This week I attended JavaZone 2007 - two days, Rammsund, more than 2000 participants, no boring keytalks, free food and drinks, 6 tracks and 1 hour talks. Long days and no breaks, still plenty of opportunities to mingle with friends, strike up a conversation with the speakers and establish new connections. This is by far the most valuable developer conference that I know of, even for non-Java developers (I am doing mostly C++ these days).
I have been to JavaZone every year since 2003. The first two years as member of javaBin and one of the core organizers. It has grown from a small one-day happening with 350 participants into a big two day conference with more than 2000 participants. While most conferences seems to grow and/or degrade into something useless after a few years, JavaZone is growing while getting just better and better for each year - I am really impressed. It seems like the core values of the event has remained more or less unchanged during the years. The event is completely controlled by a group of enthusiasts (javaBin). Commercial sponsors are very welcome but they do not control any aspect of the conference. This is a hard core conference made by developers for developers. Great stuff!
But, if I have to single out the three main reasons why JavaZone is such a success, I guess everybody with some insight will agree when I say: Thor Henning Hetland (Totto), Stein Grimstad and Carl Onstad. With help from a lot of extremely able and willing people of course, they have created one of the best developer conferences in the world. I know them well, they are incredible personalities and great people to work for. After 6 years, Totto and Stein have decided to step down and let somebody else take over JavaZone. It will be interesting to see what happens, but there are several very capable candidates in javaBin that can take over their roles. My guess is that as long as the core values defined by Totto and Stein remains, JavaZone will continue to succeed. I am already looking forward to JavaZone 2008.