pay whole registration fee (it was only 50 EUR for 3 days of talks) didn't work out as expected. Looks like Polish Java developers has good enough salaries to pay full registration fee. There is just 14 people registered for Economy Track now instead of expected 200-300. It was worth trying. Next year I will try something else to bring more people to 33rd Degree.

What makes 33degree unique?

Our motto says that "A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study". So we put a lot of effort to get the best speakers, the wise men, we can. Great speakers and great talks is our priority. We prefer to get one more great speaker than pay for a bit more comfortable chairs and wider screens. Our first and second editions didn't have t-shirts and mugs, as we spent most of the very limited budget to help speakers with travel and accommodation. And it pays back. Great feedback I receive personally or through blogs from participants is very energizing.

Most of the speakers are also either well known speakers with established reputation and well known quality of talks or self selected by me or guaranteed by best friends. We are also not selling slots for sponsors. This leads to the best possible content. One of the participants said: "That was definitely the best conference in Poland and one of the best conference in the world Iíve ever attended (and Iíve attended quite a few including JavaOne, Devoxx, EclipseCon, Agile, etc.)".

Another unique thing is the team of organizers. It is probably the only event for so many people that is organized by 1 person. This year one colleague helped me review call 4 papers submissions and second one is helping me organize Speakers' Dinner as I do not know Warsaw very well. And there is of course my wife who is helping me as much as she can. However, most of the work is done by me in my free time.

A few years ago, you started a Java exPress. What is it? Any future plans?

This is another project I have started, because what we had in Poland was really far from how it should looks like. The quality of the only magazine for Java developers in Poland was very bad. And in addition it cost a lot. So I created Java exPress to deliver quality articles to Polish readers. We had even idea to translate it to English (and some issues were translated). Then I stopped publishing for o while to focus on 1st edition of 33rd Degree. In the meantime, Polish magazine became free (I am pretty sure it changed because of Java exPress). And now we have even free Java Magazine. So the mission of Java exPress is done. I have couple ideas how I can transform it something remarkable again, however right now 33rd Degree is consuming all of my free time.

Do you have some top secret plans, you would like to share with a small, self-selected group of readers :-)?

One of my friend told me I should do smaller event in... Vienna :). Another one wants us to put together an event on open source and mobile in autumn. I personally have 3-4 very cool mobile projects in mind that are waiting for me to have a bit more free time. So, after 15th March I will decide what should be the next thing.

Any final words?

Thanks for this interview. I am very honored that my projects are seen as something important and worth spreading the word by The Adam Bien. I would like to invite all readers to meet you and me in person at 33rd Degree. Join us on 13-15 March in Warsaw, Poland.


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