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Results from the 2004 ONJava Reader Survey Results from the 2004 ONJava Reader Survey

by Chris Adamson

To better understand our OnJava readers, we recently asked you to tell us a little about yourselves -- who you are, what you do, and how you do it -- in the 2004 ONJava Reader Survey. Editor Daniel Steinberg described it as being similar to an agile process, saying that "we can better serve a client (you, our reader) when the client is included early and often in the feedback loop."

The major two incentives we offered were that we would publish a summary of the results and we would use all of the feedback to help shape ONJava in the coming year. Thank you to the 768 people who completed survey responses during the week that the survey was posted. We joked that we were competing with the Mac DevCenter to see whose survey would receive the most responses. They were able to get more respondents by keeping their survey open much longer than ours. Check out Derrick Story's summary of the results of the Mac DevCenter survey.

Who You Are and What You Do

Almost a quarter of those responding to the ONJava survey say that they visit the site every day. Asked how often you visit ONJava.com, 31 percent of you said you checked out the site weekly. Another 24 percent checked the site daily, and 22 percent beyond that said they checked it out more than once a week. Only 20 percent visited less frequently than once a week.

We were also reassured to find that the overwhelming majority of our audience are the developers we target. 69 percent of the respondents said "programmer/developer" is their primary job function. Beyond this, the most popular roles were "consultant/integrator" (9 percent) and "project manager/leader" (7 percent). Among the "Other" responses, we heard from a number of architects and analysts. This confirmed that we should continue to focus on developer-oriented articles.

We asked what languages and technologies you work with, and of course nearly everyone said Java (98 percent). As for what else you use, 81 percent of you said XML, 79 percent said SQL, and 60 percent said Apache. Many of you also integrate scripting languages into your work: Perl (28 percent), PHP (20 percent), and Python (14 percent). 23 percent of you use C and/or C++ in addition to Java, while 11 percent also use C#.

Thank you for supplementing the options we provided in the survey by writing in other languages and technologies. The most cited technologies in this write-in vote were Ruby, JavaScript, and HTML. Also appearing were a number of databases (Sybase, MySQL, and PostgreSQL), possibly meant in response to our use of a specific database option, Oracle, in the available responses. We also got a few responses for ancient languages like Fortran, Ada, and Lisp; are you folks using Java as a bridge to legacy systems? Cool!

We found the demographic section of the survey quite interesting in providing a mental picture of our many kinds of readers. Asked the size of your company, the most popular result was the small "1 to 50"-person company (35 percent), followed by the large 2,500+ person company (23 percent). Industry-wise, a quarter of you reported working in computer software, followed by consulting and system integration at 10 percent, "Internet/web/e-commerce" at 9 percent, and the rest spread across a number of industries.

More than half of our readers have been using Java for three to five years, with the rest approximately split between less than two years and more than six. But in terms of overall professional software development experience, a third have been doing it for three to five years and another third have been at it from six to nine years. This suggests a lot of our readers started out with other languages and have picked up Java as it emerged. Looking at the extremes, it's also cool to see we have a pocket (7 percent) of readers who've been at this for two years or less, and just as many who've been developing for 20 years or more.

61 percent of you are between 25 and 34 years old, with another 22 percent aged 35 to 44. A little less than half of you are in the United States, with another 6 percent in Canada. Europe accounts for 32 percent of our readership, with the rest of the readership spread across the globe.

What You Use

There was a healthy variety of operating systems reported in our questions about what you develop on and what you deploy on. 86 percent of you develop on Windows, 58 percent on Linux, 21 percent on Solaris, 16 percent on Unix, and 14 percent on Mac OS X. It looks like a lot of our readers have two boxes -- or emulators -- on their desks, given the implicit level of multi-platform development. As for deployment, Linux was a target for 69 percent of our readers, as was Windows, followed by Solaris at 37 percent, Unix at 29 percent, and Mac OS X at 10 percent. The idea of more people developing on Windows than deploying to it suggests a lot of web application or other server-side development being done on Win desktops and then shipped off to other systems for production. It's also interesting to note Mac OS X pulling development and deployment numbers several times the platform's supposed market share, although it is puzzling that a greater percent of development happens on a Mac than deployment.

4 percent chose "Other" for a development OS, and 7 percent said they deployed to something other than the choices we offered. Of these responses, AIX was far and away the most popular response, so much so that we should probably make that one of the choices next year. A few other IBM operating systems, notably AS/400, also appeared in the results.

Eclipse was the clear winner among IDEs, with 62 percent of readers saying that they used it. Next, at 29 percent, was the "none" option preferred by those who use emacs, vi, or another text editor along with a command line. IntelliJ was next at 20 percent, followed by Netbeans at 16 percent. The "Other" option, 16 percent of the responses, included Visual SlickEdit, vim, Visual Studio, Gel, and XCode.

Among non-IDE tools, it's probably safe to say that ant is now a standard for Java development, since 94 percent of you reported using it. The credo of test-driven development also seems to be widely held by the ONJava community, with 72 percent saying they use JUnit. XDoclet was cited by 30 percent, with JMeter, Cactus, and Maven attracting somewhat smaller amounts of use.

The 15 percent that said they used some other non-IDE tools gave us about a hundred other options to think about. HTTPUnit was the most popular of these, with only a few other tools -- including Hibernate, make, cvs, and JFCUnit -- getting multiple mentions.

