NetBeans Evangelists Look Back

As part of the NetBeans tenth birthday celebration, we asked some former members of the NetBeans Evangelism team to look back at some of their favorite memories from the past.

We start with Judith Lilienfeld, who was the Director of Evangelism for the NetBeans team, and remembers: "Engineering came to me asking for a 'cool name' for their new GUI/Layout Builder. I had been working on NetBeans for around six months then. Engineers are like most people: they want your input - but only if it matches their expectations. :-) There were long email threads about whether we should use artist names that evoke emotions, or descriptive names, or a more abstract notion.

"They even created a wiki page with all the possibilities. I eventually convinced them (or maybe they grew tired of arguing with me) that the name should be Project Matisse. I liked using Matisse because his artistic images are very fluid and he even did layout work later in his career. And before you knew it everyone was calling it Project Matisse. After that, I got a little 'street cred' with engineering and they listened to me a bit more... but just a bit. It helps that they delivered great functionality which was part of what really helped bring in new NetBeans users."

Judith is currently the Director of Evangelism for OpenSolaris.
Judith Lilienfeld and Tori Wieldt
Judith Lilienfeld
Roman Strobl
Roman Strobl
The growth of NetBeans is something that Roman Strobl also commented on: "When I started to work on NetBeans back in 2004 almost no one was using it. I remember some of my friends actually made fun of me for using NetBeans, because they thought the tool was much worse than any other IDE on the market. Using NetBeans in 2004 or before felt almost like being an underground developer.

"I even knew about several companies where developers used NetBeans but they didn't tell their managers because they wouldn't approve usage of NetBeans at that time. Boy, times have changed in the last 4 years!

Today, people are very excited to learn about the newest features of NetBeans and the public perception has changed from 'slow, ugly and not feature complete' to 'innovative, cool and fast.' The growth in the community has been fantastic - I wish a happy 10th birthday to NetBeans - the product has come a very very long way," said Strobl.

Roman now works as an OpenSolaris evangelist.

Evangelizing NetBeans often meant lengthy trips to foreign countries. Tim Boudreau made many of those trips, and one of his most memorable was his first trip to Brazil, in which he describes: "In 2005, Charlie Hunt and I went to Brazil for the first time. We didn't know just how last-minute some events are organized there. We'd been told we would do a talk at an event on Thursday, and then deliver some training the following week. I met Bruno Souza for the first time before our talk.

"I asked him what we would be doing the following week. He said 'Oh, we don't have you scheduled for anything.' We were a bit upset, thinking, we flew all the way to Brazil to give a 1/2 hour talk?! We looked in to flying back after the weekend. On Monday morning, I wake up in my hotel room to the phone ringing. It was Charlie: ''You're not gonna' believe this. We're scheduled to do eight hours of training today, eight more tomorrow, and eight more on Wednesday! We need to be at the university in an hour.'

"We had nothing prepared, since we'd planned to use Friday through Sunday to prepare for the following week, but held off after finding out we weren't scheduled for anything. So, we got in a taxi with our laptops and planned out the first day of training on the road to the university. Then we tag-teamed for the next three days - one of us would teach for an hour while the other invented the next hour of training. It actually worked and we had fun doing it!" These days, Tim's life is a bit less hectic as the Development lead for Java ME tools.

Bruno's recollection of that trip is a bit different. He suspects a mis-communication was responsible for Tim and Charlie initially thinking that no event was scheduled. In any case, Bruno was instrumental in many events, as he recalls: "Even before I joined the NetBeans team, I worked together with the NetBeans Evangelists on several tours to visit Java User Groups around Brazil, and it was always a big hit with the developers, and lots of fun.

"But it was when I joined the team that we decided to do a tour of four South American countries! We visited many cities doing a full day of talks about open source, NetBeans, and OpenSolaris, and once went from playing soccer in Uruguay (and losing badly) to eating loads of meat and then rolling down sand dunes in Brazil. During those two weeks, we had almost no sleep, and had to run after airplanes, buses, and taxis because we were always late.

