Careers: Interviews
JAVA Expert Andy Longshaw

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Andy Longshaw, one of the authors of SAMS Teach Yourself J2EE in 21 Days with EJB, JSP, Servlets, JNDI, JDBC, and XML. Andy is an internationally known consultant, writer, educator, design and architecture guru specializing in J2EE, XML, .NET, Web-based technologies and components.

The other authors include: Martin Bond, Dan Haywood, Debbie Law, and Peter Roxburgh. Each of the authors is an international expert in application development, deployment, consulting, training, and technical writing. We were able to catch up with them at Content Masters Ltd., a technical authoring company in the UK specializing in the production of training and educational materials — http://www.contentmaster.com

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Q: Your combined accomplishments are staggering. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
A: You are most welcome.


Q: I reviewed your most informative and useful book. What led you to write this masterful work?
A: J2EE is a large subject - both broad and deep. It can be quite daunting for beginners to know where to start. Having "grown up" with J2EE over the years you don't really notice this yourself for a time until you become aware of a knowledge gap. I normally see this at conferences when I'm giving sessions on subjects such as J2EE Patterns and some of the people I talk to are really keen to learn but their understanding is quite patchy in some basic areas of J2EE.


Q: What ten or more tips can you provide from the book and about developing in the Java space?
A: They are:
 
  1. Gain at least enough understanding about each of the parts of J2EE that you could give an "elevator pitch" (60 second lowdown) on it.
     
  2. Keep looking for patterns and best practices in books and email lists or newsgroups.
     
  3. Start getting a grounding in the essentials of Web Services (SOAP, WSDL, etc.).
     
  4. Be clear on what the different types of EJB give you and use each appropriately.
     
  5. Don't use Entity EJBs "just because they are there" or they'll look good on your CV.
     
  6. Don't use EJBs at all if you don't need them.
     
  7. Find a good IDE and get it to generate as much code as possible. Writing from scratch is fun when you are learning but painful when developing.
     
  8. Choose your application server with care. The money you save on buying it could be lost on days of struggling with a cheaper one. However, cost is not the only indicator of quality - check out the newsgroups to see what people say about it.
     
  9. Get a broad education - if you get a chance to look at other platforms (such as .NET) then try to do so with an open mind.
     
  10. Find the right sweet spot for J2EE in your organization. J2EE is aimed at commercial applications (N-tier, web-oriented, etc.), so don't try to use it to solve every problem.

Q: How would you contrast enterprise development in Java versus .NET and is there a winner? What do you see for the future of both development environments?
A: The biodiversity of the Java world in terms of IDEs and application servers means that there is healthy competition but it does fragment things somewhat. In the .NET world, the use of Visual Studio .NET (by most developers ) and the single .NET framework does make it easier to exchange information and code.

I don't see a "winner" since both environments have their pros and cons. Also, when the "brave new world" of Web Services arrives, it will be less relevant which platform they are running on. Just don't hold your breath…


Q: Can you describe your work at Content Masters and where you see this company evolving in the short and long term?
A: Content Master provides a stream of varied and interesting writing work - from complete books down to individual whitepapers. It provides me with a useful outlet for knowledge that I have built up. As Content Master uses a mixture of fulltime and associate writers, there are very few topics that we cannot find an experienced author to write on.


Q: Describe future book titles and articles can we expect from you?
A: I tend to be quite eclectic in my output. I am currently writing a book on .NET development and an article on Web Services for Pearson's informit.com.


Q: Can you describe some of the projects that you have worked on and what tips you can pass on?
A: I think that the best tip from all project work is "don't trust the marketing, try the tools". A bit of technical architecture work up front can save a lot of tears later.


Q: What are ten or more traps or pitfalls that developers should be wary of and avoid?
A: I'd probably refer you back to the previous answer.


Q: Can you share your leading career tips for those thinking of getting into the computing field?
A: They are:
 
  • Get a good grounding in OO fundamentals
     
  • Learn UML
     
  • Learn one of the curly-bracket languages such as Java or C# - it will stand you in good stead.
     
  • Learn XML
     
  • Have at least a passing acquaintance with SQL
     
  • Read as much as you can on design and patterns
     
  • Remember that you are writing systems for real people to use
     
  • Don't be afraid to say "I don't understand"

Q: What are the hottest topics that all IT professionals must know to be successful in the short term and long term?
A: UML, XML, Web Service principles


Q: What would be your recommended top ten references for the serious developer?
A: They are:
 
  • J2EE Patterns (Crupi, Alur, Malks)
     
  • Java Server Programming J2EE 1.3 edition (Wrox Press)
     
  • UML Distilled (Martin Fowler)
     
  • Refactoring (Martin Fowler)
     
  • Extreme Programming Explained (Kent Beck)
     
  • Design Patterns (Gamma et al.)
     
  • http://www.google.com - rarely fails me, especially Google groups

Q: If you were doing this interview, what four questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?
A: Probably some of the above.


Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you like to give to enterprise corporations and organizations?
A: Take time to think up-front, but think by writing code and trying things rather than writing copious documents. Also, find a good modeling tool.


Q: Thank you for sharing your valuable insights with us today and we look forward to reading your books, and articles.
A: You're welcome


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