When we asked what web servers and application servers you use, "Other" was the third most popular response at 16 percent, and the overwhelming majority of write-in votes were cast for JBoss. Sorry for not making that one of the choices. The most popular server was Apache/Tomcat, cited by 86 percent of voters, followed by WebLogic at 19 percent. JBoss was the most popular J2EE platform, used by 41 percent of respondents, followed by WebLogic and WebSphere at 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Our last tool question involved what web frameworks and templating engines you use. Struts was the big winner here at 70 percent. 29 percent of you reported using Hibernate, 20 percent cited PHP, and 13 percent clicked on JavaServer Faces. Among the 17 percent who opted for an "Other" option, WebWork was particularly popular, as was the option of home-grown alternatives.

What You Want

We offered three questions that required some kind of freeform answer, each of which generated about 500 responses:

  • If you were to predict, what Java technology will really make it big in the next 12 months?
  • If you could choose, what Java book would you most like to see O'Reilly publish in the next 12 months?
  • What topics would you like to see receive more coverage on ONJava.com?

Related Reading

Hibernate: A Developer's Notebook
By James Elliott

We have been recruiting J2ME content for a while. For one reason or another, these articles have not been completed for publication. Over 30 responses picked this as the Java technology most likely to take off this year, which is especially interesting considering that only two readers used the earlier "deployment" question to say they were currently deploying to J2ME devices. Many readers also thought JDO, Java Management Extensions (JMX), JavaServer Faces (JSF), desktop Java, Hibernate, and Groovy should be on our radar. And some reminded us that the new technologies of J2SE 1.5, such as generics and metadata, will be big news once Tiger goes final.

The book requests were all over the map. Some echoed the predicted hot technologies, especially Hibernate and J2ME. On the first point, O'Reilly has two Hibernate-related titles coming soon: Hibernate: A Developer's Notebook and Better, Faster, Lighter Java. Other readers, meanwhile, sought extensions to O'Reilly's popular Nutshell and Head First series, such as Head First Swing, Head First JCEA, and Head First Anything. Game programming topics, such the Java3D and JOGL APIs, were requested on several occasions, as were books covering collections of open source packages, such as those at Jakarta. Meta-topics, such as process, best practices, and patterns, also got numerous mentions.

What merits more coverage? With so much available to the Java programmer who may be working in the enterprise, desktop, or embedded spaces, there's much to cover. Only a few topics got multiple mentions. Above and beyond some of the "most likely to succeed" topics mentioned earlier, there were multiple requests for advanced Swing material, advanced J2EE articles, Jini, native OS integration (Linux, Mac OS X, and working with MS-Office documents), and desktop application development. Some asked us for a better idea of the state of Java: where it fits in with other technologies, where it's being adopted or abandoned, which frameworks are up-and-coming, and which are falling into disuse or deprecation. Others asked for success stories, and articles that showed how multiple open source pieces could be pulled together to produce a product.

Rants and Raves

We asked if there was anything else you wanted to tell us. 218 took on this essay question, and here is a selection:

As with Swing, step away from "the basics" of some of the technologies and move more towards "Best Practices." Some articles have been content repeats of stuff that would have been "new" five years ago, but now is just "another week with nothing to read."
I may be too close to the articles, but it might be nice to see a roadmap that ties them together in order to see the big picture.
Please stop with the flavor-of-the-week crap. Just because all the happy little freaks on javablogs are writing about Maven or AOP or commons-logging doesn't mean that ONJava should be writing about them. I'd like to see ONJava have more of a leadership role a la JavaWorld in the late 90s.
You should do more comparisons like Apache vs. Resin, Struts vs. WebWork. There are too many tools out there to pick from.
There's a lot of focus on people's pet projects -- I guess that's a very webloggy approach, but I don't need to hear about some small project every day -- I'd rather hear about techniques/problems/etc. from that project, that I can apply to my own development.
I would be pleased to see a journal from ONJava.com.
Sometimes it's really frustrating when details are left out in articles "for brevity." Often those details are what drives you nuts when you try to use a new technology.
I know it's a difficult request, but I'd like to see more articles. I check the site every day and would love it if at least every other day there was a new article.
Stop focusing on obscure/niche technologies (i.e., Aspects, J2ME, etc.) and focus on the bread-and-butter 90 percent of what real Java/J2EE developers have to deal with.
Please write an article about Java myths. I am sick and tired of people making Java the "odd one out" because of misinformation.
Stop kissing up to Jakarta. It's mostly crap.
Authors could indicate the hardware platforms they run their examples on, to minimize reader confusion.
Half of the articles are interesting. I think that is a good percentage. Good work.
OnJava is the best Java site on the planet. Keep up the good work.

Aside from this last quote, there were several dozen instances of "keep up the good work," or variations thereof.

Keeping Up

We continue to be amazed by the cool stuff that shows up in the form of article proposals each week. But we are sometimes concerned that the material we run influences the proposals we receive -- that every time we run a JSP article, we get another JSP proposal, while at the same time we don't get J2ME proposals so we don't have even basic J2ME articles, and thus don't get proposals for interesting advanced J2ME articles, etc.

The survey shows reveals many topics that readers are interested in. Do you see something here that you know? Something you can write about in an interesting way in about 2,000 words? If so, we'd love to see a proposal. Send proposals to or . It's a win-win situation: you get a (modest) payment for the article and the renown of your peers (it's always nice when you Google for a topic and find your own name), while we get to give the readership the material they've been asking for.

Finally, we thank you for your readership and support of ONJava.com, and hope to keep your trust and your interest as we move forward. We'll run the survey again this fall.

Chris Adamson is an author, editor, and developer specializing in iPhone and Mac.

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