"I was also the group's camera man; I recorded all the details of a particularly bad day, which eventually became a funny video on After all that, I got on a plane and went to Russia to meet more developers. That was a crazy, memorable couple of weeks!" Bruno is still active in the open source world, working in a group at Sun that does worldwide open source community gardening: "helping open source communities grow and bloom."
Bruno Souza
Bruno Souza

Tim Boudreau
Tim Boudreau

David Botterill
David Botterill
All these efforts were about one thing: getting the word out about NetBeans. One of the unique projects was the "NetBeans Mobile" cross-country journey. Tim was the owner, mechanic, and pilot, but the promotional idea was the brainchild of David Botterill, who recalls: "I remember when Tim sent out a picture of his moving 'truck' that he had purchased, an old ice cream truck. It looked like the van that Borat drove to Hollywood. I quickly opened GIMP and placed a large NetBeans logo on the side and called it the 'NetBeans Mobile.'

"I told him he should drive it across the U.S. and advertise NetBeans along the way with a webcam and a GPS device to track his journey. In addition to logos on the sides, maybe paint 'How's my developing? For comments visit' on the back of the truck. Well, Tim went for the idea and Judith approved. And the journey of the NetBeans Mobile ended up being a historic moment."

David is still coming up with unique ideas as the Technical Manager for Sun's Campus Ambassador program.

Transportation figured in to one of Gregg Sporar's favorite memories as well: "We were in Prague during the celebration of the launch of NetBeans 5.5. Everyone attended a big party that was in a part of the city with which I was not familiar. I left at the same time as Judith and another member of our team, Ashwin Rao. We had been told to take the number 26 tram because it would end up going right by our hotel.

"We walked to the tram stop and after just a few minutes we got lucky: a number 26 came by, so we got on. There was a sign in the window of the tram that said something in Czech, but since we none of us could read it, we had no choice but to ignore it. The tram rumbled along for a while, making stops and the passenger load got smaller and smaller. Eventually, it was just the three of us and the driver. He pulled into a tram stop, turned off the tram, and then came back to us and said: 'Finito.'

"It was late and dark and we did not know where we were. But clearly that particular tram was not going to get us back to the hotel. So we got on a tram going in the opposite direction. As we went by the different stops, I was trying to read the names, and got confused because every stop seemed to have the same name. Then I figured out I was looking at the 'No Smoking' sign instead of the name of the stop. We did eventually find our way back and we learned to watch out for those tram signs that apparently say: 'Going out of service.'"

Gregg still takes trams, these days as a Technology Evangelist on the OpenSolaris team.
Gregg Sporar
Gregg Sporar

Ashwin Rao
Ashwin Rao

Brian Leonard
Brian Leonard

All of these stories have a similar element: no one got hurt. The same came not be said in the wake of Brian Leonard, however, as he explains:

"At a NetBeans presentation we love to throw t-shirts into the crowd. I tend to roll the t-shirts up tight with elastic bands so they're about the size of a baseball, which allows me to reach the folks in the back of the room. They're also, however, much harder to catch, usually ricocheting off fingers before being caught. This is usually entertaining (at least for me) and especially so at one conference in Florida that had pitchers of water on the tables.

"Folks were getting splashed as the t-shirts were deflected into the pitchers of water. This only seemed to get the crowd more excited. I had to stop when one person fell back in his chair, which landed on the foot of the woman behind him, who was wearing sandals. After the presentation, she tracked me down to show me the welt on her foot. I felt so sorry for her, but she didn't seem to mind given the amount of fun she was having."

These days, Brian is still throwing t-shirts, but now for OpenSolaris.

NetBeans Evanglism and Web Team
The NetBeans Web and Evangelism Team circa 2006. From left: Ruth Kusterer, Jan Pirek, Jack Catchpoole, Brian Leonard, Judith Lilienfeld, Roman Strobl, Tim Boudreau, Tori Wieldt, Bruno Souza, David Botterill, Gregg Sporar and Ashwin Rao.

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