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Jolt Awards

12th Annual Jolt and Productivity Awards

If this year's judging debates over the finalists were a bit more pitched than they had been in recent memory, balance—or at least eclecticism—reigned in the end. Should Microsoft's heavily hyped offerings of the .NET framework, Visual Studio .NET and the C# language be included, given that they spent much of 2001 as betas and release candidates? The few judges in the traditionally vendor-agnostic group who had been actively using these products for most of the year won out.

Another heated discussion arose over the presence of ruled white index cards, nominated by a reader and subsequently widely mentioned on newsgroups. Would the presence of a diminutive, decades-old stationery item damage the gravitas of the Software Development Jolt Awards? Again, the editors found a happy medium, once the final votes were counted: Give index cards an honorary Productivity Award at the ceremony for representing a new-old way of thinking about requirements and communication. At the award ceremony held April 24, 2002 at the Software Development conference in San Jose, Calif. Senior Contributing Editor Scott Ambler came onstage to accept the "agile" award, hastily scrawled on a flip chart by Technical Editor John Reitano, to the audience's appreciative howls of laughter.

Sun Microsystems' Java 2 Enterprise Edition was a finalist in the frameworks category but came short of winning a Jolt Award, though it did pick up a Productivity Award plaque. Amid the strong sentiments that inevitably surround Microsoft, the judges focused on the truly grand scope of the .NET framework. While pieces of the Common Language Runtime and other components are arguably derivative of the virtual machine concepts made popular by Java, Microsoft was thinking big when it tied all these pieces together in a multilanguage fashion. Obviously, to what degree the world embraces .NET remains to be seen, but it would be shortsighted to ignore the scale of this four-year effort.

"Anybody who has been on the development end of a massive project knows the birth pains of bringing something like this to market," said John Montgomery, group product manager for the Microsoft .NET Developer Platform. "On behalf of the more than 1,000 developers, testers and program managers who worked on the .NET framework for almost four years, I can honestly say it's awards like this that make the effort worthwhile."

Steaming, Cleaning Java
Nevertheless, many of the world's mission-critical applications are now written in Java, so the language—and books and tools designed to optimize its use—were prominent among the finalists. Lee Garrison, vice president of marketing for Sitraka, accepted a Jolt for JProbe Suite in the Utilities category—and made sure to mention his company's engineers. "We started JProbe as a small project back in 1997—the early days of Java, remember?—when developers were having performance problems with their code, and we scratched our heads and said, hmm, maybe they need a profiling tool," Garrison reminisced in his acceptance speech. "Now, JProbe is, I dare say, the preferred tool of tens of thousands of developers around the world who are still working on performance problems on the server side with J2EE, but who are happily solving them with tools like JProbe."

Joshua Bloch, author of Effective Java (Addison-Wesley, 2001), leveraged his experience as a Java libraries architect for JavaSoft, then Sun Microsystems, to write a definitive guide to building robust Java applications. "I didn't expect to win this," he said as he held the Jolt statuette aloft. "Basically, this book summarizes the lessons learned in the first five years of Java platform development, so I want to share the award with two groups of people: all the fine engineers who helped build the platform and anybody who ever submitted a bug report against it."

Looking past the ephemeral technology questions, there's always the problem of keeping developers' heads above the chaos level. That's why Rational had the bright idea of packaging its deep knowledge of successful development processes—embodied in the company's well-known chief intellects—in the form of a browser-based Unified Process. While the tool is highly configurable and easy to use, the methodology it documents is quite extensive.

The Long Trip
In an indication of how far the venerable awards program now reaches, the creators of IntelliJ IDEA, the hottest Java IDE to hit the market in months, got a last-minute visa and made the 15-hour trip from Prague, Czech Republic, to the Silicon Valley just for the Wednesday-night gala. Eugene Belyaev, CTO, and Serguei Dmitriev, CEO of JetBrains (formerly IntelliJ), found that their journey hadn't been for naught.

A gaggle of Google geeks made a much shorter foray from Mountain View to the San Jose Convention Center to receive a Jolt for Google Groups. After Google Product Manager Marissa Mayer thanked the judges, she introduced software engineer Michael Schmitt, "the technical lead who really brought Google Groups to life and gathered the 20-year archive from around the globe." "We're very honored to receive this award," said Schmitt, "especially since the competition are sites that focus primarily on developer productivity. There are very many uses of Google Groups that are good, but you can also waste a lot of time browsing through it, so we are very honored that we still got the award."

The Hall of Fame
Finally, it was time to roll out the biggest honor of the evening. Since TurboPascal came out in 1983, Borland has been releasing smart, efficient developer tools that have gained quite a following. Delphi, for example, has an almost fanatical user community. And JBuilder has won year after year in the Software Development Jolt Awards. In addition to giving Productivity Awards to Delphi 6, Kylix 2 and JBuilder, the judges felt that the company should be inducted into the Software Development Hall of Fame for its consistent performance.

Readers propose; judges dispose.

After sending a call to submit nominations to 90,000 Software Development readers, the editors received a record 700-plus nominations for books, tools and Web sites via a form posted at www.sdmagazine.com. The judges discussed the nominees and selected 49 finalists through a blind vote. They evaluated those products in depth before conducting another vote to select the winners. Many of these distinguished judges have participated in the Software Development Jolt Awards for more than a decade. They are:

Scott Ambler
Warren Keuffel
Andy Barnhart
Chris Minnick
Hugh Bawtree
Larry O'Brien
Andrew Binstock
Dana Cline
Roland Racko
John Reitano
Bob DelRossi
Guy Scharf
Gary Evans
Rick Wayne
Stan Kelly-Bootle
Alexandra Weber Morales
Alan Zeichick

The Software Development Jolt Product Excellence and Productivity Awards are cosponsored by the Rochester, New York-based WetPlanet Beverages. Jolt, "the most powerful cola," is the fabled soft drink quaffed by software programmers to get them through prolonged development projects. The awards are presented annually at the Software Development Conference & Expo in San Jose, Calif.

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